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Previewing cultureSHOCK


She's pumped.

On one blustery winter evening each year, (read: tonight at 7 pm), the Asian American Alliance (AAA) hosts cultureSHOCK in Lerner to showcase Asian American performance, fashion, and FOOD from groups across the Columbia community. In an attempt to answer the clearly rhetorical questions on the event’s Facebook page, Bwog’s resident expert on both Asia and America, Raphaelle Debenedetti, sat down with this year’s directors, Susan Li and Kristen Lu, at their well-appointed but tasteful table in Lerner.

The Asian American Alliance (AAA) table on Lerner Ramp was full (as it almost always is) when I arrived to sit down with Susan Li and Kristen Lu of cultureSHOCK.

Every year the AAA (currently consisting of 22 members) organizes a huge event at Columbia, and this year’s theme is “evolution.” Thus, while the poster might look like it depicts a galaxy far far away, don’t be fooled: it is in fact an egg symbolising the drastic changes the Asian American community has undergone over the last several decades. (Duh).

Susan dazzled Bwog with some of the highlights you can look forward to tonight: “we have incredible performances and raffles with glamorous prizes (your entry ticket is a raffle ticket, so keep it!), and of course food and beverages.” What kinds of prizes, exactly? It turns out that corporate sponsors have provided a cornucopia of capitalist bounty:  Princeton Review (one of the golden sponsors) is raffling off a free course; Folli Follie is offering gift bags in addition to 20% off at its store downtown with proof of attendance (once again, dudes and dudettes: keep your ticket!). They’re additionally giving away $25 gift cards to all audience members. In an interesting midwinter juxtaposition, both McDonald’s and Equinox Gym are also sponsoring the event, so the first hundred to come will get a $5 McDonald’s gift card and a free day pass to the swanky health club. If (heaven forbid) you tire of our lovely and fragrant Dodge, Bwog recommends that you work out with the Upper West Side elite for a few hours before treating yourself to something special under the golden arches. Zero sum game!

Now that you’re SHOCKED by all the swag, let’s move on to culture. “Essentially, for $10 you get three hours of performance and a bunch of cool stuff,” Kristen convincingly points out. Indeed, the event itself promises to be quite a show. The band playing, Mitchell Grey, will have one of its last performances before releasing its first album, and “becoming famous and all that jazz.” Furthermore, Hari Kondabolu, recently back from India, will be performing at the event. Susan notes that, “we want AAA to be representative of the entire Asian American community, not just East Asians.” For the grand finale, Columbia students will be modelling in a fashion show sponsored by designers who will be present at the event (including Ninh Nguyen and Meghan Spielman). And best of all, it’s for a good cause: this year’s profit will go to the Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence (CAAAV for you acronym aficionados, and not to be confused with CAVA).

The AAA has been tweeting about cultureSHOCK since last summer:  “For price of 40 gum balls, You can see hot models and pop bottles” (@AAAcultureshock).  So come tonight, Saturday February 4th at 7 pm in Roone Arledge Auditorium, Lerner Hall: the AAA will be on Lerner ramps selling tickets for $10 each until the very end (as they have been since last Monday), but you could also stop by TIC. Tickets, unlike the course of evolution, are going quickly!

Photo credit: Jiawen Tang


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  • CC'13 says:


  • Ugh, says:

    @Ugh, AAA = most racist people at Columbia.

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous would you say they are the kkk of columbia?

      1. Anonymous says:

        @Anonymous i was gonna say that they are a kkk that no one but them would like to join, but then i realized that in our society no one would like to join the kkk either (unless you are a dumb redneck). also, they are the only ones who care about this cultureshock thing…

      2. wilf says:

        @wilf are you fuckin’ kidding me guys? really?

    2. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous wow, that is a strong statement. what are you using to back that one up?

      1. ........ says:

        @........ ……………are you kidding? the asians are the most exclusive and lone of all ethnic groups on campus. they wouldn’t dare let a person of any other race associate with them. they keep to themselves like white on rice.

        1. Anonymous says:

          @Anonymous Sometimes, it’s just that I feel like some people on campus don’t see me as a person, but as an ethnicity. It’s not quite as bad as being openly racist to my face, but it’s more of people just making comments that completely come off as racist without them even realizing it. The amount of times I’ve been asked whether I can cook rice for people, the mixups with middle eastern people, whether I shit in a hole in my hometown (of Seattle), comments on my lack of an Indian accent, etc. Individually, these kinds of comments might seem harmless or just slightly ignorant, but when they start to add up, it can take its toll. I came here to Columbia expecting more ethnic and racial awareness, but it’s honestly not that different from the rest of the US. So the next time you ask why some asians are so “exclusive and lone,” ask yourself: am I really giving them a reason to not be?

        2. Anonymous says:

          @Anonymous Even though it may seem that people tend to separate by ethnic groups on campus, I have to say that it is very ignorant for you to say that AAA is made up of “the most racist people at Columbia” Do you even know anyone that is on the board of AAA or are you just making that assumption based on your own racist thoughts about Asian Americans at Columbia? AAA is made up of some of the most open and LEAST racist people that do a lot to try and improve cross-cultural dialogue on campus. Try to educate yourself before making statements that aren’t backed by any evidence.

        3. Anonymous says:

          @Anonymous I wonder what your opinion is of Black History Month. Or the many bollywood dance groups at Columbia. Or Barnard.

          Your intense demand for diversity amongst every gathering of individuals inspires me.

        4. my question for you is: says:

          @my question for you is: what the heck? white on rice?

          you’ve got issues beyond your racism dear

          1. Anonymous says:

            @Anonymous Someone’s never had brown rice.

    3. haha says:

      @haha racist does not know meaning of ‘racist’

  • ... says:

    @... they need to post a detailed description of the food. like, for example, if bbq pork buns were promised, i would consider showing up. same for uthappam.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous I am ashamed to say I go to the same school as such ignorant people

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous just because you acknowledge race as a part of your identity, and also a driving factor of some of the unjustices you experience, does NOT make you the next kkk. that was not okay to say.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous wow way to talk shit over the internet

  • Concerned Mother says:

    @Concerned Mother I was shocked, simply SHOCKED by how much culture was on display.

  • rra2116 says:

    @rra2116 Raph, I love you! Nice piece.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Does anyone remember the episode of Friends where Phoebe thought that everything that rhymed was true? I feel like some of that….logic….was invoked at the top of this thread.

    Don’t feel alone though, I confuse things that sound the same with their cultural imperatives too. I just usually don’t publish my ignorance.

    Also, BWOG, can you take that comment down? It’s trash. Everyone knows it. There’s no convo to be had. It was meant to be hurtful and serves no other purpose. Please just take a stand and take it down-at this point it’s shared responsibility.

    Do you really want to align yourself with Dr. Seuss up there?

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