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