ECAASU 2013 came to Columbia and had its opening ceremony on Friday night, various workshops and forums on Saturday afternoon, and a kickin’ after-party last night. Sarah Thompson*, appreciator of all things Asian, braved the stares to check out the opening ceremonies.
ECAASU, the East Coast Asian Association Student Union, is kind of a big deal, or so everyone was saying. The few things that I think are big deals are typically frozen and come from 7/11 or Dairy Queen, but in the chance that ECAASU 2013 might have ice cream, I signed up to attend its opening ceremony in Roone Arledge.
The place was packed for the 36th annual event. I’m talking 1,200 people from schools as close as Stony Brook University and as far away as the University of Florida. Everyone seemed really excited, taking selfies and screaming when they saw their friends from other schools. I felt a little out of place, but breathed a sigh of relief when the lights went down.
During introductions, organizers said that Asian Americans are the fastest-growing demographic in the US, and that one of the goals of the conference was to “empower [Asian Americans] as agents of change in [their] communities.”
There were plenty of less heavy parts, and Columbia represented at the opening ceremony with CU Generation, a K-Pop dance group, and the Super Piano Brothers, winners of the Talent Competition who got to open for the main acts. The electrifying Tiedan Oskar Yao, of Juilliard and CC ’14, and Wesley Chu of NEC, self-identifying as “huge underdogs,” won the competition with a song they arranged featuring themes from Super Mario and the Legend of Zelda, and they played similar video game-inspired pieces as well as music from “Paperman,” the Disney short film. After playing together for ten years—where “what made us bond was our love for the soundtracks from movies and video games,” wrote Tiedan—the energetic pianists are finally launching a YouTube channel. They opened for performers including YouTube star Jason Chen, Taiyo Na & Magnetic North, and comedian David So.
Still, the conference stressed activism and action, as expressed by MSNBC anchor Richard Lui, former cabinet member Norman Mineta, Gregory Cendana, and Dilawar Syed, among others. Saturday workshops mirrored this sentiment, with titles such as “A Response to Hate: Confronting Anti-Asian Sentiment” and “The Model Minority Myth and the Visible Implications in the U.S. Army.” ECAASU is a place where Asian Americans come to meet new friends and celebrate their identity, but it’s also a place that encourages change and produces leaders. Speakers urged the Asian American community to “embrace struggle” and to “take on conflict,” because they’re “tired of being so f***ing polite.” Amen.
*(Disclaimer: I’m half Italian and the other half is a mixture of a lot of things that I don’t think are Asian. However, Hyuna’s “Bubble Pop” is one of my favorite songs to jam to in the shower, and both my roommate and boyfriend are Asian, so I like to think that I’m an honorary member. Not to mention race is a social construct and all…)