AASA hosts its first Cultural Slam

By Sarah Griffin

We belong. 

That was the message  Rider’s Asian American Students Association (AASA) shared as they hosted their first “Cultural Slam,” or a celebration of being Asian through art.

The April 7 event held in the Cavalla Room on the second floor of the Bart Luedeke Center (BLC) aimed to show guests the beauty of all Asian cultures.

In order to educate members of the Rider community who do not know what AASA is, the club put on the program the following message for the event: “Our mission is to nurture a community of self acceptance and expression. Providing a space for members to explore Asia and America in any kind of facet.”

The night began with some words from AASA’s club faculty advisor Yoshinori Tanokura, assistant professor in the Department of Performing Arts.

Tanokura welcomed the crowd with some facts and figures about Asia and its culture, such as the fact Asia takes up about 30% of all of the world’s land mass.

Once Tanokura finished his remarks, the entertainment started and the audience was treated to all kinds of talent, such as Indian Folk Dance performances, a rendition of Joria Smith’s “Don’t Watch me Cry, a Chinese Yoyo performance and a dance from Rider K-POP club. This was all closed out by the band 353! performing an absolutely energetic set that got the whole crowd on their feet.

Sapandeep Sophal, a sophomore psychology major,  has been a bollywood style dancer since high school, said a duet she and Sanjana Butala, a senior biology major, performed was “a pretty modern kind of style, where it has different kinds of style that come in. There’s many different Indian styles to it, and their modern styles, so sometimes hip-hop is included” that “is all over India.”

“I personally love being an Indian, I’ve loved my culture since I was younger,” Sophal said.

Sophal praised Rider for their efforts in inclusion. 

“There’re many events that happen and I feel like Rider does its very best to include all cultures no matter which background you might have, or where you might have come from,” said Sophal.

Butala said this event was important because “Asians are a minority here at Rider, and I think as a minority, we often feel underrepresented, we feel like we don’t have a voice, but events like these I think they help to bring the community together.”

Butala emphasized the importance of Rider’s Asian community holding events that highlight their culture. 

“Not only are we celebrating Asian American Pacific Heritage Month, but I think we are also celebrating our own identities, but also our belonging in a country like America, where every person is of a different nationality and experience, I think events like this help us not just to come together, but to show ‘we belong here’… and it helps foster an exchange and infusion of cultures of all sorts,” Butala explained.

Jaina Daclan, junior communications major and President of AASA, called the talent show a “huge success” because of the collaboration it took to get the event together to get the show to “run so smoothly.”

Daclan called the part where “everyone started getting up and dancing with the band” her favorite part of the night. “It really showed a huge cohesiveness within the community we created and it’s just the first stepping stone to show how much fun we can all have together,” said Daclan.  

Daclan said she wants an event like this to happen every spring. “I still have one year left, so I’ll be there to help with the stepping stones,” she added.

Daclan called creating a community of Rider Asian students challenging due to a lack of funding and resources for clubs of cultural interests, but insisted that her club is “persevering through.”

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