ECAASU – Largest East Coast Conference for Asian American Students

Submitted by Christine Chen PC ’12 (AASA Co-Mod)

This past weekend, along with 7 other members of the APA community at Yale, I attended ECAASU at UPenn. What is ECAASU? East Coast Asian American Students Union, the largest East Coast conference for Asian American college students (and founded at Yale!). It was my first time attending, and I definitely hope that it won’t be the last.

The trip started out one late Thursday night, taking the Metro North line from New Haven to New York to catch a Boltbus ($1 ticket from NYC to Philly!). We didn’t get to the city until after midnight, and arrived at the UPenn campus after a short trip on the “Trolley,” which seemed to be a tiny bus underground, kind of like a regular subway train, but mini. I stayed with a friend, who was dorming in one of UPenn’s high rises. I’m not too sure what I think of the UPenn housing system. The view from the 23rd floor is gorgeous, but it also seems very detached from all the other people in the building. It seems more like an apartment building (plus a lot of inconvenient security procedures) in the middle of campus, rather than a residential housing place. I much prefer Yale’s residential college system (Pierson is the best, of course).

Friday morning, we registered for the conference, getting a bright yellow bag filled with goodies like the huge conference booklet and a blue T-shirt to remember the conference. The first workshop I went to was the one where you could learn some bhangra moves from Penn’s bhangra team, Dhamaka. I learned a lot of moves—“bird,” “rowing,” “picking the apples.” Dhamaka was not a traditional bhangra team; they infused a lot of different styles of dance from stepping to hip hop (and could dance to K-Pop and Chris Brown, whoa).

Next, I headed to a session on Census 2010. Hey, all you readers, it is super important to fill out the census! The census affects how billions of dollars of federal funding are appropriated, and the fact that Asians are one of the most underrepresented minorities does not bode well for us. AASA will be launching an effort closer to campus soon, but for now, just remind your friends and family how important it is to be counted. Be counted, or else a government worker will come after you. Not joking.

I also got the chance to watch a movie, “Man Push Cart,” about a Pakistani rock star who comes to America and becomes a food cart man. It was a poignant story about love, sacrifice, and dealt much with the immigrant experience. It was kind of slow, but overall pretty good. The next time you grab food up Science Hill or the burrito cart, ask the man about his life. I bet you there’s much more than a plain ambition to serve the best burritos ever.

I didn’t do much for the rest of Friday afternoon, but I will just say that blood orange flavored gelato is amazing, especially paired off with dark chocolate gelato.

Friday evening was the opening ceremony. It. Was. Sick. Along with my new favorite bhangra group, we saw performances from Magnetic North, Afterschoolspecial, Ben Alisuag… and AJ Rafael. We weren’t supposed to take pictures of it, but I had to sneak one of AJ Rafael for you guys. I also saw Tiff Su for the first time, who just happened to be the national president of ECAASU and a Yalie. So Yalies, run for national board and continue the legacy of Yale domination of ECAASU (http://www.ecaasu.org/site/?page_id=924) !

More of our Yale friends arrived that night and that meant more friends to share beds with. Here’s a quick tip, if you’re sharing a regular twin sized bed, try reverse half-spooning. Both of you will get a much better night’s rest.

Saturday was the main day for workshops. I absolutely loved the first workshop: Secret Identities. The workshop was run by Jeff Yang and Jerry Ma, two of the creators of a comic book anthology called “Secret Identities” (http://www.secretidentities.org/Site/Secret_Identities_Homepage.html). They came up with the idea after realizing that the heroes of comics often parallel the experiences of an Asian American kid growing up, but the heroes were never Asian themselves, and if they were, they were heavily stereotyped. Kung fu masters, anyone? One of the creators pitched his ideas about a superhero who operated in Chinatown to Hollywood, and an famous actor, whose name rhymes with “Ronny Repp,” was extremely interested in producing it…and starring as the lead. I love Ronny Repp with all my heart, but I cannot picture him as the hero of Chinatown. Whitewashing of Hollywood has a long history and it’s terrible that it’s still going on. For example, the upcoming movie, Avatar, is set in an ancient Chinese setting, and yet only one of the main characters is actually played by an actor of Indian descent, the others are so very white. Go to http://www.racebending.com/ to learn about efforts to protest Avatar.

The second workshop was titled “Leadership 101.” Granted, the session started late, so there was not much time to actually talk about leadership, but we did engage in an interesting talk about identity. We did an exercise where we place different colored stickers in columns that represented parts of our identity like race, gender, and socio-economic classes. Blue stickers stood for columns that made us feel “safe,” red was “unsafe,” green was “important,” and yellow was “privileged/powerful.” There were a lot of red stickers in the “immigrant status” column.

The third workshop I attended was on networking and was run by Ramey Ko, a Yale alum. I can’t remember all the tips, but just remember to show up and stay and you’ll go a long way. Through networking, Ramey Ko was able to testify against a bill in Texas’s state legislature. The bill would have required a photo ID to vote, and while this may not seem like a big deal, would have prevented countless Asian Americans and the impoverished from voting. In the process, Representative Betty Brown suggested that Asian Americans ought to get “American names” to make the process easier for pollworkers (http://www.kxan.com/dpp/news/local/Ramey_Ko_reacts_to_Rep_Browns_remarks). This issue blew up in the media, and I am glad to say that Representative Brown ran for her seat again this year and was handily defeated.

After the closing ceremony and goodbye reception, we headed to the after-party. Aside from the fact that the tickets were twenty dollars and held at a club called, “Shampoo,” I loved, loved, loved it. My beloved Bhangra team from Penn performed again, and even did the dance we learned in the workshop. And then, Quest Crew came on. For those of you who don’t know, Quest Crew was the winner of season three of “America’s Best Dance Crew.” The twenty dollar tickets were so worth it after their performance. So much energy and fly-ness. See for yourself.

All in all, it was an excellent experience. It was my first ECAASU conference, and it certainly will not be my last.

2 thoughts on “ECAASU – Largest East Coast Conference for Asian American Students

  1. Oh my goodness! an amazing write-up dude. Thanks However I’m experiencing issue with ur rss . Dont know why Unable to subscribe to it. Is there anyone getting identical rss problem? Anyone who knows kindly respond. Thnkx

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