The Identifying the Missing Power of Asian Americans in Connecticut conference took place last week and was collaborative effort between the Asian American Cultural Center, the Pan Asian Council and the Undergraduate Student Government. The conference was held for the first time in 2006 and has since grown into an annual event dedicated to empowering Asian American University of Connecticut students along their journeys to self-development and identity development.
Emphasis for each year’s conference is placed on networking and collaboration of ideas among members of the UConn community and beyond in order to create a safe space where participants can feel comfortable having difficult conversations. The theme for the 2020 IMPAACT conference was “Allyship and Solidarity” which speaks to the core mission and founding principles of the AsACC.
The co-chairs for the 2020 IMPAACT conference, Shaina Selvaraju and Tam Vu, shared that the theme of “Allyship and Solidarity” was chosen in light of recent events, as well as to discuss long standing issues within the Asian American community.
“The purpose of this year’s conference, specifically, is to make spaces where students can feel welcome in expressing the many ways that recent events have affected them personally, as well as creating much needed spaces where students didn’t already feel represented,” the co-chairs said.
Each day, a new video was posted on the UConn Pan Asian Council’s YouTube channel that featured a roundtable discussion on current and longstanding issues within the Asian American community. Selvaraju and Vu worked alongside other members of the AsACC to prompt participants to take part in difficult but much needed conversations centered around pressing issues of our time, such as mental health awareness, leadership development, social justice, LGBTQ+ experiences, as well as more prevalent issues raised in the past few months including the effects of COVID-19, colorism and anti-blackness.
“Of course, allyship and solidarity are things that aren’t accomplished by simply talking, and so we made a point to make action items a priority in our groups as well,” they said.
According to Selvaraju and Vu, allyship also has historical significance to the AsACC. The organization was founded after a racial incident that required the activism and voice of Asian Americans. During this time, the Black Student Association offered their support to the AsACC and was a driving force in the creation of the center.
“For us, allyship means building a relationship and standing by those who are marginalized and underrepresented in society in order to end systemic oppression,” Selvaraju and Vu said. “It involves being consistent and holding those around you accountable for their actions while re-evaluating unjust societal beliefs.”
Despite the current circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions that have been placed on in-person events, Selvaraju and Vu were pleased with how the conference went. The conference was held fully online with the goal of continuing to serve the community while avoiding online fatigue and burnout.
“The online format of IMPAACT was certainly different compared to the way that IMPAACT existed in the past,” they said. “But we believe that with our theme and concept, IMPAACT was going to be a much-needed space regardless of the online format.”
IMPAACT is an important event that carves out time each year to amplify the voices of Asian Americans in the UConn community. By focusing on difficult topics and having important conversations about pressing issues in the Asian American community, IMPAACT is continuing to create a more welcoming environment where students and staff can feel comfortable expressing their true identities.
If you are interested in learning more about the conference and watching video recaps of the roundtable discussions, visit the UConn Pan Asian Council’s YouTube channel or the AsACC website for more information.