Asian Pacific American Cultural Center celebrates first dedicated week


The Daily Iowan; Photos by Lily

FILE - Students converse during the UISG Asian American Discussion Circle at the Asian Pacific American Cultural Center on Monday, Sept. 18, 2017. The event served as an outlet for Asian UI students to explore identity and express issues related to Asian students. (Lily Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Sarah Watson, [email protected]

A discussion about language and identity kicked off the first-ever Asian Pacific American Cultural Center week at the house Monday night.

“Today, we talked about the way people have to change their personalities, customs, and the way people dress to fit the stereotype American culture,” discussion leader Yasmin Deanda said.

Over the five-day series, each event title starts with the first letters of the cultural center’s name. Monday’s discussion focused on Acculturation.

As defined by Miriam-Webster, “acculturation” is the “cultural modification of an individual, group, or people adapting to or borrowing traits from another culture.”

Challenges discussed by the group included pressure to know a language perfectly, whether English or indigenous language, and feeling as if they are foreign to both cultures. They also discussed respect or lack of for religious and cultural differences.

“The biggest advice I would give is taking it slow and explaining the situation if something is not appropriate,” Deanda said. “Maybe talk with them one-on-one, not in a big-group setting so they don’t feel shut down or shamed.”

At the end of the discussion, students could draw pictures or write stories describing a time when they felt the pressure to assimilate.

UI student and cultural-center employee Jasmine Keomala drew a picture of herself. One half of the self-portrait wore a bun and traditional Laos clothing and the other, “American” half wore her hair down and wore shorts and a T-shirt.

“Sometimes, I’m not sure who I am and what culture I should be practicing because I grew up in a Laos cultural household, but I am expected to adapt to American culture once I step outside,” Keomala said.

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The pictures and videos will be put together into a slide show to post on the group’s website.

“A lot of times at lunch, I never wanted to bring cold lunch because I felt like I would get judged because I would bring foods that may not considered normal here,” Keomala said. “I would just want to avoid all the questions.”

Discussion leader Deanda introduced Iowa history to the group. In 1918, Gov. William Harding targeted those of German descent and other so-called “foreigners” by introducing a proclamation banning languages other than English from being spoken in public in Iowa.

The Babel Proclamation stated, “Only English was legal in public or private schools, in public conversations, on trains, over the telephone, at all meetings, and in all religious services,” according to

The proclamation was revoked a year later.

Values the eight-staff cultural-center team wanted to embody for its first culture week include identity, culture, and mental and physical wellness.

Other events of the week include Power Hour and Pilates at the Field House today, Arts of Defense featuring tai kwon do on Wednesday, Decolonization Discussion on Thursday, and Cuisine Night on Friday.

In May, the cultural center will host several events for Asian Pacific Heritage Month, but this year house coordinator Prisma Ruacho said that the staff and students wanted to add a week dedicated specifically to the cultural center.

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