The Pan-Asian Market, held on Saturday, April 30 from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. outside 200 Church Street, marked one of the concluding events of the University’s month-long celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month. Coordinated by the Asian American Student Collective (AASC), the market brought together numerous student identity groups to share food, performances, and knowledge about AAPI identity and culture.
The event featured contributions from the AASC, Chinese Culture Club (CCC), Korean Student Association (KSA), Pinoy, Freeman Asian Scholars Association (FASA), the Asian American Studies Working Group, and the Resource Center (RC). Each club was given one table to sell products or provide information regarding their longterm goals. While each group tailored their presence to reflect their unique values, the inherent focus of the event entailed a collective celebration of Asian and Asian-American culture on campus. The sharing of culture served a combined dual purpose: reflect club- and collective-wide goals, and reaffirm the importance of AAPI Heritage Month’s wider theme of “Next GenerAsian.”
“Many clubs chose to sell traditional foods from their culture, which connects to the idea of carrying on tradition from the past,” AASC Co-Chair Emily Jackson ’23 wrote in an email to The Argus. “This event also felt like a big celebration of present Asian culture and how far we have come as a collective on this campus.”
In addition to the emphasis placed on collectivism and visibility, AASC Co-Chair and Internal Vice President of KSA Chaiyeon Lee ’22 asserts that the Pan-Asian Market provided various fundraising opportunities for student organizations, implying that there is a financial element within the “Next GenerAsian” theme. To Lee, some University policies restricts and exasterbates the stress of developing and maintaining an inclusive space for identity groups.
“It’s really hard for student affinity groups to get money from the school, unlike a lot of other student organizations on campus,” Lee said. “A lot of the things that student affinity groups do are considered ‘socializing’ and it’s community building, so it’s not legitimate enough to request funds from the school…so then [this market] is a good fundraising opportunity for the student groups.”
The AASC raised money at the Pan-Asian Market by selling Yakult, a probiotic drink created in Japan. Additionally, the group brought origami paper and folding instructions, allowing marketers to engage in art while learning about AASC and their long-term goals. Through these features, the AASC table helped cultivation a more celebratory atmosphere.
“I have so much love for AASC, and it made me so happy to be able to see collective members come to our table, feeling proud to be a part of the community, but it was also so fun to see new faces wanting to learn about who we were,” Jackson wrote. “I have been working with many different club leaders throughout the month, and it was great to finally interact in a less formal setting and see what everyone had to offer.”
Like the AASC, the KSA table also offered food and interactive activities. In addition to providing a game of Gonggi, a popular Korean childrens game closely resembling Jacks, the KSA sold triangular kimbap: a traditional Korean dish that sounds and looks directly like its English translation, “seaweed and rice.” Often and unaptly referred to as a Korean rendition of Japanese sushi, kimbap foregoes raw seafood and vinegar rice for rice seasoned with sesame oil and filled with meats, cheeses, kimchi, or egg. Through Gonggi and kimbap, the KSA intentionally set up the table to promote Korean culture in a fun, lighthearted environment.
“I think food is a great way to show people culture in an easy and accessible way,” KSA Financial Manager Jeremy Kim ’23 said.
Like the KSA, Pinoy also sold food to the market attendees. The group prepared two versions of homemade lumpia, a Filipino fried spring roll commonly sold as street food. Lumpia is commonly prepared with a thin paper wrapper—a lumpia wrapper—that encases a mixture of ground pork, cabbage, and additional vegetables. While Pinoy stayed close to tradition for one preparation, the other contained a cheese filling, an unconventional take on the traditional food. Quick to sell out, the lumpia embodied a known, common Filipino culture, signifying Pinoy’s recent resurgence.
“I’m very happy that we’re here,” Pinoy Leader Annika Velez ’22 said. “Our club has been quiet and we are coming out, rising from our ashes. Lumpia is, for American Filipinos as well, a food that…everyone knows.”
The FASA table also featured a number of culinary items that the group prepared in the kitchen of 200 Church St., including Budae Jjigae, commonly known as Korean army stew. Budae Jjigae emerged just after the Korean War in the early 1950s when there was mass scarcity within Korea. Due to the American involvement in the war and mass production, there was a surplus of classically American processed foods, including spam, canned beans, and slice cheese. While the creation and selling of Budae Jjigae created a means to celebrate FASA and promote internal camaraderie, Aaron Leong ’25, who tabled for FASA, admired the Pan-Asian Market for opening the doorway for cross-cultural intermingling.
“As an Asian I feel like these sorts of events bring together the Asian and Asian-American communities here at Wesleyan…but also there’s a lot of people who come here and are from other backgrounds, so this is a good opportunity…to introduce a lot of our cultures and a lot of our dishes as well to let [people] try,” Leong said.
Unlike other groups that sold food or held activities, the Asian American Studies Working Group advocated for an Asian American Studies program at the University. Since 2019, there has been a course cluster for Asian American Studies in WesMaps, but no major nor minor program currently exists. To bolster community between Asian and Asian-American students and raise awareness for their cause, the group handed out zines tracking Asian American Studies activism at the University from the late 1970s through 2007.
“We’re just starting this group, and we’re building off of legacy and decades of activism that already existed,” Asian American Studies Working Group Tabler Emily Chen ’23 said.
Despite not representing a specific cultural or student group, the RC contributed to the Pan-Asian Market by offering several items at its table, such as shaved ice and activist pins celebrating Asian pride. Additionally, the RC hosted a Person of Color Ice Cream Social event across the street at 167 High St. that same day, providing free ice cream to students of color. The RC furthered its goal of supporting students of all backgrounds through these events.
“I know firsthand just how active the [RC] is in supporting underrepresented and marginalized groups,” RC Office Manager Brianna Mebane ’22 said. “I think that it’s great that the Asian students on campus have opened a Pan-Asian Market both for representation and also to show the wide range of offerings they have to give to people, and I’m really glad there is such a great turnout.”
Like their counterparts, the CCC maintained an active table throughout the event: they sold bubble tea and provided stickers of zodiac signs. Yiwen Huang ’24, who tabled for CCC, shared how the event plays a great role given a wider American culture prone to promoting marginalization and discrimination. To Huang, it can be refreshing and advantageous to break these conventions down through lighthearted, widespread cooperation.
“We have concrete and specific ways for students to enter a specific culture,” Huang said. “It is hard to express and involve more people considering the big topics out there, but this is just a relaxing way [to do so]. Sharing your cultural senses in a multisensory way—taste, voice, sounds—and how those things, those dimensions, reintroduce each other and harmonize with each other. I think it’s a really beautiful event.”
In addition to the approachable, immersive tabling found at the event, the Pan-Asian Market included an open mic, allowing numerous student performers to exhibit their artistry to their peers in and around the University community. Acts ranged from band performances to poetry readings.
“It’s really fun to perform,” Performer Quentin Tan ’22 said. “We knew this was a thing, and it’s really nice getting in front of an Asian audience, because otherwise you might not know whether the audience gets it…it’s nice having that familiarity.”
In tune with the theme of “Next GenerAsian,” Jackson is excited to build on and learn from the market’s successes as she prepares to embark on her second year as AASC Co-Chair. While she considers the Pan-Asian Market a successful culmination of AAPI Heritage Month, Jackson believes that this community organizing can persist year-round.
“Going into next year, I want to keep up this communication with other clubs and collaborate more, even outside of the month of April,” Jackson wrote. “I am so proud of all the work that the board members have put in and I am looking forward to continuing working with such fun, positive, and energetic energy.”
Despite the room for improvement, many Asian and Asian-American students and student organizers were elated to see that the Pan-Asian Market brought the Asian community on campus together, noting that it provides a platform above all else.
“I’m really glad that we decided to have a full month, move it forward towards April, just because I feel like although we’re not a big part of campus, the Asian community here is very lively and robust, and I’m just glad that seeing everyone so passionate and so many people attend here puts a smile on my face,” Andrew Cao ’23, a member of the AASC Outreach Subcommittee, said. “It’s just nice to see my culture celebrated.”
Oliver Cope can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.