By Julie Peng
Thick aromas of Asian cuisine drifted through the Upper School halls as over 200 students, parents, and faculty packed the Commons for food and entertainment during this winter’s Asian Night. The biennial celebration combined East and South Asian cultures for the first time to bring out the largest crowd in the event’s 20-year history, Director of Multicultural Services Lewis Bryant said.
Event planner Hua Hai P ’16, who chairs the Asian parents’ association known as 4A, said she originally planned to follow tradition and tailor the event toward East Asian parents. But she changed her mind after meeting with Mr. Bryant, who encouraged collaboration with Southeast Asian Parents Alliance (SAPA) President Kamesh Aiyer P ’15 and a number of Filipino and Korean parents to create a more inclusive event.
“I thought it was great that we were aiming for Pan-Asian representation rather than simply representing East Asian culture,” said Amy Gu ’16, who helped her mother, Ms. Hai, plan the January 30 celebration. “By creating a more comprehensive picture of Asia, we were able to draw in more people. I had not expected to see so many attendees.”
The celebration featured eight tables laden with food and drink, with five tables’ worth of dumplings and noodles and two of spicy curries and sticky rice. A separate drinks table included a traditional Indian mango masala.
The show began after dinner with two Lower School students’ renditions of Western music, including a Bach cello piece and John Lennon’s “Imagine.” Chinese Teacher Hongcheng Wang then performed the classic Chinese song “Journey to the West,” and Amy and Michelle Tang ’18 followed with a violin duet called “Happy Chinese New Year: Spring Festival.”
Amy, Angela Liu ’18, and Jaya Aiyer ’15 went on to perform traditional dances from China and India before the Chinese classes joined in chorus to perform “China is Our Family.” The evening concluded with first-graders strutting up and down an imaginary catwalk to model classic Indian fashions.
Ms. Hai said that for many of the East Asians in attendance, the event retained its original flavor.
“To the Chinese moms, it still felt just like a Chinese New Year celebration, just mixed in with more cultures,” she said. “We [still] brought in lanterns and wore traditional clothing like qipaos,” a traditional one-piece dress for Chinese women.
In the spirit of “learning about the language you study,” Chinese Teachers Mr. Wang and Yinong Yang offered extra credit to students of the language who chose to attend the event, Chinese 1 student Alex Evenchik ’17 said.
“I enjoyed the food and entertainment a lot,” Alex said. “It’s awesome to be able to learn more about the culture behind the language you’re studying.”
Chinese 2 student Kaley Arnof ’17 said she enjoyed watching the performances and seeing Asian culture in the spotlight.
“I’m glad to have gone,” she said. “It was my first Asian cultural evening but definitely not my last.”
Inspired by the event’s success, Ms. Hai said the 4A has begun planning its next event, which will again integrate the Asian parents of all three campuses. She said 4A hopes to organize a food table for the BB&N Circus on May 2 at the Lower School campus.
“We’d like to teach them to be open to diversity from a young age,” Ms. Hai said. “Learning about the people around us—that’s a large part of what BB&N is about.”