On April 11, the Division of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion hosted their first APIDA Heritage Month Opening Ceremony. APIDA is an all-inclusive term for members of the Asian, Pacific-Islander, Desi and Arab community.
Gil Caley, a fourth-year electrical engineering student from Keller, worked alongside the APIDA Heritage Month Committee to organize this event tonight. Caley said he wants to thank his committee for their involvement in the opening ceremony.
“This event was primarily a committee effort,” Caley said. “We organized an Asian, Pacific-Islander, Desi, and Arab Heritage Month Committee for the month of April 15 to May 15. This has been a tradition at Texas Tech for the past three years, and this is our first time really doing a big opening ceremony. Honestly, I have to give all my credit to the team.”
During the event, Caley and others shared the importance of honoring APIDA heritage, and what being a student at Texas Tech is like for them.
Caley said this event was an opportunity for students to share their story and celebrate where they come from.
“People from all over campus came together to help us put this together,” Caley said. “For us, the main thing is to just celebrate the month, to give a brief overview of what’s going on, and lastly offer an opportunity for students to tell their story.”
Caley said this event is important to host on campus in order to advocate for the ADIPA community, which doesn’t often get a lot of attention from broader American society.
Caley, who is Filipino-American, additionally said that Asian and Pacific-Islanders (AAPIs) are often ignored because they’re one of the smallest racial and ethnic groups.
“It’s super important for Texas Tech to host events like this, especially advocating for the Asian, Pacific-Islander community on our campus, because it’s a community that doesn’t often get attention from broader American society,” Caley said. “We are one of the smallest racial and ethnic groups in the U.S., but hosting events like this is an opportunity for us to show Texas Tech can be a home for our Asian, Pacific-Islander students.”
According to data released by the White House under the Obama Administration, AAPIs make up for roughly 5.4 percent (16 million americans) of the American population, but are expected to account for 9.7 percent (40 million Americans) of the U.S. by 2050.
Caley said that at the beginning of his college experience at Tech, there weren’t many opportunities for the APIDA community to come together.
“When I first came here as a first-year student, there really wasn’t that much dedicated to us,” Caley said. “Asian students were really separated into their distinct groups. For me, a big part of my passion has been to bring this vast community together, so that our world can feel a little less lonely.
Caley also said that he often felt like he belonged in two different worlds as a Red Raider and a member of the APIDA community, but honoring APIDA Heritage Month is about bringing those two worlds together.
“I remember being very isolated my first couple years of college and not really having that community with other people,” Caley said. “You know, having my foot in one world and my other foot in a different one. All of this has been about bringing those two worlds together.”
Abhiram Mulam is a third-year marketing student from Houston.
Mulam said he attended the opening ceremony tonight to show love to fellow people of color.
“Showing some love and support to women of color and men of color on this campus,” Mulam said. “Showing we have specifically a month dedicated to us. Showing support and gratitude towards the hardworking Asian-Americans at Texas Tech, and just in general, Asian-Americans in America.”
Mulam said that he encourages APIDA students to be open-minded when finding community on campus.
“Definitely be very open-minded because they’re thinking the same thing,” Mulam said. “A lot of people are finding their community too, and I just want to say we’re out here (with) open arms, come to us, talk to us, we won’t bite. Just definitely talk, interact with us, share stories, have a cup of coffee.”
Stephen Chao is a native of Austin and graduate of Princeton University, and currently serves as the program manager for Texas Tech’s Office of LGBTQIA Education and Engagement.
Chao said he was nervous before starting his position at Tech as a queer Asian-American, but said he has been able to find his community here.
“So I joined Texas Tech as a full-time staff member about two and a half years ago,” Chao said. “I didn’t really know what to expect as a queer Asian-American coming into this space. But I was really fortunate to find not only lots of inclusive communities (and) support for the DEI work being done here, but also the direct support of really awesome folks in this community.”
The Division of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion will continue hosting events in honor of APIDA Heritage Month through May 15.
Chao said it’s important for Texas Tech to host these events to celebrate the culture and heritage of our student body.
“I think it’s important for Texas Tech to hold events like this on campus because it not only uplifts the culture, the heritage of our diverse student body here,” Chao said. “But also really emphasizes the power that students have to create change here on campus to make sure that our stories are told, to make sure that this university is a place where anyone can come and feel accepted and feel like they can find community.”