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A tight knit tessellation: AKM kicks off a night full of performances

A tight knit tessellation: AKM kicks off a night full of performances

How do you define Asian? It’s easy for most people to toss all the presumably squinty-eyed, academically inclined, med-school bound, boba-loving population into one box and call it a day. In the Rion Reitz ballroom Friday night, all labels were thrown out the window.

To kick off a month dedicated to Asian culture, Asian Kaleidoscope Month (AKM) members organized an opening ceremony with a lineup of giveaways, programs and performances showing the different facets of Asian Americans.

Since 1992, AKM has been a major event uniting Asian Americans at the University of Florida. What started out as a week in October became a month full of events celebrating Asian culture. This year, the theme of tessellation stresses the importance of Asian American individuality.

“We didn’t think of the word [tessellate] first, but it was the kind of story we wanted to tell,” said Mae Soberano, a third year ­­microbiology and cell science major and one of the programming directors of AKM.

“There’s a lot of facets to us. We’re not just limited to one thing. We really wanted to embody that vibe.”

To introduce the performance and the theme of this month, Havi Tran, executive director of AKM introduced the night with this question: “How many of you have been told that all Asians look the same?” Several people of the audience raised their hands.

“We’re dancers, we’re artists. We’re more than what people think we are. We are a combination of all our cultures,” Tran said.

AASU President Kevin Doan, right, and Biology Freshman Tuan Nguyen react to not winning the Beque Holic drawing. “I love the roller coaster experience of almost winning something,” Doan said. Photo by Royce Abela.

AASU President Kevin Doan, right, and Biology Freshman Tuan Nguyen react to not winning the Beque Holic drawing. “I love
the roller coaster experience of almost winning something,” Doan said. Photo by Zachariah Chou.

Performances included a fun piano medley from Michael Dinh, a third year mathematics major, and a powerful dance performance from Mariella Marfori a second year dance major. Bursts of supportive whoops and hollers ensued during and after every performance.

“The directors went all out this year with the programming and the videos,” said Timothy Nguyen, a third year chemical engineer major. “It was top-notch quality.”

Several Asian American student organizations tabled at the event, while speakers introduced upcoming Asian American events. Contestants from Mr & Ms. AASU performed a dance number. Anbinh Ho, the assistant director of AKM, introduced the Lotus outreach project dedicated to ensuring the safety, education and health of women and children in developing countries. However, nothing excited the crowd more than raffles and giveaways to restaurants such as Lollicup and Beque Holic.

The highlight of the night was David So, a Korean American comedian and YouTuber. Dressed in a snapback and apparel from his clothing line, Go for Broke. So engaged the audience with experiences growing up in his hometown of Sacramento.

So refers back to his childhood and the struggles he faced with his family. He even joked about the time his father tried to kick him out of the house.

“Whenever you storm out of the house, don’t do it in high-top chucks,” So said as he pantomimed the slow process of tying up his shoes. In between punchlines and impressions of his parents, he gave his own advice.

“My sacrifice to be a content creator is to lose time. YouTube is your content and your ideas,” So said. “I was afraid to fall on my face, but I pushed through it.”

FSA Dance Coordinator Mariella Marfori performs in the Rion Ballroom. Photo by Royce Abela.

FSA Dance Coordinator Mariella Marfori performs in the Rion Ballroom. Photo by Zachariah Chou.

The biggest takeaway from his set was to invest in yourself. “You never get back time. Figure out what you want to do,” So said.

In paving her own path, the programming director, Soberano,  takes note of how she tessellates. “I try to balance this and being able to do schoolwork following my major in STEM,” Soberano said. “But it’s a lot more about being proud of your identity.”

In the way that tessellations have no gaps in between them, the Asian American community is truly tight knit, but by no means is it one dimensional. It’s dynamic.

Featured image by Zachariah Chou.

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