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Indian-American performer Vidya, known for her YouTube covers, sang in Penn's Hall of Flags as part of last week's Asian Pacific American Heritage Week. | Courtesy of Julia Pan

Over the past week, Asian Pacific American Heritage Week (APAHW) succeeded in bringing unity, charity and fun to Penn’s campus for the 23rd time since it was established in 1993.

The annual APAHW, which focuses on raising awareness about Asians with American heritage and celebrating the historical achievements of Asian Pacific Americans, took place between Nov. 9 and Nov. 14. This program is one of the longest-running diversity events at Penn and has continuously strived to reach its vision of developing strong intercultural connections among Asian Americans as well as among all members of the Penn community.

Two events that the APAHW organizers include every year are “EXTRAVAGANZA,” the APAHW signature event that kicks off the celebration, and the “Big Asian,” which is a talent competition in which different Asian nominees participate in performances and hold “date” auctions to raise money for a charity.

The theme for this year’s EXTRAVAGANZA, which took place on Nov. 9, was “The Sweetness of Discovery.” The event brought together Asian organizations on Penn’s campus, including multicultural Greek groups and student associations representing various countries and professional societies. Each group showcased and served a unique Asian fusion dessert. APAHW head programming chair and College senior Shivani Shah said that individual culture groups often hold their own events, but rarely host events together as an Asian American community.

“[EXTRAVAGANZA] encourages groups to collaborate and realize that we all do fall under this one umbrella of Asian-American heritage. We want to celebrate Asian Pacific American accomplishments with everyone in the Asian American community along with those who aren’t Asian American,” Shah said.

The week closed on Nov. 14 with the “Big Asian” annual event. In this competition, “date auctions” are held following contestants’ performances to raise money for charities, allowing audience members to bid to win a “date” with a contestant of choice.

“The date auction is a very successful way to not only raise awareness about a certain issue but also to raise money for charity. We also try to tailor it towards current events, and this year, all proceeds were donated to a charity called Ayati,” said Shah. Ayati is a support program that provides education and resources to promote hygienic practices for girls in rural parts of India.

This year’s winner of the “Big Asian” competition was College freshman Anjali Mahadevia, who performed, sang and rapped around a theme of girls’ education and women’s empowerment and “won based on judges’ vote[s] and crowd ballots,” APAHW head marketing chair and Wharton senior Michaela Tan said.

“The fact that I won was incredible — the feeling was so great,” Mahadevia said.

Mahadevia, who said she has always been passionate about the issue of girls’ education, was excited that the money the event raised would be donated to Ayati. “Figuring out that the charity was for girls’ education made me so happy. I’m definitely going to follow up with the people who are in charge of the charity to see if I can get more involved because it’s a cause that I’ve been working for, and educating girls has so much power and potential,” Mahadevia said.

Overall, the APAHW team evaluated this year’s program to have been another success. “I was really pleased with the turnout,” Tan said. “We aimed to have more freshmen to come, which we were able to achieve.”

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