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Credit: Sukhmani Kaur

More than 60 Penn students gathered on Locust Walk on Friday afternoon to celebrate their Asian identities and increase Asian visibility on campus.

The event, called #AsianTalks, was hosted by the Pan-Asian American Community House and organized by College junior Ryan Afreen and PAACH interns Wharton senior Chandani Battle and College senior Jarek Azim. Students wrote which part of Asia they identify with and the reason they are "#Proud to be Asian" on reusable whiteboards at a pop-up event outside of ARCH.

Students' signs read that they were most proud to be Asian because of culture, values, traditions, and communities. College junior Ishani Mehta wrote that she is proud to be Asian because "we're born w/ spice."  

Another student, Nursing sophomore Angela Schmidt, held up a sign that said she is proud to be Asian because of the food and culture she represents. College junior Mahaa Ayub agreed, holding a sign stating "I am proud to be Asian because we have the best food."

Free donuts, PAACH shirts, and candy were available to all of the students who participated. 

Azim, who identifies as Bangladeshi American, said the goal of the event was to increase Asian visibility on campus. Afreen, who is also Bangladeshi American, added that it was nice to celebrate the unique identities that fall under the broader Asian umbrella.

"It's the food that brings us together, whether you are a South Asian, East Asian, or Southeast Asian," Afreen said. "My identity teaches me to celebrate the rich cultures of AAPI community through unity and inclusion." 

Afreen and Azim said that through small, spontaneous events, their peers can claim their Asian identities together and celebrate their powerful voices every day.

PAACH has hosted open houses to honor different Asian identities each week since the beginning of the semester to foster a stronger community and sense of belonging for Asian Americans on campus, Azim said. The goal of each open house is to connect undergraduate and graduate students with different campus groups and faculty advisors. 

Azim said that one of PAACH's goals for the school year is to increase Asian visibility on campus. PAACH and other campus partners have responded to a spike in anti-Asian hate crimes during the pandemic with the creation of a task force focused on "flattening the hate."

"Bringing ideas to the table with like-minded individuals who value diversity inspires me to organize events that foster strong community within the Asian American population on campus," Afreen said.