By Celeste Krewson
Recent events have left the Asian American community devastated. As fear and uncertainty linger, students on the College’s campus can turn to the Asian American Association (AAA) to have a place to feel safe and welcome.
“The Asian American Association aims to share Asian culture to all of TCNJ,” said Crystal Tran, the president of the AAA and a junior psychology major. “We aspire to spread awareness of Asian issues, current and historical, with all of our members, regardless of their identity, and join together to celebrate the beauty of what it means to be Asian.”
Tran provided details on AAA meetings, which normally take place every Wednesday from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. in Brower Student Center room 224. Currently, the meetings take place over Zoom due to Covid-19 restrictions. At these meetings, members play games, eat snacks such as banh mi and noodles and make crafts such as origami and star jars.
These meetings sometimes delve into discussions on more serious topics, such as mental health and privilege. Lately, they have accommodated their meetings to host functions over Zoom and Discord, so that students staying at home can still participate.
“Our goal is to create a safe, supportive, and welcoming community for all of our members to be able to shamelessly express their identity with others that will appreciate them,” Tran said.
The AAA is an important space for many of its members. It provides students a safe place where they can discover more about themselves.
“The Asian American Association has truly allowed me to become a better student, person and grow as a leader in the community,” said Lily Drennan, the secretary on the executive board, and a sophomore international studies major. “Additionally, being adopted, the Asian American Association has helped me understand my cultural background to a fuller extent.”
Events hosted by the AAA often focus on bringing awareness to multiple cultures. One such event is the Multicultural Buffet, which offers free food from a variety of cultures. The largest of these events is Mystique, where student performers will perform cultural acts that can be viewed by the campus community.
“We also try to host a speaker event every semester where we bring guests who represent the Asian and/or Asian American community to speak on their success and experiences,” said the vice president of the organization and junior Psychology major, Brandon Hoang. “In the past, we have brought Ryan Bergara from Buzzfeed: Unsolved and Plastique Tiara from RuPaul’s Drag Race.”
With more awareness being brought to anti-Asian rhetoric in the United States, the AAA is making an effort to address these concerns in their meetings. Anti-Asian hate crime continues to rise, and the AAA has continuously supported their members during these difficult times.
“The AAA community is absolutely devastated by the tragedies surrounding the Asian community,” Tran said. “While these crimes have existed for years and years, the recent uprise in these happenings is horrifying and frightening to a lot of people. As an identity org that strongly stands against these hate crimes, we have shared a multitude of resources with our members to lead them through this time.”
From places to donate to, to places in which students can report crimes, to businesses students can support and educational resources, the AAA intends to help students get through tough situations.
Along with sharing resources, the AAA is hosting and attending events to help the Asian American community. On Saturday, March 27, they participated in the “Stop Asian Hate Protest” in Fort Lee, N.J. The AAA also hosted a general board meeting the week of the Atlanta shooting with a focus on anti-Asian hate crimes.
“The Asian American Association always has and continues to provide students with an inclusive environment to discuss these issues and educate on how they can help in order to better strengthen the TCNJ community,” Drennan said.
Any student can join the AAA — not just those in the Asian American community. To join the email list, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or reach out to the AAA instagram, @tcnjaaa.
“Little did I know that the first time I stepped into BSC 224, I was stepping into my future home,” Tran said. “In AAA, I found a group of people that embraced me for who I was, regardless of my experience as an Asian American, and welcomed me with open arms.”