North Penn celebrates Pan-Asian culture

Chinese fan dancer Stacy Liang leading the group.

TOWAMENCIN- Food, music, and dancing originating from different parts of Asia were displayed at North Penn High School’s second annual Pan-Asian Celebration held on Friday, May 31 in honor of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month. It was a night of pure Asian representation and culture appreciation.

The idea of beginning the event was proposed by a Chinese Culture Club member during late spring two years ago. Because such an event required more time to plan, the first ever Pan-Asian celebration was eventually held and hosted by the Chinese Culture Club last year in May.

“After seeing how other cultural groups, such as the African American Awareness Club or the Indian Cultural Association, celebrate their heritage at a certain time each year, she and I decided that since May is Pan-Asian month, all of North Penn’s Asian cultural clubs should also celebrate their culture in May,” said Chinese Culture Club adviser Janet Kratz.

Planning for this year’s event began in February. Cultural groups’ adviser and officers had to decide on the type of performances each group should be doing and what food a group or individual would be contributing. After the acts were decided on, Chinese Culture Club co-president, Jacqueline Li, set up a team drive to organize the music and information in order for the emcees, Jacqueline and Andrew Ramirez, to write a script, and to also have North Penn’s media specialist Craig Weierman organize the technical support.

Hannah Nguyen
Fall Harvests Dance performer amazes the crowd.

“At last year’s event, each cultural club created a slideshow about their cultural heritage, as well as a performance. This year we decided to eliminate the slide shows and instead include background information about the performances as each group was introduced. We have also reached out to include students whose Asian heritage is not represented by one of the cultural groups here… We want to be as inclusive as possible,” explained Kratz.

Students from the culture clubs were encouraged to perform at this year’s event. Performances  included a Bengali dance presented by members of the Bengali Cultural Club, Peach Boy play by Japanese Language Club members, Korean Folk Dancing by Mrs. Moon Boo Chang, Fall Harvest Dance led by Mr. Se Young Chung, singing performances by Megan Aquias and Jenica Capili, a fan dance by Chinese Culture Club members, String Quartet performed by Anna Jia, Sharon Chen, Andrew Ramirez, and Sam Song, a Taekwondo demonstration by the SKY Martial Arts Team, and a fashion show.

“We are really hoping to build the tradition of recognizing Pan-Asian month in the North Penn community. Mr. Roh arranged for two community groups, one performing traditional Korean dance and drumming and the other a Taekwondo studio, to participate, and I like that through these groups, different generations are included in this event,” shared Kratz.

Participants practiced weeks in advance.The Chinese Culture Club fan dancers met on Friday afternoons and on weekends. Rehearsals began in early April.

“We started doing a fan dance last year because we felt that it showcased Chinese culture and it was unique. For this year’s fan dance, we took ideas from the dance from last year, but we expanded upon the ideas a lot and changed some moves around,” mentioned Chinese Culture Club co-president, Sharon Chen.

“The whole experience was interesting as the group was so varied in dancing capabilities and height, so this was a challenge to put together. But everyone had something to offer which was nice since somehow we always cooperated in the end,” added Chinese Culture Club member Stacy Liang.

Megan Aquias and Jenica Capili both performed Torete, a Filipino song by Moonstar88, and also Grenade by Bruno Mars who is from Filipino descent.

“This is my first and last year performing for the Pan Asian celebration, and I was so excited to be asked by Jaq to sing in it this year. I am so happy to be given the chance to represent Filipino culture with Jenica through one of our favorite hobbies,” said Aquias.

Hannah Nguyen
Anna Jia wearing Chinese clothing during the fashion show.

Food was provided and sold by Japanese Language Club members and publicity and media coordinator Mary Catherine Le during intermission and after the event. They offered milk bubble tea, Japanese Onigiri, and Vietnamese banh mi. Proceeds were donated to the Pearl S. Buck Foundation.

“It took me about a week to prep all the foods and hours and hours to make the banh mi hoagies for everyone which was so much work, honestly,” said Le.

The night allowed the Asian community at North Penn to share their cultures and learn about others’ as well. Participants took it as an opportunity for them to represent and take pride in their beautiful cultures.

“I feel that this event is so great because it gives Asian people a chance to introduce others to their culture. Before the Pan-Asian Celebration, we did not have an event that celebrates our culture, like the AAAC assembly done for black history month. My favorite thing about this event is the sharing of our cultures and being able to let the audience enjoy and learn something new about our cultures,” Chen shared.

“I wanted to be a part of it because I’m Vietnamese and I wanted other people to embrace and learn more about my culture, but to learn more about other people too with different ethnicities,” commented Le.

“My favorite part of the event was watching everyone come together Friday night to show their talents and traditions. I think representation is important and seeing the diversity in our community was very eye-opening and inspiring,” said Aquias.

“I really enjoyed how you could see the dedication that everyone put in each performance. After all we were here to celebrate everyone’s different Asian cultures and we wanted to do each one justice. It was so refreshing to see that we have such a strong Asian community here at North Penn and I’m glad we were able to discover and understand each one individually. The food was also really good,” added Liang.

As for the future, the audion has already been booked in preparation for next year’s event. Kratz hopes that more students are inspired to come out a perform next year. The Chinese Culture Club has already begun to think about plans for next year.

“I will definitely be attending and performing next year. I have done Chinese dance for 11 years now and love dancing traditional dances at my local Chinese school. So why not do it at North Penn so more people can appreciate how cool it is? I also just love bonding with my fellow Asian Americans because somehow we all go through about the same thing. I met new people and built new connections and I hope this will happen in the years to come,” said Liang.