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Asian Culture Center celebrates Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month



Bloomington, Indiana – At the Gayle Cook Center for Arts and Humanities on Thursday, the IU Asian Culture Center sponsored a reception to commemorate the start of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. An IU alumna gave a lecture at the reception, and guests may sample tea.

The Asian Culture Center is celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in April rather than May because the semester is coming to a conclusion and students will be graduating in May, according to Yumin Kim, a graduate assistant at the center.

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month this year is particularly significant, according to Kim, in light of the racially motivated stabbing death of an 18-year-old Asian IU student on a bus in Bloomington in January.

“With the incident that happened in January, we really just want to focus on Asian Americans because we have a long history and we celebrate this every year,” Kim said. “We want to appreciate all the history and the Asian Americans that contributed to where we are today.”

Kim expressed excitement for the additional events the center is hosting in April.

At the occasion, IU alumna and proprietor of the Indianapolis-based chai company Afternoon Chai, Ruchi Shah, gave a presentation on the background of masala chai. From 2005 through 2009, she was affiliated with the center while a student at IU. She currently conducts her business on the side while working as a speech therapist at a hospital in Indianapolis. The significance of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month was raised by her.

“It’s a great opportunity to show pride and learn more about our history and learn more about each other,” Shah said. “It also brings awareness to some of the ways that we’re hurting as a community.”

With assistance from her family, Shah launched Afternoon Chai in 2019. Currently, the company sells a number of chai items on its Etsy store and in farmers markets all throughout Indianapolis. The company also provides classes in chai brewing.

“I grew up around masala chai, and then I drank it as I got older,” Shah said. “I’ve always been really interested in hosting themed parties which involved me studying more about tea.”

Culture centers create communities inside the IU community, according to James Wimbush, vice president for diversity, equality, and multicultural affairs.

“It’s all about being part of a fantastic community, a community of people who help us all be better people and to be able to work so lovingly together,” Wimbush said.

Everyone associated with the Asian Culture Center was thanked by Wimbush.

“They are able to bring us together, not just to celebrate, but in times of crisis and in time of trouble, they work so diligently on a moment’s notice to bring us all together to help us make sense of what we are seeing and what we are experiencing,” Wimbush said.