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APASO celebrates 21st annual Cultural Vogue at Wharton Center

February 19, 2024
Hmong American Student Association (HASA) performs at the 21st annual 2024 Cultural Vogue ‘Unapologetic’ hosted by MSU APASO at the Wharton Center on Feb. 17, 2024.
Hmong American Student Association (HASA) performs at the 21st annual 2024 Cultural Vogue ‘Unapologetic’ hosted by MSU APASO at the Wharton Center on Feb. 17, 2024. —
Photo by Zari Dixson | The State News

The Asian Pacific American Student Organization, or APASO, hosted their annual Cultural Vogue event on Feb. 17. Michigan State University students gathered in Wharton Center's Cobb Great Hall to celebrate and honor Asian heritage and traditions through performances from various student organizations affiliated with APASO.

APASO was founded in 1982 in a response to the lack of Asian Pacific Islander Desi American (APIDA) representation on MSU’s campus, as well as the hate crime and murder of Vincent Chin, a Chinese American man who resided in Detroit.

APASO Cultural Vogue Chair Megan Smejkal said Cultural Vogue launched in 1990 to celebrate APIDA culture and heritage throughout art. This year's theme, "Unapologetic," served to highlight how APIDA culture has been generalized and commodified, according to the event’s program.

The event started off with a recitation of MSU’s Land Acknowledgement by the hosts. MSU Pilipino American Student Society's dance team, the Pass Dance Crew, proceeded to showcase two choreographed dances, featuring Filipino artists such as rapper and singer Al James. 

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The Korean Student Association (KSA) performs at the 21st annual 2024 Cultural Vogue ‘Unapologetic’ hosted by MSU APASO at the Wharton Center on Feb. 17, 2024.

Members of APASO also presented a poem called "Silenced Spartans." During their performance, each member of the organization expressed their experience of racial discrimination on campus and challenged the Board of Trustees and administration to deliver on effective diversity, equity and inclusion promises that help marginalized communities.

Students also said during their performance that there have been countless times the Board of Trustees and MSU Interim President Teresa Woodruff failed the students of MSU by neglecting to address the persistent discrimination and racism plaguing the campus. They demanded the administration include DEI resources to help the APIDA community.

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The Chinese-American Student Coalition (CSC) performs at the 21st annual 2024 Cultural Vogue ‘Unapologetic’ hosted by MSU APASO at the Wharton Center on Feb. 17, 2024.

More performances as followed from other student organizations, such as CTRL + A, an Asian dance group, Vietnamese Student Association, or VSA, who performed a traditional Vietnamese fan dance, and Hmong American Student Association, or HASA, who showcased traditional dances and skits. This year’s keynote speakers were from the Indian American music duo Twinjabi.

Kentucky-born twin brothers Kush Nijahwan and Neil Nijahwan, who make up "Twinjabi," discussed their journey on becoming musical artists while embracing their cultural heritage. The duo shared three different stories about their life and offered motivational messages to students, including one urging them not to let society define Asian culture as "one dimensional." 

In their message, they told the crowd "You guys are multifaceted and multidimensional."

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Keynote speaker, Twinjabi performs and speaks at the the 21st annual 2024 Cultural Vogue ‘Unapologetic’ hosted by MSU APASO at the Wharton Center on Feb. 17, 2024.

Physiology freshman Emily Ma said it was great to see her sister, who is a part of the Korean Student Association, or KSA, perform.

Ma said the event is important because of the awareness it brings to people outside of their culture. It allows her community to feel comfortable to show who they are at MSU, she said.

"And I’ve seen so many different cultures (showcased), and I didn’t know much about them and it’s really cool seeing different traditional dances,” Ma said.

The event closed out with three affiliated student groups recognized through different categories of Cultural Vogue awards. KSA was given the "Fan Favorite" award, the Indonesian Student Organization earned the "Unapologetic" award and HASA won the “Founders" award.

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The Vietnamese Student Association (VSA) performs at the 21st annual 2024 Cultural Vogue ‘Unapologetic’ hosted by MSU APASO at the Wharton Center on Feb. 17, 2024.

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