Behind the APAA Culture Show

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Bringing UMD's Multicultural Family Together

Srilalitha Akurati performs a traditional Indian dance.
The sweet smell of roasting chicken and coconut curry fills the room. People wear traditional clothing in colorful reds, pinks and greens. Bright smiles and warm greetings are everywhere. That's the atmosphere that can be felt at big Asian family gatherings and at UMD's annual Asian Pacific American Association (APAA) Culture Show.

This year the celebration of Asian culture will be held on Saturday, November 22, beginning at 6 pm in UMD's Kirby Ballroom.

Sharing the Asian Influence
The APAA Culture Show has been balancing education and entertainment for 23 years. Behind this colorful event, there have always been student leaders who have made this UMD celebration possible. 

Srilalitha Akurati, past president of APAA, and Thong Moua, the current president, shared their thoughts about the culture show.

Both Akurati and Moua said that as UMD increases its emphasis on diversity, the celebration has grown in importance. “It is the one night where we can take everything that happens in the Multicultural Center and the APAA club and broadcast it to rest of the campus,” said Akurati.

Beginning in 1991 as a small celebration of Asian awareness, the Culture Show has chosen a different theme every year. Last year's theme, “Far East Movement,” focused on how Asians in America have influenced America's culture. "Last year we served cream cheese wantons which is an American innovation that was influenced by Asian culture,” continued Akurati.

This year's theme is “CelebrAsian,” highlighting the combination of Celebration and Asian Culture.

Thong Moua Akurati
Thong Moua Srilalitha Akurati
Family Atmosphere
Thong Moua, the newly elected president, is focusing on bringing more of a family atmosphere to the APAA Culture Show this year. Community members, children and parents of UMD students often come to the event, and Moua wants those numbers to increase. “Lots of current students have older brothers and sisters who have gone UMD,” said Moua. "They want to come back every year."

“One year an old Hmong song was played,” said Moua. The song brought back memories to the parents of UMD Hmong students who came to the event. “It even made a few of them cry.”

Moua explained that “a big family is considered a strong, happy family in Hmong culture.“Whenever a bad or good thing happened to our family or friends we would throw a big party to give support and chase the bad spirit away,” said Moua. “APAA is a huge family to me and other members and we hope to celebrate it together at the coming culture show.”

Sharpening Organizing Skills
Preparing a big event like the APAA Culture Show challenges APAA members. Entertainment, food, publicity, and staff all have to be in place when 200 or more people show up. It's hard work and it takes a lot of time. "Last year's event was a big challenge for me because I was an Indian president and most of the students were Hmong," said Akurati. "Still, there was great joy in sharing our feast." Akurati said she gained leadership and communication skills. “I had to pick up on non-verbal cues and make sure everyone was happy,” said Akurati. “When you step out of your comfort zone that’s when you learn.”

Moua is in the leadership hot seat this year. “It challenges my patience,” said Moua. “But it is definitely a good chance to see what kinds of talent other students have and what they can do.” 

By Dayae Kim with Cheryl Reitan, November 2014.

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Cheryl Reitan,

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