Fordham OMA and ACE Celebrate AAPI Month


Students enjoy ACE’s EPIC event during AAPI Heritage Month. (Courtesy of Alexander Hom for The Fordham Ram)

Although Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month (AAPIHM) is in May, which begins with finals weeks, the Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) is honoring the university’s AAPI members, who make up 15.4% of Fordham’s population, with a spread of special events throughout April. OMA’s unique annual tradition sees seven events at Rose Hill following the return from the Easter weekend. Asian Cultural Exchange (ACE), the largest student club representing Fordham’s diverse communities of AAPI ancestry, held their annual “EPIC” spring banquet social on April 21 in Bepler Commons.

“It’s important for us at OMA to provide events and — most importantly — spaces on campus that help everyone foster identity development and meet others in the Fordham community with shared experiences,” said OMA Graduate Intern Nicole Jara Andrade. “While May is the national AAPI Heritage Month, a time where we’re all busy with finals and graduation, our annual April celebrations importantly empower our AAPI community members to take pride in their cultures!”

The month-long bash by OMA kicked off with an educational tabling about South & Southeast Asian New Years celebrations on April 13, followed by a screening focusing on Pacific Islander representation in “The Wind & The Reckoning.” OMA also organized an April 14 outing to Yu & Me Books, an Asian woman-owned bookstore in Chinatown; and an April 19 “Paint & Sip” event featuring traditional Batik painting and tea sampling.

“We hope that students find community in our events, whether a sense of belonging or an educational space to learn more about AAPI cultures!” Andrade said. “Our events highlight the numerous achievements within the AAPI diaspora and the progress that our Fordham AAPI community’s successes contribute to.”

OMA’s events also coincide with ACE’s festive “EPIC” celebration, their annual end-of-spring-term celebration closing out the academic year. Complementing their similar fall “DYNASTY” event, the club added new foods and performances in the spirit of inclusion.

“EPIC’s one of ACE’s annual hallmark events — with it, we continue celebrating Fordham’s AAPI, and this year we really wanted to highlight the diversity within our community even further,” said ACE President Alex Tamsi, FCRH ’24. EPIC 2023 is ACE’s first time inviting student South-Asian dance troupe Fordham Falak to perform, as well as catering collaboratively with Fordham University South-Asian Entities (FUSE), a club representing the students and cultures of South Asian nations from Iran to Thailand. “We at ACE are super thankful for these opportunities, because much of our current makeup comprises Southeast/East Asian heritage,” added Tamsi, a Filipino international student from Manila, addressing the crowd as she opened the event. “We’re so thrilled to help spotlight and invite more members of South Asian heritage.” ACE’s e-board then introduced themselves, before Tamsi handed the floor to members of Fordham Falak, who danced to traditional Bollywood music.

“Food’s a very central ingredient in how we engage with each other’s cultural heritage,” added Tamsi, “and this is the first time we’ve ever had Indian food at one of our events, so we’re very excited!” There was Indian chicken biryani, and chicken and paneer tikka masala. Korean cuisine was also present: sweet beef and spicy pork bulgogi, stir-fried cellophane japchae noodles, kimbap rolls, fish cakes and soy garlic wings.

“With Fordham Falak, the sense of community always comes through,” said Arul Mollin, GSBLC ’23.

“Being able to share with everyone my passionate excitement dancing to Bollywood music is really impactful, especially because people don’t often realize South Asians are AAPI. Participating in AAPI Month celebrations allows us to spread our cultures so we can educate others about Bollywood music, introduce our customs and enjoy time together.”

“EPIC is really special to ACE as it’s one of our signature events of the calendar year,” said Peggy Ye, FCRH ’21, a former ACE President. “It’s a really cool time to celebrate South/Southeast-Asian cultures.”
“I can explore different cuisines from different cultures and experience different performances,” said Sabina Zheng, FCRH ’25. Crystal Wu, GSB ’25, added, “It’s a very fun tradition where I can catch up with people I know.”

Phillip Real, GSB ’25, is the president of Fordham’s Philippine-American Club, or FUPAC. “EPIC is a great opportunity to bring ACE exposure and EPIC awareness to showcase our pride for culture,” said Real. “Coming to these events are a great way to find community, for the diverse groups of both Fordham AAPI and allies. A lot of hard work was put into EPIC, which is a testament to the hard work of the students here.”

Students emphasize that OMA’s and ACE’s events call attention to the imperative to stand with AAPI, made all the more important especially in the wake of COVID-19 and the devastatingly resultant spikes in racially-motivated hate crimes against AAPI. They note that with the scores of ethnicities that comprise AAPI identities, a need for intra-AAPI unity across cultural backgrounds also builds toward a broad understanding of the AAPI community.

Tamsi notes NYC’s robust Asian American history and points to Fordham’s emphasis on their Diversity in Action initiatives. “AAPI Month is a very important way for the university to showcase their concrete commitment to these initiatives and to acknowledge their AAPI students, and the backgrounds they come from and come with,” she added.

“EPIC and AAPIHM mean more than just a club food gathering,” said Oscar Zeng, GSB ’26. “It means good times with friends, good times with fellow students, and most importantly, good times with family.”