Arts & Culture

U of M open mic illuminates Asian American voices

Kristy Moua, Staff Writer

The Asian Pacific American Resource Center and the Women’s Center of the University of Minnesota came together to showcase an evening filled with talent. On April 9, students affiliated with the U of M and local Hmong artists were able to share with the community our stories that we have been preparing to share for the last month. The event took place at Whole Music Club, located within Coffman Memorial Union. The space felt straight from a film, a room glowing with purple lighting with a hipster vibe. First to perform was Simran Chugani, a first-year. She performed her empowering spoken word, “Speak Up,” discussing the Asian American stereotypes and how the community should engage in social justice. Her strong tone and stage presence allowed her feelings to be relatable among the crowd.

Next was my spoken word performance. I was able to share two new pieces, “Moua” and “My Body is a Cipher.” “Moua” elaborates more on an encounter I had with an elderly Hmong grandmother and how important cross-generational relationships are. As for “My Body is a Cipher,” it is a self-reflection on how symbolic my body is carrying my Hmong heritage and being plus-sized.

Then Abi Ilavarasan, a second-year, expressed with the audience a personal letter she has written to her future 30-year-old self. She talks about expectations and doubt but wishes nothing but self-love and acceptance within her future self. Even though this was her first performance at an open mic event, her mellow and down-to-earth presence allowed each of us to reflect on our hopes. Additionally, Oluwatobi Oluwagbemi presented a letter she has written to herself. She explains how far and difficult her journey has been but has proved others wrong through her perseverance and positive mindset.

There was also film at the event. Kevin Hang shared an impactful and eye-opening video in dedication to his Hmong, male-identified mentor. The short documentary film explained Hang’s family dynamic and how his birth parents have been absent for part of his life due to work. Although, Hang found a teacher and mentor who has inspired and become a father figure for him.

Also, Kazua Melissa Vang screened a short film directed and written by her about friendship and loss. Finally, Kevin Yang recited nine different spoken-word pieces ranging from a personal reflection on Asians supporting white supremacy to his relationship with his name. Snaps and laughter gave us performers validation about our crafts and not just our pieces but our journeys. It is spaces and opportunities like this that will allow artists to connect with one another and for audiences to form a clearer understanding about where they hope to become. This is just the beginning for more visual and performing arts within the Asian American community. For we are the next generation of Asian American artists, leaders and humanitarians.

This article was originally published in the April 12, 2019 issue.