AASA hosts 35th annual Lunar New Year Festival

The Asian American Student Association (AASA) celebrated the Year of the Tiger with its annual performance showcase celebrating the diversity of Asian cultures.

Lunar+New+Year+Festival+performers%2C+as+photographed+on+Feb.+26%2C+2022

Geena Han

Lunar New Year Festival performers, as photographed on Feb. 26, 2022. (Hustler Multimedia/Geena Han)

Alison Winters

The Asian American Student Association (AASA) hosted its 35th annual Lunar New Year Festival (LNYF) on Feb. 26. The theme for this year’s performance was “Through the Looking Glass,” a reference to “Alice in Wonderland.” The event celebrated the Chinese zodiac calendar’s declaration of 2022 as the Year of the Tiger.

LNYF was sponsored by over 20 other student organizations and involved over 300 Vanderbilt students and community members. It showcased 16 different dance performances inspired by a wide variety of Asian cultures, including “Tinikling” from the Philippines, “Watersleeves,” a traditional Chinese dance and “Open Style,” a hip-hop group inspired by various Asian cultures.

“As a Korean American, I felt seen and celebrated,” first-year Elly Lim said. “I especially liked the martial arts and K-pop performances.”

During the showcase, the emcees performed a skit in which they acted out scenes of an Asian American high school senior desiring to live a “normal life” despite her strict mother, reflecting the “Through the Looking Glass” theme. 

“It’s a lot about reflection and looking back at our past and being able to appreciate our ancestors as well as the culture that we’ve grown up in,” performer and choreographer for the K-pop group junior Shinwho Kwun said.

Due to COVID-19 regulations, the 2022 LNYF was the first in-person showcase in two years. Performers for the event were able to practice in person, but practices were delayed by the Commodores Care period.

“It’s really exciting for everyone,” Kwun said. “I’m really proud of everyone in K-pop for making it through.”

According to Kwun, one of the main goals of LNYF is to represent the diversity of Asian and Asian American communities on campus.

“I think it’s a great way to get Asian culture out there, especially since we’re in Nashville,” Kwun said. “There’s not a lot of Asian culture that’s represented.”

Throughout the event, senior and AASA President Jack Mok and Reena Zhang, junior and LNYF organizer, discussed how the pandemic contributed to the increase in Asian American hate since 2020.

“As a community, as an individual, as Vanderbilt students, it’s disheartening,” Zhang said. “But, with the return of LNYF this year, we really hope that you all can see the strength and the resilience that lies in the Asian community here at Vanderbilt.”

Per Zhang’s speech at the beginning of the showcase, AASA aims to create a community within the Vanderbilt sphere in which Asian and Asian American students can feel safe and free to express their cultural identities. Mok said LNYF is just one way in which AASA achieves this goal. 

“From organizing events like LNYF to advocating for initiatives like Asian American Studies, Vanderbilt AASA is continuously committed to creating a space for you here,” Mok said during the event. “I’m here to tell you that you 100%, absolutely, belong here.”