Events

May 17, 2012

Asian-Pacific American Heritage Festival honors and celebrates diversity

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Story and photos by Jennifer Lindquist
Special to the Scout

Tanya Biami and A.J. Biami, members of the Cochise College Dance Club, enjoy the moment as they perform on stage.

Sweet, salty smells of Asian cuisine, graceful movements of pacific island dancers and proud cries of Taekwondo students were featured at Tuesday’s Asian-Pacific Heritage Festival at the Thunder Mountain Activity Centre.

The festival cumulated a month-long celebration of Asian-Pacific Americans. This year marks the 20th anniversary of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month.

“The United States is a great country strengthened by our diverse contributions — celebrating Asian-Pacific Heritage Month helps remind us of that,” said Maj. Gen. Gregg Potter, commanding general, U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence and Fort Huachuca.

The Cochise College Dance Club helped showcase this diversity by performing four Pacific Island dances from the traditional “Kawi Ka” chant for King David to the more contemporary “Down by the Shack.”

A.J. Biami, president of the dance club, especially enjoys dancing at the Asian-Pacific Heritage Festival as it helps him pay homage to his Asian background. He believes performing at this festival, “helps keep the tradition alive.”

Sierra Debusk and Jeffery Debusk, first-degree black belts from Hubble AKA Master Academy, understand the importance of tradition as they honored their heritage by demonstrating their proficiency at Taekwondo. They stunned the audience with their flying front snap kicks, knowledge of martial arts weaponry and their board-breaking strength.

As the Hubble Academy and Cochise College Dance Club showed the future of Asian American culture, Dr. Stephen Payne, Ph.D, historian at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, Calif., helped remember Asian Americans and their role in leading the United States to victory during World War II. He reminded audience members of the resiliency and endurance of Asian-American Soldiers as they trained in unfamiliar climates, and under prejudice, to become Japanese translators.

Their efforts helped shorten the war by two years and saved countless lives by capturing secret documents and successfully interrogating Japanese prisoners of war, explained Payne.

The Asian-Pacific Heritage Festival helps remember the past and showcase the future.

“So many generations of Pacific Islanders and Asian Americans helped build our country, defend our country and make America what it is today … We need not look further than our own rich history to be reminded that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are not only a part of America’s past but part of America’s future,” said Potter.

Sierra Debusk and Jeffrey Debusk, both first-degree black belts, use their Taekwondo performance to show their pride in their Asian heritage.




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