The IU Asian Culture Center hosted a reception to mark the beginning of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month at the Gayle Cook Center for Arts and Humanities on Thursday. The reception included a presentation from an IU alumna and chai sampling for eventgoers.
Yumin Kim, a graduate assistant at the center, said while Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is in May, the Asian Culture Center is celebrating it in April since the semester is ending and students will be graduating in May.
Kim said this year’s Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is especially important after the racially motivated stabbing of an 18-year-old Asian IU student on a Bloomington transit bus in January.
“With the incident that happened in January, we really just want to focus on Asian Americans because we have a long history and we celebrate this every year,” Kim said. “We want to appreciate all the history and the Asian Americans that contributed to where we are today.”
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Kim said she is looking forward to the other events the center is holding in April.
Ruchi Shah, IU alumna and owner of Indianapolis-based chai brand Afternoon Chai, presented the history of masala chai at the event. She was involved with the center during her time at IU from 2005 to 2009. She now works as a speech pathologist at an Indianapolis hospital and runs her company on the side. She spoke about the importance of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.
“It’s a great opportunity to show pride and learn more about our history and learn more about each other,” Shah said. “It also brings awareness to some of the ways that we’re hurting as a community.”
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Shah started Afternoon Chai in 2019 with the help of her family. The brand currently has several chai products that it sells at farmers markets across Indianapolis and on its Etsy shop. The brand also offers chai brewing classes.
“I grew up around masala chai, and then I drank it as I got older,” Shah said. “I’ve always been really interested in hosting themed parties which involved me studying more about tea.”
James Wimbush, vice president for diversity, equity and multicultural affairs, said culture centers establish communities within the IU community.
“It’s all about being part of a fantastic community, a community of people who help us all be better people and to be able to work so lovingly together,” Wimbush said.
Wimbush thanked everyone involved with the Asian Culture Center.
“They are able to bring us together, not just to celebrate, but in times of crisis and in time of trouble, they work so diligently on a moment’s notice to bring us all together to help us make sense of what we are seeing and what we are experiencing,” Wimbush said.