As I’m typing this in the comforts of the regional Metro-North railway, bundled up in my winter coat and scarf, I can’t help but pine for Florida weather. Because only about a week ago I was there, enjoying the comforts of greasy sunblock and algae-filled lakes, those blissful diversions from the maddening jungles of NYC. But if I really think about it, it was more than the nature-lovin’, tree-hugging activities there that made my weekend so meaningful. And I promise I’ll do my best attempt to write thoughtfully without delving into dramatics (after all, being emo is overrated). . . .
Before I begin, let me describe my task at hand: I have to write about what happened at SERCAAL while leaving out all the un-kosher details. That’s easy. But I can’t write a sentence further without mentioning the people that I’ve met there. Even though I’ve spent quite possibly every day of my life debunking stereotypes and generalizations, you cannot deny Floridian hospitality. It’s the real deal, and I guarantee there were a special bunch of gentle souls that made me want to stay a tad bit longer . . . but this is where I can get emo, so I’ll stop here with the feelings and you can stop feeling sorry for me.
- Friday, October 9th -
I flew into a clean and well-designed Jacksonville airport on a Friday afternoon, where I met Jo-Ann Gonzalez. Her generosity was unmatched -- she was willing to drive a good 2 hours each way to pick up a dude she never met and for a conference she couldn’t even attend. While driving back to the University of Florida, we managed to exchange numerous stories of our lives while swapping good music. After I was generously prepped with the basics of what to expect from the life of an average UF student, I reunited with ECAASU Co-Vice Chair Eugene Mok and ECAASU Student Taskforce Chair, Clara Ng-Quinn. Eugene and Clara flew in from Philadelphia, PA and Ithaca, NY respectively, and like me, braved a 2 hour drive from the airport. From there I was given all my materials and instructions by the thorough and fantastic SERCAAL Co-Programming Chair, Kevin Chiu, who then handed me off to SERCAAL Outreach Committee Member Diana Nguyen as our handler-for-the-day. We gave Diana a lot of grief just for fun (like making her run around the student center in her heels), but she remained a good sport. If her future career as a chemical engineer doesn’t work out, she’ll have my top recommendations as a professional chaperone.
Arriving at the registration table we got to meet most of the SERCAAL staff, and they all seemed pretty surprised that ECAASU sent out a contingent from so far up north. We also did our fair share of exploring the student center, managing to sneak a bite at Subway’s (I traveled this far from NYC to eat at a Subway’s? Mistake.), printed out my keynote speech, and attended the student activities fair where we met even more people. I reunited with professional conference-attendee Christy Truong from Old Dominion University in Virginia (whom I met at ECAASU earlier in March), and I met the unassumingly saucy Melissa “Maisa” Reyes, unabashedly feisty (I mean that lovingly) SERCAAL Programming Committee Member Vi Ho, extremely convincing (and a great dance partner) FSA spokesperson Dorothy Charles, and poet JR Miller. All great people, and all great mini stories I won’t go into (I have to keep this kosher).
The Friday night show opened with a brief introduction by intrepid SERCAAL director Julia Yip and her formidable SERCAAL staff. Then we were presented with an opening performance by Mandeep Sethi, a Sikh rapper from San Francisco that’s as good as (if not, better than) any other MC you’d find in New York City. Mandeep channels an immense amount of soul when he performs, and when coupled with his unbridled talent and relentless rhymes you’ll be asking yourself why you haven’t heard of this guy before.
Afterwards we were given our first keynote speaker of the conference, Lina Hoshino, who took us through a personal journey through her experiences growing up as a Japanese American and tried to relate that with the importance of having student leaders like us. One memorable point she touched upon was the many name changes her mother endured to become socially accepted in the tumultuous era of post World War II. Of course, I saw it as an obvious analogy to the very similar identity crises that we all face as American minorities. We may not have to deal with the palpable realities of actual name changes like Lina’s mother, Hideko, but we certainly struggle with similar implications of self-identity that has been constantly forced upon us.
After her keynote, we watched a series of primo dance student performances by UF’s FSA and VSA, apparently two reputable organizations you don’t want to mess with at UF (that was the word on the street). Finally, we ended the night with a performer from LA, Kate Rigg, who took over and hit us in the face . . . in a refreshingly, masochistic, (i.e. good) way. Like Mandeep, where the hell did she come from? Born half white, half asian, the Asian side came out in full pride when she delivered hits like “Rice Rice Baby.” An accomplished singer (trained at Julliard, mind you), spoken word artist, and comedian, Kate Rigg redefines "triple threat." Although she only gave us a teaser mini-performance, the crowd loved her enough to mob the stage once her act was over. She’s unorthodox, yes, but that attribute has manifested itself into indescribable talent. Go check her out.
At the end of the night, we took a few group pictures and ECAASU was inundated with invitations to iHop and some sort of “Brown Unity” party at Club Skyy. Of course, I’m about to head into un-kosher territory so I’ll stop there. All you need to know is I went to sleep about 4 hours before I had to deliver my keynote. That was Friday night.
To be continued. . . .
(up next: Recap of Day 2 & 3! Plus more shout-outs to the awesome people we met in Florida!)
p.s. I wish there was no limit to the number of people I can tag.
pictures courtesy of Alan Ho & Long Nguyen.
written by Calvin Sun, ECAASU Board of Directors.