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Sunday, June 16, 2024

From the Chinese lion dancers roaming about the Reitz Union to the heads of research labs, the Asian Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander Desi (ANHPID) community is lively and active at UF.

In the first days of my first year, on a warm August day, I was heading to the Reitz to cool down and was met with many tabling organizations — of which were those from the Asian American Student Union. With one invitation, I soon found myself making my way to the second floor of the Reitz, being exposed to such an influential and open community.

As the current Vice President of Education of the UF Asian American Student Union, I am proud that my community is involved, joyful and accepting — but also one that is not afraid to speak up and show some grit.

The history of the ANHPID community at UF is fraught with the courage to advocate, unify and fight for our rights amid a lack of representation and much denial. Today, it stands strong,  boasting several major programs and Signature Events hosted on UF campus, the only dedicated office space in the Southeast region for Asian Pacific Islander Desi Student Engagement (APIDSE), and many organizations across the ANHPID spectrum. We celebrate the hard-fought victories of those who came before us through spreading the beauties of our communities, cultures and histories to the rest of campus through our intentional programming and participation in everyday campus life.

Every day, our community continues to propel itself forward in providing a space to grow and be safe for people of all races and other identities. The numerous GBMs hosted by our organizations, the philanthropic efforts we pioneer and the supportive space of the APIDSE office provide so many opportunities for our community to feel unified and interact with each other, to celebrate each other and enjoy each other’s company. 

The signature events we host — such as the Asian American Student Assembly, Def Talent Jam (by the Filipino Student Association) and the Chinese New Year Show (by the Chinese American Student Association) — and those outside that umbrella all provide a chance to share our cultures, both modern and traditional, and the artistry of our community through dance, song and tailored themes and skits. 

All these amalgamate into a life force that further raises up our entire campus community, fostering a warm, welcoming feeling of celebration and support for ANHPID students here at UF — especially for myself when I started my first year and was instantly pulled into the fray, making my first friends at APIDSE when I simply just wanted to find a place to cool off.

Despite all the joy we have made and fought for ourselves as a community, in the general mission of uplifting our entire UF community, there is still much progress to be made and grievances to be addressed in our ongoing struggle for representation and equality.

Recent events impacting our society and our university regarding diversity, equity and inclusion, graduate students, work opportunities for international students and overall unequal treatment yet again give us cause for grievance and redress.

A considerable proportion of graduate students, teaching assistants and researchers are international ANHPID students and staff. The recent legislation passed that bars recruitment of Chinese, Syrian and Iranian students impedes upon the functions of the university and its community. Similar legislation that bars the use of certain communication applications, that are popular among Chinese students and faculty, at the university also induces a chilling effect atop the attacks on initiatives in promoting DEI at our institutions. The voice we toiled so hard for is being whittled down and endangered one bill, one policy at a time. But, this does not mean we are powerless to stop it. 

The founders of the original Asian Student Union at UF fought for a student union for ANHPID students. They fought for a safe space for ANHPID students. They fought for us to have a voice — a seat at the table that was rejected to us time after time.

Now, it is our turn in the ever-winding path of our history to stand up for ourselves and our community, for the present and for perpetuity. Our strength lies in our potential: the potential to make change and ripples in the story of our society, all in the hopes of preserving and advancing our community and the diversity of our society. So that, maybe, yet another person can live and grow and learn in a supportive and rich community. It all starts with wanting to cool off inside the Reitz on a warm August day. 

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Joaquin Marcelino is a UF Biochemistry, Political Science & Chinese junior and Vice President of Education of the UF Asian American Student Union.

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