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Bridging histories during AAPI Heritage Month

Bridging histories during AAPI Heritage Month
Bridging histories during AAPI Heritage Month

Dressed in pink and smiling as she steps into the next movement, 6th grade student Naiya Patel twirls in a video playing from the stage of the Frances Bond Davis Theatre. She is performing garba.

A traditional dance originating from Gujarat, India, garba is performed in a circle around a centrally lit lamp or a picture or statue of the Hindu goddess Durga during the nine-day Hindu festival of Navratri. The legend of Navratri speaks about a great battle between Durga and a powerful demon. Each year on the last day of Navratri, the goddess’ victory over the demon is celebrated to represent the power of good over evil. Performing the garba is just one of many Indian traditions, but for Naiya, it is one of her very favorites.

Dance is a central part of the cultural heritage in India. From religious celebrations to wedding festivities, communities gather to dance as a form of personal expression and history. Naiya, along with 7th grade student Elissa Patel and 6th grade student Simran Purohit, shared their love of dance with their peers at the annual Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month assembly this month.

Every May, the United States honors the contributions and influence of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to the history and culture of the United States. AAPI communities consist of approximately 50 distinct ethnic groups speaking over 100 languages, with connections to Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Filipino, Vietnamese, Korean, Hawaiian, and other Asian and Pacific Islander ancestries.

During the celebratory assembly, Harpeth Hall students worked together to fulfill the mission of this year’s AAPI Month theme: ‘Bridging Histories, Shaping Our Future.’ A written statement from the Initiative on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders and the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center encourages Americans to use this May to share and reflect.

“The 2024 theme is an homage to our ancestors and invites all Americans to delve into the legacies, triumphs, and challenges that have shaped Asian Americans, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities,” the statement reads. “It embodies the spirit of our collective journey – one rooted in resilience and hope – and encourages us to forge intergenerational connections to honor our past and pave a durable path forward.”

Throughout the student-led AAPI assembly, students shared their history and heritage to foster a sense of togetherness and understanding.

The AP Chinese class shared a song about the Chinese Civil War accompanied by English teacher Joe Croker on the guitar and the upper school Animanga club taught a dance to a K-pop song. The middle school Better Together club shared trivia questions, including facts about Amanda Nguyen, a 2019 Nobel Peace Prize nominee and soon-to-be first Vietnamese American woman to go to space, “Up,” the first Pixar film to feature an Asian American main character, and Vicki Manalo Draves, the first Asian American woman to win an Olympic gold medal in 1948. Students also shared their own cultural traditions and experiences being a part of AAPI communities.

Throughout AAPI Heritage Month, students will continue to identify and recognize the accomplishments of AAPI communities who have helped to shape American history and culture.