For the month of May, CSUN celebrates Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Heritage Month, honoring the cultures, history and contributions of individuals from countries across the entire Asian continent, as well as the Pacific Islands of Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia.

The observance occurs in May in honor of the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants to the U.S. on May 7, 1843, as well as the labor and contribution from Chinese immigrants for completing the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869. This observance began as Asian American Heritage Week, signed into law by President Jimmy Carter in 1978. In 1990, the celebratory week was extended by Congress to a month. In recent years, it has been commonly referred to as Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Heritage Month.

As of fall 2023, 9% of students at CSUN identify as Asian American, including Pacific Islanders and Desi American students. CSUN provides many different organizations for these students, including student organizations such as the Asian American Christian Fellowship, CSUN Soon Movement and the Delta Lambda Chi Sorority, as well many other affinity groups on campus.

As part of an ongoing series celebrating the diverse backgrounds of Matador communities, CSUN Newsroom asked students to share their stories on growing up in Asian American culture.

Edel Evangelista, 23, Graduate Student. As a first generation Filipino American, Evangelista views this month as a time to honor the journeys and struggles of Asian Americans who were compelled to migrate to the United States, often due to economic, political and social issues from their home countries. “When I think of Asian American Heritage Month, I think of honoring our journeys, getting here, the reasons why we’re here and uplifting the struggles and issues of people that had [to migrate] to America,” Evangelista said. He expressed a strong admiration for the revolutionary spirit of Filipinos throughout history and their ongoing efforts to uplift the conditions of Filipino Americans today. Evangelista stays connected to his heritage through involvement with the Filipino Youth Collective and A18, focusing on education and community building to support those affected by issues such as lack of educational access and Asian hate.

Tyler Yamauchi, 21, Senior. This month is a significant time for Yamauchi, who identifies as biracial, to explore and connect with his Japanese heritage, which plays a crucial role in his identity. “What it means to me is since I’m biracial, it pretty much lets me experience a lot of different things. It lets me get closer to my Asian side of the family,” he said. A significant aspect of his Japanese culture that he cherishes is the food, reflecting fond memories of his father preparing traditional Japanese dishes like inari and tempura. To stay engaged with his cultural roots on campus, Tyler has been involved with the Glenn Omatsu House and the Asian American Studies Pathways Project.

Zainab Merchant, 23, Junior. Merchant, a second-generation Indian American, has traveled all over India and visited her family in Mumbai. “I think it’s a great way to highlight people from diverse backgrounds, but at the same time, I feel like we should be recognizing people outside of just this month as well,” Merchant said. Merchant mentioned her favorite Indian dishes like Dosa, and how they helped her connect with her roots. Merchant feels a distinct gap in how she relates to her heritage compared to her parents, illustrating the complex identity navigation faced by many.

Jason Ryan Ramando Castramero, 25, Senior. For Castramero, this month is a time to appreciate the familial bonds within the diverse AANHPI cultures, particularly within his own Filipino community. “To me, it means celebrating every individual culture of pretty much the entire Asian continent,” Castramero said. He stays connected to his roots through campus clubs, particularly the Filipino American Student Association.

Kelli Luu, 22, Junior. Coming from a Vietnamese background, Luu deeply values the traditions and lessons passed down by her immigrant parents. She enthusiastically participates in Vietnamese Lunar New Year and enjoys the vibrant community events in Garden Grove. “Asian American Heritage Month means a lot to me,” Luu said. “It’s really fun because it means a lot to the Asian community, for sure, because we get some kind of representation.” Her insights highlight the rich cultural pride and close familial ties that shape her identity and experiences.

Trisha Anas, 27, Senior. Anas deeply values her Filipino American heritage. “I think my favorite aspect of Filipino culture would probably have to be the sense of community that we have,” she said. “We are very community-centered.” Anas has been actively involved in the Filipino Youth Collective and the Asian American Journalists Association at CSUN, although her participation has waned recently due to a busy schedule. Her commitment to her culture and community exemplifies her pride and ongoing engagement with her heritage.

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