Updated as of 5:40 p.m. on April 9 to include video of the kickoff event.

George Dou, assistant director for the Center of Race Ethnicity Diversity Education, said that the first time he got to explore his Asian roots was during Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month.  

Though API Heritage Month is typically celebrated in May, Elon changed the month to April to avoid conflicting with exams and have the opportunity to celebrate it fully. Dou and others within CREDE organized the kick-off event on April 3 at Medallion Plaza. 

This is the second annual kickoff and Dou said he hopes that API students get a chance to further explore their identities. 

“The significance of the kickoff came from students who really wanted to see their community celebrated,” Dou said. 

This year’s theme for API Heritage Month was “Identities in Bloom, Identities Taking Root.” Dou said the theme encompasses the API Diaspora building a community and coming into full bloom. 

“It is hard to find a symbol that represents so many different cultures, but one idea that we liked was using flowers to represent the different cultures,” Dou said.

The event consisted of different foods from various countries and API-owned businesses selling jewelry, henna (temporary body art designs made from dry and powdered henna leaves) and keychains — among other trinkets.  Multiple student organizations were also present, such as the Asian-Pacific Student Association, Gender and LGBTQIA+ Center and Black Student Union. They offered prizes for participating in games and produced educational content surrounding Asian Pacific Islander heritage.

Senior Sonali Schroder had a table set up with her artwork and henna skills up for sale. Schroder said she loved how Elon moved the month to April and allowed students to celebrate for a longer period of time. 

“It makes me so happy to have these moments where I get to see my culture shine,” Schroder said.

Schroder also said she loves how Elon continues to be more invested in showing the visibility of API students, despite making up 2.3% of the undergraduate population. 

Sophomore Hasan Khan said this was his first time at an API kickoff and also appreciated the efforts Elon made to represent his community on campus. 

“To show their businesses and their arts and crafts is very important in terms of representation,” Khan said. “Business is huge.”

Environmental justice intern and senior Ellie Olivier attended the event to advocate for Transplanting Traditions Community Farm, a farm located in Chapel Hill where locals and refugees from Burma come together to cultivate local and traditional South Asian produce. 

Oliver said she likes to attend these events because it helps students not from API culture realize that the API Diaspora is composed of many different countries and cultures that are not always represented. 

“I think it is cool, especially this idea of highlighting different communities,” Oliver said. 

Dou said he hopes students get a chance to explore their own identities, but also learn about others’. He said he wants this month to be a stage where students will be able to share their experiences.

“All is recognized,” Dou said. “API month is a great time and an important time to be able to do that and have a spotlight.”