Students enjoyed traditional Asian American foods and cultural activities at a night market in Bruin Plaza.
Over a hundred students attended the night market hosted by the Asian Pacific Coalition on Friday, which featured Asian Pacific Islander Desi American cuisine, performances and activity booths. The APC held the market in celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. Student groups such as Hanoolim, a Korean cultural awareness group, Hui O ’Imiloa, a Hawaiian dance club, and Vietnamese Student Union performed traditional dances and music pieces from their respective cultures.
Tammy Truong, a fourth-year sociology student and the social and cultural affairs coordinator for APC, said the market aimed to bring together all the different APIDA student organizations that make up the APC.
“When people hear ‘night market,’ we think about food, we think about activities and performances – just people coming together and having fun,” Truong said.
Traditionally, night markets are open-air street markets that take place after sunset. They are common in places such as Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, and they have become more common in North America in recent years, according to the Los Angeles Times.
One such market is 626 Night Market, which takes place in Santa Anita Park in Northeast LA. Established in 2012, it is now one of the largest night markets in North America, according to its website. It helped to inspire APC’s own version of the event, said Truong.
“If you’ve heard of 626 Night Market, it’s really lively, there’s a lot of food. It’s just really fun,” said Vikkie Jiang, community empowerment chair of the ACA and a second-year neuroscience student. “We’re kind of trying to mimic that vibe here.”
The student night market was similar to those common in Asia, featuring food, activities and an atmosphere of sociability, Jiang said.
“Bruin Plaza is a really good choice, it’s kind of like a central area,” Jiang said. “People come in, they can just like walk around and go through each booth, so it’s similar to the idea of an actual night market.”
Josephine Tang, a third-year psychobiology student who performed with her dance team Samahang Modern at the event, said she sometimes feels like an outsider in both the United States and China, and the night market helped her to reconcile those two cultures.
“I speak for myself when I say that (the night market) really celebrates Asian American culture and what we stand for as the intersection between representing what our culture is in both places,” Tang said. “I can say a lot of us have felt like, ‘Oh, here you’re kind of those people,’ but they say the same thing in our mother countries. Like if I go back to China they’re like, ‘Oh, she’s American.’”
Truong said the APIDA community has historically felt underserved on campus and the night market aims to help the community establish its presence on campus.
“(APC is) a political organization,” Truong said. “Taking up space and making ourselves known in a campus that has historically just neglected some of our community is a political move, as well.”
Different Asian American student groups on campus set up activity booths at the market, danced, performed music or put on skits.
“Urban dance plays a role in Asian American culture,” said Genesis Garing, a third-year pre-cognitive science student and an artistic director of Samahang Modern. “I know a lot of Asian Americans who utilize dance in their lifestyle. It was nice that we were reached out to.”
While the night market was a celebration of APIDA heritage, it was also aimed at including UCLA community members of all cultural backgrounds in the festivities and educating them about APIDA culture, said Lauren Doh, the public affairs director for Asian Pacific Health Corps and a fourth-year molecular, cell, and developmental biology student.
“For APHC, I think something that we’re trying to do or we hope for the future is (to) have a more diverse member base,” Doh said. “Anyone is welcome who is interested in (Asian American Pacific Islander health) to join.”
Truong said she thinks the APIDA community has been seen as apolitical in the past, but that she hopes all marginalized communities, not just those of Asian origin, feel as though they have a voice and can tackle issues that affect them.
She said APC aims to be a voice of the APIDA community and to empower it to take action on campus through events like the night market.
“I sort of see this event as reclaiming our space on campus,” Truong said. “It’s a step in (APC’s) whole mission to be more connected with each other, and hopefully in the future we can start doing a lot more.”