Night Market

At the Alpha Sigma Rho table, members take a photo next to sorority's painted banner before the Asian Pacific Islander Desi American Night Market begins at 7 p.m. at Tate Plaza on Nov. 13. The APIDA Night Market, presented by the Asian American Student Assocation, saw 13 Asian American student organizations offer food, activities, and musical performances throughout the evening. (Photo/Cassidy Hettesheimer)

After a year filled with uncertainty and heightened levels of discrimination, 13 different Asian and Asian-interest student organizations joined together for a celebration of their culture through food, games and performances at the second annual Asian Pacific Islander Desi American (APIDA) Night Market at the University of Georgia on Saturday, Nov. 13.

The Night Market was founded by Matthew Osajima, the Asian American Student Association (AASA) president during the 2019-2020 school year, and Jay Tang from Lambda Phi Epsilon fraternity. The event was started as a way for the various APIDA organizations on campus to showcase the diversity and beauty of Asian culture to the UGA and Athens community, according to the AASA Instagram.

The APIDA community seized the opportunity to show their resiliency and strength after coming back from the COVID-19 pandemic and all of the challenges that the community faced during that time.

Planning for the Night Market started all the way back in the summer to make sure that everything would be ready for the event which occurred at Tate Plaza.

Vy Hoang, one of the event directors of AASA and a junior biochemistry major, said that she and her fellow event directors immediately started planning the event after being chosen for their positions over the summer.

“Because of COVID-19, we had a really hard time due to the issues and the damages that we faced as an Asian community, and we wanted to bring back that unity. Then we thought we should definitely reach out to different varieties of Asian-interest [organizations] and bring it all together,” Hoang said.

For Hoang, the Night Market is a great way for the relatively small Asian student population to make itself known among the UGA community and also to show the international students that there is a prominent Asian presence in which they can find comfort in.

“Even though we may not be strong in numbers, we are very strong in our presence here. We wanted to be able to continue that legacy even after the break from COVID-19,” Hoang said.

Each student organization had a booth in which they handed out food and facilitated games native to their respective cultures. An enormous line stretched across the Tate Student Center reaching all the way down to the Zell B. Miller Learning Center as attendees waited to receive tickets that could be turned in at the booths for food and prizes.

Throughout the night, numerous singing and dancing acts were performed on the Tate Plaza stage as the crowd filled with students and Athens residents of all backgrounds joined together to watch.

Natasha Dörr-Kapczynski, a sophomore romance languages and Chinese major, took to the stage with two friends to perform a Chinese ribbon dance. According to Chiao Bin Studios, this is a traditional style of dance that began during the Han dynasty over 1000 years ago in which long strips of silk are whirled through the air.

After working with the Atlanta Chinese Dance Company, Dörr-Kapczynski started learning Chinese and joined the dance company herself. Once she was made aware that AASA was looking for performers, she reached out to them so that she could share her art at the event.

“I know no one else on campus does Chinese dance, so I wanted to share that with other people,” Dörr-Kapczynski said.

AASA recruited a broad coalition of Asian-interest organizations that included Desi and South Asian groups as well, an often overlooked demographic. Many Desi staple foods were served, such as samosas from the Indian Cultural Exchange booth and kalo jaam, a cheese-based dessert, at the Bengali Cultural Organization booth.

In addition to food, the Bengali Cultural Organization gave henna tattoos, or mehndi, a form of temporary body art with many cultural uses that has become popular in America.

One of the most popular booths at the event was the Filipino Student Association booth that performed Tinikling, a traditional Philippine dance that involves sliding bamboo poles on the ground. According to the University of Toronto, the dance was named after the Tikling bird that is known for dodging bamboo when farmers tried to stop them from stealing their rice.

Another popular booth gave out Dalgona, a Korean candy made from melted sugar and baking soda, and had the attendees play the Dalgona candy game that could be seen in the widely popular Netflix series “Squid Game.” The game involves cutting out the carved symbols in the candy without breaking the dessert in the process.

Jamie Le, a junior cellular biology major, attended the event to celebrate her culture with the rest of the Asian student population after the events of COVID-19.

“It’s really exciting to see all these people come together and enjoy all their cultures melting together, and just being a part of that experience is really cool,” Le said.

For Susie Yun, a senior biology major and event director for AASA, this event was a way to get students of all backgrounds to interact with the Asian community in a positive way. According to Yun, the APIDA community faced a lot of backlash and negative responses from people during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We wanted to offer something where people don’t just look at our community and associate it with bad times, but give them something to think about, know about, make some memories and have really good relationships overall with the Asian community,” Yun said.

Judging from the atmosphere filled with laughter, smiles and cultural enrichment, it was clear that they had succeeded in their goal.

“I remember the first [Night Market] was in a small corridor in Tate, and seeing this upgrade and elevation is amazing to see, and you can feel how excited everyone is to be here,” Le said.

Editor’s note: The article has been updated with more detail about the founders of the Night Market.