By Irene Hsu
Annual Asian American issues conference Listen to the Silence (LTS) saw an increased number of attendees this past Saturday. This event is the largest event of the year hosted by Stanford Asian American Students’ Association (AASA).
An estimated 400 students from all over the nation attended LTS, according to Logistics Committee Co-Chairs Danny Do ’16 and Margaret Shen ’17.
“Registration was over last year’s, and the past years’ averages,” said LTS Co-Chair Gao Zong Vang ’16. “Within all communities across campus, there’s a feeling that we need to be more aware of cultural issues.”
This year, the theme of LTS was “Towards Healing: Letting Go, Lifting Up,” centralized around “anger as a process of healing,” according to this year’s mission statement.
“We believe that anger is good to start conversation and motivating people to action,” said Annie Phan ’17, co-chair of LTS, “but if you’re angry all the time it leaves you incapable of doing real meaningful work, and even taking care of yourself.”
LTS featured two keynote speakers — Lee Mun Wah, a documentary filmmaker and community therapist, and poet Pireeni Sundaralingam. Lee Mun Wah spoke on his personal experiences, as well as the necessity of discussing and understanding stereotypes as part of the healing process, while Sundaralingam spoke on memory, poetry and trauma.
The conference also hosted a concert which featured YouTube celebrity and musician Sam Tsui and San Francisco hip-hop dance company Project M, alongside various student groups such as Talisman and Stanford Taiko.
“The concert is an opportunity to see prominent Asian-American artists, who are already underrepresented in the arts and in the media,” said Concert Committee Co-Chair Takero Sone ’16. “We thought it’d be important to bring in reputable artists.”
Among others headliners considered were entertainer Margaret Cho, musician DANakaDAN and YouTube celebrity and musician David Choi.
“The concert distinguishes itself in that it’s open to everyone in the Stanford community, and that’s why there’s a strong impact, in that sense,” Sone said. Around a hundred students unaffiliated with the conference were waiting in line to see Tsui when doors opened for the concert.
The conference also hosted more than 30 different workshops, with topics such as South Asian art, Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution, representation in Asian American theater and Hawaiian culture.
“We wanted to get more diverse workshops for different representations because that’s a big part of healing,” said Workshop Committee Co-Chair Mark Flores ’16. “We want to make sure everyone’s identities are respected.”
The workshops were led by students, professors and speakers both from inside and outside of the Stanford community.
The LTS committee organizers had been putting the conference together since June, when Vang and Phan were announced as the LTS co-chairs. LTS this year had a budget of around $20,000, which has been the budget average for past LTS conferences.
Several logistical difficulties occurred in the evening. The food arrived late for dinner, and car difficulties delayed Sundaralingam, the closing keynote speaker, meaning the concert began and ended later than anticipated.
Because of the delays, the post-concert meet-and-greet with Tsui had to be moved from Cubberley to the Asian American Activities Center, a change which, Sone said, went smoothly.
This year’s LTS workshops also concluded with a Breaking the Silence session, where Phan and Vang led a debriefing session attended by around 200 students. Both Phan and Vang considered Breaking the Silence to be a bonding moment between them and the attendees.
“It’s frustrating to go to something like LTS and not know what to do,” Phan said. “We hope that the conference is something where people can come away with action items.”
Contact Irene Hsu at ihsu5595 ‘at’ stanford.edu.