Celebrating Cultural Identity

by: Angelina Kam

Life moves at such a rapid pace, but we all need to take the time to look back, reflect, embrace and highlight cultural identity celebrations that we will continue to celebrate for generations to come. We all come from different backgrounds and walks of life and makes us all unique. For those of you who don’t know, AAPI Month (Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month), as well as Jewish American Heritage Month are celebrated in May and in the UML community, it’s celebrated in April with the spring semester coming to an end just before the beginning of May. As someone who is part of the AAPI community, AAPI Month is extremely important and has a very personal meaning to me and is the reason why I’m the person I am today. I also have so much love and respect for both Jewish Americans and the entire Jewish community as a whole and I stand with them.

Both groups have experienced so much hate and racism throughout history just because they’re different, they embrace who they truly are, and see things from a different light. According to the US Census from 2020, approximately 5.9% of people living in the United States are Asian, and 0.2% are Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander. In addition, Jewish Americans are part of the 57.8% Non-Hispanic White on this particular census, though they are traditionally part of the MENA category, which represents those from the Middle East and North Africa. Unfortunately, the MENA category wasn’t included so in a sense they weren’t represented properly in the 2020 census. It’s our responsibility to be inclusive, as well as support not only these minoritized identities but all groups equitably and ethically regardless of what group or groups we may be a part of. We cannot be by-standers anymore. If we see something, we have to say something.

We need to be mindful that any negative action toward minoritized groups can have detrimental consequences and worsen the problem.  Even if you aren’t contributing to the racism and hate of these groups, this topic is still relevant to you. Why? It’s because there’s so much that stems from racism and hate and we don’t always know or have the answer, and we can always learn something new.

For example, Cultural Wellness is an extremely important concept that isn’t considered before an action or decision surrounding racism or hate is made. It is applicable in all kinds of different settings and situations and you probably didn’t even know it or consider it. So, what is cultural wellness, you may ask? Cultural Wellness is the way you interact with others who are different from you whether it’s ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, customs. It’s accepting, valuing, and celebrating different cultural ways and how people interact in the world. It’s like “wellness” in general, incorporating your physical, social, and mental health together to ensure that you’re happy, healthy and balanced and it’s always made a priority. But if one aspect of your health is off-balance or out of sync, you’re not going to feel happy or healthy, though weirdly enough, Cultural Wellness is equally as important, but isn’t made a priority, and recommend it to be. If you’re stuck or don’t know how to start or have these types of conversations, the Office of Multicultural Affairs(OMA) at UMass Lowell is here for you. OMA is a safe space and support all students, regardless of gender, race, religion, and sexual orientation.

We all have the power to break boundaries, come together and end racial stigma and hate that pulls people apart and creates division, chaos, and violence. It starts with all of us being more mindful of what we say to one another; things can get misinterpreted or blown out of proportion and can have ill-fated consequences that might not only hurt a single person, but rather an entire population. It starts with all of us rethinking racial stereotypes and actually giving each other a chance to show our colors. It starts with us accepting our differences and celebrating our various identities and heritages, not only during these special months, but in fact everyday. If you’re stuck or don’t know how to have these conversations, the Office of Multicultural Affairs(OMA) at UMass Lowell is here.

How do we celebrate? We participate in cultural traditions, like special holidays and meals, we share stories and listen to them, we watch movies, and we learn about historical pioneers and trailblazers who defied racism and hate, rewrote stereotypes, chased their dreams, and the paved the way for all of us to do the same!! It’s truly a celebration like no other and you’re all cordially invited. Finally, be proud of your heritage and who you are…there’s only one version of you and you shouldn’t let anyone or anything change that.






Race and Mental Health

by Alexandra Kam

The Office of Multicultural Affairs supports and makes an impact on many lives and believes in and stands for the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders(AAPI) Awareness Month is typically celebrated in May but this community should be recognized and respected for their efforts and contributions each and every day all around the world. It is important to appreciate and respect this group of people for their culture. Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders continue to face racism. This community was blamed for the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. The pandemic has affected many lives, resulting in mental health problems and being excluded. With the support of those outside the AAPI Community, the AAPI has been able to get back on their feet, feel included and be confident

According to Medical News Today, as racism and mental health are closely linked, that can cause or worsen mental health conditions including depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to name a few. A review that was conducted in 2015 concluded that racism is twice as likely to affect a person’s mental health than their physical health. Mental health is such an important aspect for a balanced life. It gives us the time to reflect and realize the important and positive things that bring us joy rather than the negativity and toxic behaviors from unkind people.

The discrimination of any race, specifically Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, can affect the accessibility that this group of people have to basic necessities, such as health insurance, let alone receive help. The criticism and negativity that is received takes a toll on one’s mental health and can have a negative impact on their wellbeing as a whole. Individuals who identify within the AAPI community or any other minoritized race will feel anxiety and will not feel safe, because they won’t know who to trust or who will help them through these setbacks. Each individual should be proud of who they are, where they are from, having a unique background and take a different journey to be successful. The race they identify as shouldn’t affect what a person can or can’t do.

The life of each person is precious, as the news about hate crimes towards Asian American and Pacific Islander community is not acceptable and shouldn’t be tolerated. According to NBC News, a report came out about a California church shooting at a Taiwanese church where there have been disputes between China and Taiwan for several years, but also addresses the issues that are in the United States where gun violence continues to be an issue. The issues that are going on between the two countries shouldn’t be solved by harming innocent people, and continues to bring fear and stress to this community which brings instability to the mind.

Mental health shouldn’t be conquered alone, and should be found by getting help from a support group that consists of friends, family, teammates, teachers, coaches, and some individuals that we may not expect support from. The issues that the individual faced will be able to make them seem not confident to overcome the struggles they may be dealing with now, but with some encouragement and guidance they will be able to eventually realize that there are things to look forward to knowing that things will get better. I’m proud to represent the Asian American and Pacific Islander community, and appreciate the culture in my life.

If you’re someone who is discriminated, there is someone always here for you who is willing to listen and will try to help you solve your problem. Asking for help is a sign of strength, not a sign of weakness.  Be compassionate towards those who do discriminate; no one is perfect and everyone has problems whether we are aware of it or not. It’s important to inform them of their mistakes and let them know that they’re discriminating. Discrimination shouldn’t hold someone back from what they want to accomplish because in this world, you can do anything! Focus on the controllable, not the uncontrollable; how you treat your friends, family, the next person you meet or see, or even how you address an issue are examples of some of these controllable factors. Remember, you are important and UMatter!