APAC provides platform for students of color to express themselves
  • Christine Hwang performed poi, earning cheering from the audience. Photo by Carlyn Kranking / North by Northwestern
  • Nihar Gagneja played the piano and performed an original song about being a student of color. Photo by Carlyn Kranking / North by Northwestern
  • William Paik got the audience laughing with his comedy routine. Photo by Carlyn Kranking / North by Northwestern
  • Chaoyian Gonzalez played the guitar and sang a couple of songs about love. Photo by Carlyn Kranking / North by Northwestern
  • Kimani Isaac performed spoken word poetry that she wrote over winter break, entitled "When the Limit Does Not Exist, But They Tell You Otherwise." Photo by Carlyn Kranking / North by Northwestern
  • Jessica Wang began the night with a song performance. Photo by Carlyn Kranking / North by Northwestern

The audience poured in, filling the chairs and spilling over onto the floor. Against the backdrop of Drones in Dittmar Gallery, performers took to music, spoken word and even comedy to express themselves.

Espresso Expressions, hosted by the Asian Pacific American Coalition (APAC), was an open mic Thursday designed to give a voice to students of color who wanted to perform. Students presented pieces on self-care, love, race and college life.

“In the past, this event used to be primarily focused on highlighting Asian American talent, but this year we decided to open up the space to all students of color as a way of creating a space for artists to build community and come together and just express their talents,” said SESP sophomore Lillian Guo, co-programming chair of APAC.

School of Communication sophomore Kimani Isaac performed a poem that she wrote by assembling excerpts of writing from different times in her life.

“I was going through all of these old notebooks,” Isaac said. “Some of the stuff, I was like, ‘Wow, this is really powerful,’ and I had forgotten what it felt like to have my words mean that much.”

Isaac had previously performed her poem at “Lift Ev’ry Voice,” an open mic for students of color offered as part of Northwestern’s MLK day programming. She said she chose to perform again at APAC’s event as “a way for me to connect, in some ways, to the Asian heritage that I don’t connect to or really understand.”

Freshman Christine Hwang ended the night with a sparkling performance of poi, a performance art that involves swinging objects resembling glowsticks on the end of strings. She told the audience that poi can be performed in many different ways, including with fire.

To bring the event to a close, students involved in APAC and MEChA de Northwestern talked about efforts to create departmental status for the Asian American and Latinx Studies programs. To advocate for such departmental status that would provide these programs funding and autonomy, the speakers said, and they urged everyone in attendance to sign a petition to propose this change.

They then opened the floor to anyone who wanted to advertise their own club, and many students talked about other clubs and events, from Black Lives Matter Northwestern (BLMNU) to another open mic. During this part of the night, students felt a tangible air of solidarity in the room as they cheered on their peers for the different things their clubs were doing.

Isaac said she hopes people will continue to stay involved after the event ended.

“I feel like it’s really easy sometimes for all of us to get lost and complacent too,” Isaac said. “I think it’s important that we culture share but that we also turn that into action.”


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