AAPI: gathering to give thanks



(Clockwise from top) Matthew Shi (12), Peter Shi (11), Perry Shu (12) and Eilene Liu (12) research how to play mahjong. The game, which originated in China in the 19th century, was one of the potential activities for the night.

(Clockwise from left) Aylla Wexler (9), Henry Tang (9), Jane Mercer (9) and Lilly Graham (9) play a game of ping-pong. Ping-pong was not the only game played during the night as some members headed outside for badminton. (AMARA SOK//USED WITH PERMISSION)

Amara Sok (12) has not decided what to bring yet  — egg rolls or sushi? If she chooses egg rolls, she’ll do both a vegetarian and a meat option to make sure more members can eat. If she selects sushi, she will buy a variety because of the time it takes to prepare the delicacy. Whatever Sok decides on, her dish will have a spot on the table at the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Friendsgiving on Nov. 19. 

Sok and other leaders of AAPI were planning to sponsor a potluck last year, but it was canceled due to COVID-19 safety concerns. The friendsgiving will be the groups’ first potluck, and AAPI members are expected to bring food — preferably from their cultural backgrounds. 

“I’m excited for food,” Sok said. “Especially if people make their food or buy their food from their background … It will be really cool and interesting to see how their food tastes.” 

Club member Colin Le (12) is choosing to bring a food that sticks to the AAPI theme: fried rice. Le is choosing the dish because it’s simple and something he can cook himself. 

“The most basic ingredient in fried rice is eggs, and depending on what I’m feeling, I might put shrimp or chicken,” Le said. “I’ll probably have to make multiple because some people don’t like certain proteins, so I might make one with chicken, one with steak and one with shrimp.” 

The event is scheduled to take place at members Matthew Shi (12) and Peter Shi’s (11) house and should last about three to four hours. Besides eating and socializing, members will have the option to partake in karaoke and games. 

“It’s just a nice way to bring the community together,” Le said. “It’s a fairly new club, so even though it’s already November, we’re still taking time to get to know each other. So, it’s really nice to have this event where we can all gather and eat and have some fun.” 

Le’s favorite event in the club’s history was a visit from Japanese guest speaker, Maika Yamaoka. Yamaoka is the outreach director for the University of Memphis and the Memphis Botanic Gardens. She shared many facets of Japanese culture including language, dances and songs. 

“Most of our events aren’t usually educational, but for that one, it was one of our few really educational ones, and also it was like the one time we had a guest speaker too,” Le said. “So, it was nice to learn from someone that actually has experience.”

While Sok and the leaders of AAPI are planning to invite Yamaoka back on Jan. 31, the club has other events in the works for the rest of the year. Sok plans for the club to celebrate Lunar New Year again and to try something new by celebrating the Cambodian,Thai and Laotian New Year in April as well. Sok also wants to bring back an AAPI panel that was created through Zoom in past years.

“[AAPI panelists would] discuss about their experiences and stuff, and especially because of the racism that was occurring during the COVID year and even now too, so I was thinking about having that again, but having it in person,” Sok said. 

The friendsgiving will be a chance for all members to mingle and for the many freshmen to get to know the upperclassmen. Le regrets that when he was a freshman, he did not join any clubs and did not have the chance to meet as many people as he would have liked, but AAPI helped build his circle and could perhaps build friendships for new members. 

“I’m thankful for getting to meet so many new people, because when I first went to White Station, I started out with no friends at all — I didn’t know anyone,” Le said. “So, finding a club that I was interested in, and finding other like-minded people really helped me gain some new friends.”