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Events will celebrate Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month

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Aisha Yaqoob Mahmood, executive director of the Asian American Advocacy Fund, will serve as the keynote speaker at UNG for Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month. The event is available via Zoom at noon April 7.

The University of North Georgia (UNG) will welcome a keynote speaker and host a panel of faculty members and a student in a pair of events to mark Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month.

Though the month is designated nationally for May, UNG will host the events in April while spring semester classes still are in session.

The event featuring UNG community members sharing their experience as Asian Americans will be held at noon April 22 via Zoom. Panelists are:

"I'm looking forward to the panel," said Dina Makadiya, a junior from Toronto, Canada, who is president of the Asian Student Association (ASA) on UNG's Gainesville Campus. "Everyone has their own insights and stories. I'm excited to hear what they have to say."

Aisha Yaqoob Mahmood, executive director of the Norcross, Georgia-based Asian American Advocacy Fund (AAAF), will serve as the month's keynote speaker in a noon April 7 event on Zoom. Participants can register through UNG Connect, with an option for the community to sign up as guests.

"Mahmood developed a strong passion for immigrant rights and civic engagement as she founded the Georgia Muslim Voter Project and worked as the Policy Director for Asian Americans Advancing Justice — Atlanta," according to her AAAF biography. "These experiences have strengthened her desire to fight for justice for all marginalized people, including Muslims, immigrants, and refugees."

Bringing attention to Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) experiences in the U.S. has taken on greater urgency in the past year, said Kyle Murphy, interim assistant director of Multicultural Student Affairs (MSA) at UNG. Nearly 3,800 reports of hate incidents against AAPI have been reported since March 2020, according to the group "Stop AAPI Hate."

"Mahmood is a major advocate for these communities," Murphy said. "It will be good for students, faculty and staff to see someone like her speak."

Wade Manora Jr., interim director of MSA, emphasized the importance of this heritage month.

"Their specific lived experiences get glossed over when it comes to discrimination," Manora said. "It's vitally important. You don't want a marginalized community to feel even more marginalized."

Makadiya, who is pursuing a degree in biology, is grateful for this month's events.

"It allows for a time to celebrate the Asian/Pacific American community, especially with the hostility we're facing now," Makadiya said. "Each portion of this community has its own unique beauty."

Britney Chanseri, a sophomore from Mount Airy, Georgia, pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, serves as vice president of ASA on UNG's Gainesville Campus. She appreciates the welcoming atmosphere at UNG.

"At UNG, there's a club where I can be comfortable and meet people just like me. They're accepting and open," Chanseri said. "It takes time for people to realize that Asians are also in need of help and support, especially during the pandemic. It's very important to me."

Other Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month events

April 15: Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month trivia (Zoom link available in UNG Connect), noon

April 15: Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month movie night: "Fagara," Robinson Ballroom on Gainesville Campus, 6 p.m.

April 15: Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month movie night: "Mulan," Dining Hall veranda on Dahlonega Campus, 6:30 p.m.

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