Asian community

Asian Heritage Week Offers Rich Palette of Culture

Illinois State University's Asia Connect in April will offer "series of events where you can experience a variety of Asian cultures," in observance of Asian Heritage Week.

Monday, April 2, 5:30 p.m.
Chinese Calligraphy Demonstration and workshop
ISU Center for Visual Arts, Room 311
Enjoy warm Chinese tea, and learn the history of calligraphy and participate in the workshop.
Miranda Lin, Associate Professor, College of Education, ISU
Shihwei Chiang, Lecturer, College of Arts and Sciences, ISU


Tuesday, April 3, 6:15 p.m.
Kannathil Muthamittal {a peck on the cheek} Indian {tamil} film
Caterpillar Auditorium, State Farm Hall of Business, Room 139
Question and Answers after the film.
Archana Shekara, Associate Professor, College of Fine Arts, ISU
Li Zeng, Associate Professor, College of Fine Arts, ISU

Wednesday, April 4, 5:30pm
Bangla parbon: Celebrating Bengali poetry
Blangladesh Student  Association, ISU
DeGarmo Hall, Room 551
Refreshments, Question and Answers after poetry recital.

Thursday, April 5, 5pm
Indonesian Cuisine Demonstration and Workshop
Food Lab Kitchen, Turner Hall, Room 131
Learn authentic Indonesian cuisine and taste right after!
Rini Stoltz


Friday, April 6, 6:15pm
Cape Number 7, Taiwanese film
Caterpillar Auditorium, State Farm Hall of Business, Rm. 139
Panel discussion after the film.
Wei-Zan Wang, Director, Overseas Community Affairs Council
Cultural Center of Taipei Economic and Cultural Office, Chicago
Hsiu-Ling Robertson, Assistant Professor,
Weinberg College of Arts & Sciences, Northwestern University
Shihwei Chiang, Lecturer, College of Arts and Sciences, ISU


Asian Heritage Week Wraps Up With Indian Cuisine/Show, East Asian Films

Illinois State University's Asia Connect this week is celebrating the first annual Asian Heritage Week, running from April 10-15. All events are free unless otherwise noted.

Monday's celebration included “Iran: An Ancient Civilization,” a presentation by Amir Marmarchi, Department of Economics, and Elahe Javadi, School of Information Technology; and a Japanese tea ceremony presented by Jennifer Gunji of Japan House in Urbana,

Tuesday's events included “Korean Alphabet Design and Historical Context,” presented by Alice Lee, School of Art, and "The Battle for Human Rights in North Korea: Is There Any Hope for Change?” by North Korean policy expert and human rights advocate Suzanne K. Scholte. Wednesday's offerings were Asian Film Festival entries The Color of Paradise (Iran) and How to Win at Checkers Every Time (Thailand), at the Normal Theater

Thursday's observation featured “Vietnam: From Lotus Pond to Dragon Land,” presented by Tuyen Tonnu, School of Music, followed by Vietnamese cooking class demonstrations by Tonnu.

A Friday Asian dinner and show will begin at 5:30 p.m. in the ISU Center for Performing Arts, including Indian cuisine and the play Harvest by Manjula Padmanabhan. Tickets are available at $30 for paid AsiaConnect members and $35 for non-members -- payment can be made to Miranda Lin, School of Teaching and Learning, care of DeGarmo Hall, Room 212.

Heritage Week ends Saturday with the Asian Film Festival entries The Boy and the Beast (Japan), at 1 p.m., and Yellow Flowers on the Green Grass (Vietnam), 7 p.m., both at the Normal Theater. The Boy and the Beast is a fantasy anime about a young boy named Kyuta orphaned after his mother’s death, who finds himself on the streets of Shibhuya in Tokyo and ultimately taken by Kumatetsu, a grumpy and lazy warrior beast as an apprentice to learn Kendu, a Japanese martial art. Yellow Flowers on the Green Grass, set in Vietnam in 1989, explores the relationship between two brothers as they seek to uncover the truth about the myth of the princess of the enchanted forest and the man-eating tiger that guards her. It was the Vietnamese entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 89th Academy Awards.

Asia Connect, an affiliated group at Illinois State University, strives to promote cultural diversity across campus.

Kiki's Delivery Service August 17 and 21 at Normal Theater

Kiki's Delivery Service, a Japanese animated film, is scheduled for 7 and 9 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 17, at the Normal Theater.

From the legendary Hayao Miyazaki comes the beloved story of a resourceful young witch who uses her broom to create a delivery service, only to lose her gift of flight in a moment of self-doubt. It is tradition for all young witches to leave their families on the night of a full moon and set out into the wide world to learn their craft.

When that night comes for Kiki, she embarks on her life journey with her chatty black cat, Jiji, landing the next morning in a seaside village, where a bakery owner hires her to make deliveries.

The 103-minute film is in Japanese with English subtitles and is rated G.  It will also be presented on Sunday, August 21, at 1 p.m. with an English language track.

Hanna: The Immigration Project Undertakes 'Compelling' Mission

Amid global poverty and violence and current U.S. rhetoric, many individuals and families are seeking basic safety or stability in the U.S.

Hanna Tarbert, AmeriCorps VISTA communications and development coordinator with the Normal office of The Immigration Project, is committed with Project attorneys and volunteers to helping provide it.

The Immigration Project provides quality citizenship and other legal assistance for immigrants in 85 counties across downstate Illinois, from Kankakee on the east to Moline on the west and on a north-south line from Fairmount City to Carbondale. Statewide, the Project serves an estimated 53,000 undocumented immigrants.

Tarbert previously worked for six months with refugee resettlement in Dayton, Ohio, where she met several immigration attorneys and became interested in legal advocacy for those who’ve sought a better or simply safer life in the States.

“There are people fleeing conflict; they’re fleeing for their lives,” she related. “From a human element, I don’t think there’s anything more compelling than that. Refugees have literally lost everything, and they’re starting over.

“We did get a lot of people coming out of Central America who were fleeing gang violence. There were people there leaving poverty, or they were reunifying with family. There are a lot of good reasons to work in immigration and help people get status here.”

The Project’s largely rural-regional approach includes regular local information clinics with staff attorneys and partnerships with area groups who set up permanent webcam sites to facilitate long-distance interviews and case preparation. An August 19 clinic is set for Bloomington-Normal.

Tarbert – who graduated with a Master of Arts in International and Comparative Politics and a Master of Arts Certificate in Women’s Studies from Wright State University in 2015 -- must grapple with a variety of “huge misconceptions” particularly about undocumented immigrants. “A lot of people don’t think immigrants pay taxes, and they do,” she said, noting Project clients must document that “they have been contributing.”

In fact, unauthorized immigrants in Illinois paid $499.2 million in state and local taxes in 2010 alone, according to data from the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy. That includes $85.4 million in state income taxes, $45.8 million in property taxes, and $368 million in sales taxes.

Further, the 2012 purchasing power of Illinois’s Latinos totaled $46.1 billion — an increase of 422.2 percent since 1990. Asian buying power totaled $28.7 billion — an increase of 463 percent since 1990, according to the Selig Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia.

While U.S. immigration debate focuses largely on Latino populations, The Immigration Project deals with immigrants from across the globe, including a growing influx of French-speaking arrivals from Togo and other African countries and Canadian and European immigrants.

Immigrants who currently must remain in the legal shadows effectively are “living in limbo,” Tarbert said, limiting work or educational opportunities. On a national level, she argued the Immigration Project and similar groups would benefit from a U.S. Supreme Court re-review of the currently court-deadlocked case challenging President Obama’s immigration reform plan, which had reflected elements of a stalled bipartisan Senate package. The 2012 purchasing power of Illinois’s Latinos totaled $46.1 billion—an increase of 422.2% since 1990. Asian buying power totaled $28.7 billion—an increase of 463% since 1990, according to the Selig Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia.

The case, United States v. Texas, concerned a 2014 executive action by the president to allow as many as five million unauthorized immigrants who were the parents of citizens or of lawful permanent residents to apply for a program that would spare them from deportation and provide them with work permits, called Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA).

“Just having those programs implemented would go a long way toward helping a lot of people,” said Tarbert. “It would really have made a lot of things easier for a lot of our clients.”

Project clinics in 2014 and 2015 nonetheless covered a range of issues beyond DAPA, including citizenship application assistance. The group also assists in visa petitions, consular processing for family members, and waivers of inadmissibility, and provides immigrant crime victim support addressing domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking.

“We tend to be more service-based than advocates,” Tarbert advised. In 2015, 37 percent of client “intakes” involved those seeking naturalization and citizenship. Nearly 30 percent of clients sought support for childhood arrivals.

Clients pay an initial $25 consultation fee, though many other services are free or charged based on a sliding financial scale based on case type, family size, and household income.

The Project also taps a healthy volunteer base, which provides English/Spanish/French translation, case follow-up management, or coordination of legal clinics and area citizenship workshops.

“There are a lot of people who want to support the attorneys,” Tarbert noted.


The Immigration Project receives no federal funding, depending instead on low legal fees, donations, and grants. Those who wish to support the Project can check to see if their employer is eligible for Matching Gift Programs to match personal donations or offers any Volunteer Grant Programs which allow an employee to volunteer a set number of hours.  Amazon donates 0.5 percent of the price of an eligible purchase to The Immigration Project for every purchase made through AmazonSmile when the buyer opts to make it the charitable organization of their choice. And PayPal enables donors to use their credit card without making an account.

Cultural Festival: Connecting With Cultures

Julia Evelsizer

The Pantagraph

On a green paper leaf, Brenda Joyner of Bloomington wrote the word “patience.”

She glued the leaf to a cardboard tree representing strengths in the community at the Cultural Festival Saturday at Illinois State University.

“I strive to be patient and I’m trying to grow in that direction,” she said.

Joyner has attended the annual festival, in its 37th year, for “many, many years.”

“If you’re interested in connecting with other cultures, you can start somewhere like this,” she said. “Then spread out to make diversity a big part of your life. Your life is not the only life.”

The purpose of the festival is to connect the wide variety of ethnicities in Bloomington-Normal through music, dance, art and fellowship.

Some of the performances in the Brown Ballroom included the Sugar Creek Cloggers, Odyssey World belly dancing, Japanese sword demonstration, a fashion showcase and solo singers.

“It provides an easy opportunity for the community to experience ballet, clogging, jazz, belly dancing...they can see a huge variety of cultures in one place,” said Tony Jones, program coordinator.

“With everything going on in the world, we need events like these where people can come together, mix and mingle, and enjoy a diverse environment.”

NIOTBN Arts Chairman Angelique Racki at the Festival.

NIOTBN Arts Chairman Angelique Racki at the Festival.

Community groups like Not In Our Town, the local NAACP branch, 100 Black Men of Central Illinois and BN Parents, shared information with visitors. Face painting, crafts and inflatables were available for kids.

While the Odyssey World belly dancers swayed to Middle Eastern music, 4-year-old Wynter Mann hopped off her seat in the audience and started to dance next to her grandma, Virginia Mann.

“It goes to show how people of other cultures can come together,” said Virginia, of Normal. 

Amber Schrlau of Stanford came to the festival for the first time with her kids Maeva, 4, and Murphy, 2.

“They need to know love and what better way than this event,” said Schrlau. “Not everyone is the same and that’s a good thing.”

The young dance group, Ballet Folklorico de Central Illinois, took the stage in authentic Mexican dancing costumes. The girls wore full red skirts and the boys wore sombreros. The group is part of Conexiones Latinas de McLean County, a non-profit organization with the goal of intercultural collaboration and connecting Latinos in the community.

“They are so excited about sharing this with the community,” said Javier Centeno, vice president of the organization. “This sort of event is about love; giving love to the community and respecting each other."

2016 Asia Film Festival Offers Quartet of Acclaimed Works

The 2016 AsiaConnect Film Festival kicks off April 14 with four nights of acclaimed international hits examining life and struggles in Korea, India, Japan, and China.

Here are this year's offerings:

April 14, 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM

Treeless Mountain

Jin (Hee Yeon Kim) and her younger sister, Bin (Song Hee Kim), are left by their mother (Soo Ah Lee) with Big Aunt (Mi Hyang Kim). The girls' mother is trying to hunt down their father. She gives them a piggy bank, telling her daughters that when it is full of coins she will return. Big Aunt is an alcoholic who neglects to look after the children. By selling roasted grasshoppers, the two girls manage to take care of themselves over the summer, waiting all the while for their mother's return. Unrated / 89 min. In Korean with English subtitles.

April 15, 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM


A young Delhi woman from a traditional family goes on a solo honeymoon when her wedding is canceled in this Bollywood coming of age hit. Unrated / 146 min.

April 16, 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM


Soon after buying an expensive cello, Daigo Kobayashi (Masahiro Motoki) learns that his orchestra is disbanding. Daigo and his wife move back to his hometown in northern Japan, where he answers an ad for what he thinks is a travel agency but is, in actuality, a mortuary. As he learns and carries out the rituals used in preparing the dead for their final rest, Daigo finds his true calling in life. PG-13 / 131 min. In Japanese with English subtitles.

April 17, 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM

Coming Home

A former political prisoner (Chen Daoming) tries to help his wife (Gong Li) regain her memory and rediscover their love for each other. PG-13 / 109 min. In Mandarin with English subtitles.

For details, visit

Illinois State University AsiaConnect is an association of faculty and staff members who work together in the interest of the Asian community. Its purpose is to:

  • Promote the various cultures of the Asian community to Illinois State and the Bloomington/Normal community
  • Represent the interests, needs, and concerns of Asian faculty, staff, and students
  • Promote communication and support among the Asian community
  • Develop cooperative relationships in the academic community and with student organizations
  • Assist the University with the recruitment and retention of Asian faculty, staff, and students


UN to Eye ISU Graphic Novel on Trafficking

Illinois State University will have a part in a presentation to the United Nations later this month.

A graphic novel produced by the University’s Publications Unit will be key to a presentation by the director of Children of the Forest, a not-for-profit agency that assists children who have been trafficked along the Thailand-Myanmar border. Though it was Publications Director Steve Halle who made the connection to create the piece, it was Illinois State students who took the lead in production.

Halle’s friend Andrew Zeal is a local artist who volunteers with Children of the Forest, a halfway house that provides education and shelter for stateless children. “Andrew traveled to the border to do an art project with the children, and came up with the idea of making a comic book with the children living in the house,” said Halle. The project grew into an informative graphic novel to tell the organization’s story. “He called me to get advice on how to self-publish a book. The project intrigued me, so I offered to donate time to help produce the graphic novel,” Halle said, “because I felt it would be a great opportunity for students.”

Upon hearing about the project, several students clamored to help, including Tess Culton, a senior publishing studies major from Carbondale. “We only had eight weeks to pull together the book from the first arrival of the text to completion,” said Culton, who worked closely with fellow student Erica Young to help create the graphic novel. “I love the fact that part of the director’s speech to the UN will be in the book.”

While editing and arranging text for Forget Me Not: Stories of Child Trafficking from the Thai-Burma Border, Culton said she was moved by the work of the organization. “I find now that I talk about Children of the Forest to my friends, my family,” she said. “It goes beyond helping to promote the book. You can feel in every page that this group believes every child deserves good schools, health care, and the knowledge to survive. By even having the chance to work on this book, I feel like I’ve been part of something important, something that has the potential to change lives.”

Children of the Forest Director Daniel Hopson will make the presentation to the UN in late October.

Normal Theater to Host Asian Film Festival

In celebration of Asian-American Heritage Month, AsiaConnect will present the 2015 Asian Film Festival from Thursday, April 9, through Sunday, April 12, at the Normal Theater.

The cost of the event is free for students with an ID and $7 for general admission.

The festival will feature four theatrically acclaimed movies from China, South Korea, India and Japan including:

  • Shadow Magic (Ann Hu, 2000) [China], at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 9. The movie is a historical drama about the introduction of motion pictures to China during the beginning of the 20th century. It follows a young photographer who struggles to start a film industry in China despite the strong anti-Western sentiment of the time.
  • Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter…and Spring (Kim Ki-duk, 2003) [South Korea], at 7 p.m. Friday, April 10. This film is Buddhist, but it is also universal. “It takes place within and around a small house floating on a small raft on a small lake, and within that compass, it contains life, faith, growth, love, jealousy, hate, cruelty, mystery, redemption … and nature. Also a dog, a rooster, a cat, a bird, a snake, a turtle, a fish and a frog,” stated the late film critic Roger Ebert.
  • The Lunchbox (Ritesh Bartra, 2014) [India], at 7 p.m. Saturday, April 11. Set in contemporary Mumbai, this film tells the story of Ila, a middle-class housewife who tries to rejuvenate her marriage through cooking. She prepares a special lunchbox to be delivered to her neglectful husband at work, but it is mistakenly delivered to another office worker, Saajan. This begins a series of lunchbox notes between Saajan and Ila, which leads to an emotional journey of self-discovery. They each find an anchor to hold onto in a big city that so often crushes hopes and dreams.
  • The Tale of Princess Kaguya (Isao Takahata, 2014) [Japan], at 7 p.m. Sunday, April 12. Based on a Japanese folktale, this animated fantasy drama tells the story of a young princess who must discover her past and confront her fate. Produced by Studio Ghibli, which created Spirited Away and My Neighbor Totoro, this sweeping epic redefines the limits of animated storytelling. It also marks another triumph for director Isao Takahata, acclaimed for his war-themed animated film Grave of the Fireflies (1988). The Tale of Princess Kaguya was nominated for Best Animated Feature Film at the 87th Academy Awards.

AsiaConnect is an affinity group established to promote Asian cultures and represent the interests, needs and concerns of Asian faculty, staff and students.

This event is made possible by the generous support of Beyond Normal Films Cinema Arts Project, Downs Automotive, Inc., McLean County India Association, Normal Theater, Office of the President, Dr. and Mrs. SJ Chang, Center for Mathematics, Science and Technology, Crossroads Project, Department of Politics and Government, Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures, MECCPAC, Dean of Students Diversity Initiative, Office of International Studies and Programs, and Office of the Provost.