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Laughter and cheers filled the Paul Robeson Cultural Center's Heritage Hall Friday as students were entertained by performances hosted by the Asian Pacific American (APA) Caucus.

About 200 students experienced the cultural event titled SPOTLIGHT: Asian America, with performances from the Penn State Filipino Association (PSFA), Khmer Students Society (KSS), APA Caucus and the night's main entertainment, comedian Eliot Chang.

Four studens for PSFA opened the show by performing a traditional Filipino dance called Maglalatik, in which the students danced to a choreographed song while beating several coconut halves on their bodies in tune with the beat.

A group of Penn State students made their voices heard on the steps of Old Main Tuesday in an attempt to fight to keep one of the university's Asian American studies classes open for fall 2009.

The rally, set up by members of the Asian Pacific American (APA) Caucus, began at about 4 p.m.

Despite the cold weather, a coming-and-going group hovering at about 17 members stayed in a cheerful mood and acquired several petition signatures from students and professors walking by.

Slam poet Beau Sia addressed everything from Asians' inability to like unicorns to being Asian in modern society during the Spotlight Asian America event in HUB Heritage Hall Friday night.

"Asians aren't allowed to like unicorns," he said. "That's not in the rulebook."

Sia was in town as part of the Asian Pacific American (APA) Caucus's event Spotlight Asian America: From Unseen and Unheard to Upfront and Center.

Last semester I wrote a series of stories that followed Penn State graduate students and inmates from the State Correctional Institution at Rockview as they discussed topics from race to sexism.

I would sit and listen to stories of both defeat and triumph, amazed at the dedication the students showed to the inmates, willingly coming back each week to discuss an array of topics. Through this, I realized these students displayed a unique trait.

They were, in essence, the "Dream Carriers" (as actress Ruby Dee once put it) -- people who have an immovable will to serve their communities, work tirelessly for solutions to problems deemed hopeless and earnestly fight to raise awareness both home and abroad.

More than 50 pairs of eyes zeroed in on Min Cha's feet as she walked across the HUB-Heritage Hall stage last night at the Mr. and Ms. Asian Pacific American (APA) Penn State Pageant last night.

Though she was not crowned Ms. APA Penn State, those in attendance will not only remember Cha (senior-biobehavioral health) as one of the contestants, but as she was introduced last night -- as a student who has the smallest shoe size an adult can have, which is a size three.

Cha was one of seven students who competed in the pageant, sponsored by alpha Kappa Delta Phi sorority and Lambda Phi Epsilon fraternity. The contest was a way to show the community the organization's involvement at Penn State and within the Asian community, Kamna Gupta, a member of alpha Kappa Delta Phi, said.

Passersby stopped and gathered near the information desk in the HUB-Robeson Center Friday night as members of RAM (Raw Aesthetic Movements) Squad began to bust break dance moves in the middle of the hallway.

After the show, Ankit Shah (junior-communications arts and sciences) invited the crowd to partake in a game of Asian Pacific American trivia.

Toni Dang, speakers coordinator for the Asian Pacific American Caucus, said the break dancing and Jeopardy game were part of the caucus' effort to encourage students to support Asian American Studies at Penn State.

I would like to address Toni Hoffman's response to the recent Mr. and Ms. Asian Pacific American Penn State pageant last Thursday evening ("Contests show divide within PSU's campus," April 12). I can understand your concern for racism on campus, and sympathize with your frustration at the division between student groups. However, I believe the reason this contest exists is actually to tackle issues such as racial division, Asian awareness and the breaking down of many misconceptions about Asian Americans on campus.

Re: "Opera coming to PSU continues stereotypes," Jan. 22 letter. With all due respect to Mr. Yu's diligence in safeguarding the Asian/Pacific American community against stereotyping, Madame Butterfly was perhaps as atypical as she could be to her contemporaries. She courageously cut her cultural and religious ties to the family for what she had held dear, refusing to submit to the taboos of a male-dominated society. Still, throughout the opera, we see no moments in which she did not carry herself with dignity and honor, bound by the traditional sense of honor from which, ultimately, she could not escape: "With honor dies he who cannot live honorably." Even so, she did not flinch. Mr. Yu has interpreted this fine act of indictment on the inhumanity of tradition imposed on Asia's women as the obvious outcome of a disgraceful deviation on Madame Butterfly's part; I cannot disagree more. The biggest stereotype of the opera is the U.S. Navy Lt. Pinkerton, whose amorous dalliance and liability to betrayal when opportunity arises has been a historical caricature, a "man of the World."

I am appalled at the university's insensitivity to its Asian/Pacific American community, as reflected in its invitation of the London City Opera to perform Madame Butterfly at Eisenhower Auditorium. In doing so, the university supports the 19th century racist stereotypes portrayed in the opera, of people of Asian/Pacific descent, especially of Asian/Pacific women.

For those of you who don't know the story, Madame Butterfly is an opera about a 15-year-old girl, named Butterfly, living in Nagasaki, Japan, who falls for a sham marriage to an American naval officer. Butterfly, the stereotype of the "exotic" and submissive "Oriental" woman then renounces her family and her people to be with this man who does not care for her.