Photo Story: Celebrating local APIDA community builders

First+Korean+Church+of+Fort+Collins+young+adult+bible+study+members+Hyemi+Woo+%28left%29+and+Ebony+Lee+%28right%29+eat+kimchi-jigae%2C+made+by+a+church+member%2C+for+dinner+before+starting+their+weekly+bible+study%2C+March+23%2C+2022.+%28Anna+von+Pechmann+%7C+College+Avenue+Magazine%29

First Korean Church of Fort Collins young adult bible study members Hyemi Woo (left) and Ebony Lee (right) eat kimchi-jigae, made by a church member, for dinner before starting their weekly bible study, March 23, 2022. (Anna von Pechmann | College Avenue Magazine)

Anna von Pechmann, Multimedia Editor

Throughout this academic year, College Avenue has paid homage to old and new Fort Collins traditions and celebrated the rich agricultural and culinary atmosphere of the area. For our last print edition, we wanted to shine a light on the Asian Pacific Islander Desi American (APIDA) community.

The COVID-19 pandemic has incited a recent rise in violence against Asian Americans nationally. Despite these adversities, our local APIDA community has shown both resilience and vibrance.

Leading up to APIDA Heritage Month in May, this photo story celebrates local APIDA community members and leaders, particularly in the academic, culinary, and religious sectors, who have facilitated inclusive spaces for Asian identifying individuals in Fort Collins.

Throughout the process of taking these images, I was continually astonished and humbled by the kindness displayed by the individuals featured in this photo story. I am proud to identify as APIDA and hope my images can serve as a glimpse of the type of people we should be celebrating this May.

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  • On Monday March 21, 2022, I met sushi chefs Weixu Huang (left) and Hong Xin Lin (right) at LuLu Asian Bistro in Old Town. This photoshoot was the first of my capstone photo series celebrating APIDA community builders in Fort Collins and what a beautiful experience! I grew a deeper understanding that photography, like food, is a powerful tool in connecting across languages and what a gift that is. (Anna von Pechmann | College Avenue Magazine)

  • Lulu Asian Bistro sushi chef Hong Xin Lin puts the finishing touches on a sushi roll before putting it on a sushi boat at the restaurant located at 117 S College Ave in Old Town, March 21, 2022. (Anna von Pechmann | College Avenue Magazine)

  • “I just became so interested in the human condition and how it is that we related with each other, how it is that we help certain perceptions and attitudes, and how we navigate the difference.” Dr. Eric Aoki is an undergraduate and graduate professor in the Communication Studies Department at Colorado State University teaching interpersonal communication, U.S. co-cultural diversity communication, and intercultural / international communication, among other subjects. Born in the countryside of Fresno, California, to his Mexican American mother and late Japanese American father who ran a grocery store, Aoki was raised with a strong sense of appreciation for bridging cultural differences. When he can’t find the words, Aoki turns to oil painting. The painting behind him in this portrait is a collaborative piece Aoki worked on exploring his personal and cultural identities. (Anna von Pechmann | College Avenue Magazine)

  • A photograph of Dr. Eric Aoki’s parents sits on his bookshelf in his Colorado State University office, April 5, 2022. (Anna von Pechmann | College Avenue Magazine)

  • Colorado State University Muslim Student Association Vice President Alaa Eldeiry is a senior majoring in Chemical and Biological Engineering. This photo was taken in the Asian Pacific American Cultural Center (APACC) office after a planning meeting on Wednesday March 30, 2022, for the Ramadan Iftar event that she and a group of students have spearheaded this year. APACC Director JoAnn Cornell expressed being very proud of the students who have worked so hard to make the Ramadan Iftar event a reality. (Anna von Pechmann | College Avenue Magazine)

  • Students, staff, and faculty perform one of the five daily prayers of Ramadan, the sunset prayer, facing the sacred direction towards Mecca at the Ramadan Iftar event hosted at Johnson Hall April 8. (Anna von Pechmann | College Avenue Magazine)

  • Colorado State University Muslim Student Association President Shehab Elhaddad is a senior majoring in Chemical and Biological Engineering. Working with a group of students, including Vice President Alaa Eldeiry and student Malak Shawesh, he was able to start the first Ramadan Iftar event on campus. Spearheading an ongoing collaboration with Asian Pacific American Cultural Center (APACC) and Black / African American Cultural Center (B/AACC), this group of students has fostered a communal space for Southeast Asian North African (SANA) identifying students. Elhaddad is also involved with the Islamic Center of Fort Collins where they hold daily prayer sessions for Ramadan, along with other religious services. (Anna von Pechmann | College Avenue Magazine)

  • Students from the Muslim Student Association organized a Ramadan Iftar event, supported by the Asian Pacific American Cultural Center (APACC), Black / African American Cultural Center (B/AACC), and Islamic Center of Fort Collins. (Anna von Pechmann | College Avenue Magazine)

  • “The tables are covered in table clothes with plastic covers, it’s like grandma’s house, mixed and matched chairs, and then there are the futons, but just a place they [APACC members] can feel they can be at home so to speak.” JoAnn Yoshida Cornell, director of Colorado State University’s Asian Pacific American Cultural Center (APACC), was born and raised in Denver, Colorado. As a two-time graduate of Colorado State University, with a B.A. in Technical Journalism and a Masters of Education, Cornell poured her passion for hearing people’s stories and mentoring into her jobs as career counselor, academic advisor, and internship coordinator at CSU and especially when she started working as director of APACC in July 2010. With the increase in anti-Asian violence since the COVID-19 pandemic, social justice and mental health has become more of a focus at the APACC center. Cornell has been proactive about creating APACC events, such as Chai to Understand and Story Circle, that create space for students to share their experiences with one another as well as referring students to counseling services as needed. (Anna von Pechmann | College Avenue Magazine)

  • Alejandra Marinelarena-Olvera facilitates a discussion surrounding a TED Talk by Kimberle Crenshaw during Chai to Understand hosted at the APACC office. (Anna von Pechmann | College Avenue Magazine)

  • “Korean restaurants are just recently being made, therefore the church has become this gathering place for Korean people [in Fort Collins],” said Gi Park. Presbyterian Pastor Gi Park sits at the steps of the First Korean Church of Fort Collins, established in 1987, on Wednesday, March 23, 2022. Born in the Kyunggi province of South Korea, Park spent 8 years in seminary at Hanshin University and 2 mandatory years in the South Korean military. He moved to Hawaii, where he met his wife, in 2002. From there, he preached in Los Angeles, where his daughter Shawna was born, Chicago, where his son Christian was born, and then in Fort Collins where his family has lived for nine years. When asked if the culture of all the churches varied he said no because they were all Korean churches. As opposed to Denver, Fort Collins doesn’t have a Korean community group, like Denver’s ‘The Korea Society’. As far as Park knows, there are only about 300-400 Korean people in Fort Collins. (Anna von Pechmann | College Avenue Magazine)

  • First Korean Church of Fort Collins young adult bible study members Hyemi Woo (left) and Ebony Lee (right) eat kimchi-jigae, made by a church member, for dinner before starting their weekly bible study, March 23, 2022. (Anna von Pechmann | College Avenue Magazine)

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