Asian-Americans break ethnic barriers

By Sandra Masibay

Jim Trentadue is the president of the Asian-American Association (AAA). Meeting him at first can be a bit of a shock since his ethnic make-up is Italian (50 percent), Polish, German and Swedish.

Trentadue is a second-year transfer student from Oakton Community College majoring in journalism with a minor in psychology NIU.

When addressed with the question of how not being an Asian-American may affect his credibility, Trentadue said, “Some people are somewhat shocked at first to see a white guy as president. I know that some people will get turned off but if they come out to see what it’s all about they’ll see how involved and serious I am.”

Trentadue first became involved with AAA because he had many Asian friends at Oakton who encouraged him to meet new people through the Triple A association at NIU.

Trentadue has been a member of the AAA for two semesters. This semester will be his third. As an active member he was encouraged by fellow members to run for president and was elected.

“Although I’m not Asian, I got really involved. I felt really comfortable,” Trentadue said.

The main goal of AAA is to serve as the umbrella organization for the many Asian groups on campus. The organization has a strong relationship with the Philippine Student Association (PSA) and the Indian Student Organization.

Although Trentadue said he would like to see more involvement with other Asian groups on campus, he said progress is steady.

As he exemplifies, membership is not exclusive to Asian individuals. Persons of all backgrounds are encouraged to become involved.

Another objective the Triple A would like to meet is that of cultural awareness. Events are planned that give members the opportunity to share their cultures with others.

Among events that the AAA experienced last year to promote cultural awareness was involvement in NIU’s first annual Asian month. Events included a fashion show and a dance.

Prior events also included a formal meeting with speakers, racism-against-Asians workshops and culture nights.

Trentadue said, “It seems like Asians are sometimes the low man on the totem pole.” He said this in reference to the silence that has been associated with a large part of the Asian community in concerns to important issues they are faced with, for example, racism.

“There are strong groups on campus representing African-Americans and Latinos. I’d like to see something like that for Asians,” he said.

Informal meetings also are held for members to get to know each other, for new people to get acquainted with the organization and the members.

The first meeting will be held at 9 p.m. on September 8. The exact room is not available yet, but all interested persons can keep their eye out for postings in DuSable.

On the weekend of October 29, 30 and 31, the Midwest Asian American Student Union (MAASU) will be holding their annual leadership retreat at NIU. Members from different Midwest states will be attending.

“This is the first time something of this size for Asians is coming to campus,” Trentadue said. “I hope that everyone from different kinds of groups come out.”