On May 6, the UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) chapter of the Taiwanese American Student Association (TASA) put on their biggest event of the year: their annual night market! The Bottom Line newspaper (TBL) sat down with Sam Chen, co-president of TASA, and Andrew Cheng, the external vice president of TASA, to talk about the importance of the event.
“The Night Market was the culmination of everything we’ve learned and strived for the past few years,” Chen told TBL.
Although it primarily focuses on Taiwanese-American culture, TASA accepts students from all cultures and provides a safe place for people to find friends, create a support network, and know that there are people who share their experiences.
Chen revealed, “I found my home away from home [at TASA], so it’s been my safe place here at UCSB.”
At the Night Market, TASA expanded this community to many other students and organizations. Over 1,000 attendees swarmed around the 18 booths set up around Storke Plaza. These booths, where students could trade in tickets for hot food, desserts, and drinks, served as community centers for 16 different campus organizations, all representing a unique aspect of identity at UCSB. Additionally, music blared from one corner of the plaza where the crowd grew thicker, as nine different groups performed with a mix of singing and dancing throughout the evening.
Though the Night Market took a lot of planning, TASA is proud of what they were able to accomplish. Cheng explained, “The goal of the Night Market was to have a welcoming environment where we could celebrate our Taiwanese culture, but also give space for others to come and celebrate their Asian heritage during AAPI [Asian American Pacific Islander] month.”
Chen explained, “It is important to recognize the ways Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have impacted the United States and to acknowledge their contributions.”
Throughout the event, awareness was brought to clubs like the Burmese Students Association (BURSA) at UCSB. At their table, BURSA sold a unique dessert — coconut jelly, to be specific — which was delicious.
BURSA serves as a community for Burmese students (anyone from Burma or who grew up in a Burmese household) at UCSB.
Madi Nwe, community outreach officer and co-founder of BURSA, revealed, “When I first came, I didn’t feel like there was a community I could directly identify with.” So, she and her friends founded BURSA in order to provide a specific community for Burmese students. “BURSA may provide a piece of home that a student is looking for,” Nwe added.
The TASA Night Market was a big event for BURSA, who have participated in similarly large-scale events before, but none as lively as the Night Market. Most of their events are casual, social hangouts or cultural fairs.
“The Night Market is one of the more exciting events on campus,” Nwe says, “and it really showcases how diverse Asian heritage is.”
Having clubs, like BURSA, that foster a diverse community at UCSB is important. Nwe explains, “They show how welcoming UCSB is.”
Many cultural clubs, like BURSA, tabled at the event to gain popularity. However, to foster community and connectivity, other non-cultural clubs were also invited to table.
TBL also talked with Marginalized Genders in Gaming Club (MGG) at UCSB. Since many online gaming spaces are male-dominated, it can be intimidating for people of marginalized genders to enter the gaming community. Many have had negative experiences with gaming in the past due to their gender. Minori Koga, the co-president and co-founder of MGG explained, “Our club strives to have a safe space for marginalized genders in the gaming community.”
Though public gaming spaces are generally inclusive, the dynamic can feel very different from a space set aside specifically for marginalized genders. MGG hosts a casual game night at least once a week for this explicit purpose.
For MGG, the TASA Night Market was also one of the biggest events of the year. Koga stated that it took significantly more planning than most of their other events. Besides game nights, MGG will often invite guest speakers and panelists from the gaming industry and host social get-togethers.
Though the Night Market increased MGG’s exposure, Koga also admitted, “My staff also has fun baking, so we had a good time making treats for the market.” It seemed their Pokémon-themed cake pops were very popular among market attendees.
There were many different clubs tabling and selling food at the TASA Night Market, and BURSA and MGG were just a few. If you missed out on the delicious treats and thrilling dance performances, be sure to attend it next year, when it will only grow bigger and be even better!