Students, faculty and community members gathered Thursday to celebrate the long-awaited opening of UNC's Asian American Center in a new physical space on campus.
With masked smiles, Heidi Kim, the center's director, and Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz cut the ribbon, officially opening the space for years to come.
The AAC, an organization devoted to cultivating a critical understanding of Asian American people, cultures and histories, is now located at the Carriage House on 215 W. Cameron Ave. Though the center was founded in 2020, its events were limited to virtual formats due to the pandemic.
To kick off the opening ceremony, Kim — a professor in the Department of English and Comparative Literature — said the center could not have opened at a more difficult nor a more critical time.
“During our first year, which of course was — of necessity — completely virtual, we faced not only the shared burdens of the pandemic, but an enormous surge in anti-Asian racism, including violent crime and an ongoing confrontation in our society about racial inequities in the United States and beyond,” Kim said.
After thanking those who made the opening of the AAC possible, Kim said she believes this space will host important conversations for generations to come. Then, she introduced the Chancellor.
Kim said the day after the Atlanta shootings, she received an email that Guskiewicz had cleared his schedule to attend the virtual vigil that the Asian American Center was holding.
“Through all the ups and downs that we have had here at the University, I have always remembered that he supported the Asian American community at one of our lowest moments without us even having to ask,” Kim said.
“I am the father of an Asian American, and my 14-year-old daughter would love to be here today," Guskiewicz said. "Asian Americans represent 17 percent of our student body, a critically important and diverse group for our University community.”