The Half Asian People’s Association at Boston University is a club for students who can fully relate to their Asian heritage, those who cannot and anyone who is confused about their Asian identity. Founded by a group of friends who were all half Asian, HAPA began in 2019.
August Ramos, a senior in the College of Fine Arts and co-president of HAPA, said the club which can be described as “connecting through the disconnects.”
“We have a lot of fully Asian members or members that just don’t really know their heritage at all,” Ramos said. “We’re still in the midst of figuring out how to connect that back to people’s individual cultures.”
HAPA, by definition, is a Hawaiian word that means “someone who has one Hawaiian or East Asian parent and one white parent.”
Ramos said HAPA is a very “grounded,” “open-minded system” and students are accepting of each other even though most of them don’t “share even the same culture or background.”
“I’ve gotten a lot of feedback that people come into HAPA after coming to their fully Asian Association, just feeling like they don’t belong there,” Ramos said. “Like they can’t really identify with people who grew up fully immersed in the culture.”
Ramos said there were doubts about the necessity for this club before the actual founding of it. She said the Student Activities Office advised the founders to join the Mixed Student Union instead of founding the HAPA.
Ramos said the club has become a “special and unique” place for members.
“A lot of people, when they join the club, are surprised that it kind of exists because they don’t have this type of community back home,” Ramos said, “or they’re just not exposed to being half Asian is also this cultural identity
Shumita Littlefield, a junior in the College of Arts and Science and a third year member of HAPA, said she has gotten the opportunity to “meet people” and participate in “fun activities.”
“I was kind of nervous about joining the club because there were a lot of half East Asian people and my mom is from Bangladesh,” Littlefield said. “But nobody questioned it or said anything.”
Littlefield added that she felt “immediately part” of HAPA.
Hunter Brady, a sophomore in the College of Communication and member of HAPA, said he saw the club during SPLASH and it seemed “super genuine.”
“I saw it on one of their Instagram accounts ‘Are you more Asian or more white?” Brady said. “That’s a question I’ve asked myself throughout my whole life, so I thought that it was super interesting that they are touching on that point.”
Hannah Semaya, a junior in CAS and co-president of HAPA, said the club is going to continue connecting with other identity groups from different universities like Harvard HAPA, as well with other groups on BU’s campus.
“Last year, we had our first HAPA formal, and we’re trying to do that again this year,” Semaya said. “We do it in collaboration with the South Asian Students Association and the Third Culture clubs.”
Semaya said HAPA has been a great way for her to “find a community.”
“It’s kind of hard when you’re just in this new environment, and even for people in HAPA who are from the U.S, but they’ve only been in communities where there’s no one like them,” Semaya said. “I think it’s really comforting to find people who look just like them and have similar experiences.”
Ramos said that as an identity group, she would like to see HAPA have more conversations this year surrounding their identities.
“Be proud of your culture and your identity, but also be open to accepting other people into it,” Ramos said. “I think that’s what HAPA is about.”