On August 19, Wu Dang Kung Fu Academy’s owner and Aiping Tai Chi’s director Master Jack Guo (with wife Xiaolei Cheng) and Shirley Chock opened the New England Asian American Cultural Center (NEAACC) in Milford, Connecticut. The grand opening featured cultural performances and many guest appearances including Qian Jin, the deputy counsel of the Chinese Embassy in New York, Connecticut’s Lt. Governor Susan Bysiewicz, Milford Mayor Ben Blake, State Senators James Maroney and Tony Hwang, and State Representatives Charles Ferraro and Kathy Kennedy. With 7,000 square feet of open space, the Center aims to promote Asian culture both inside and out of Connecticut. The Center will offer a host of kung fu and tai chi classes in addition to summer camps, after-school programs, and weekend cultural programs to the Milford community.
The Center and other initiatives constitute Connecticut’s efforts to advance education about, and mitigate the challenges of the state’s 205,683 Asian American and Pacific Island (AAPI) community that contributes 5.7% of the population. In January 2021, the Connecticut General Assembly proposed SB 678 which will mandate Asian Pacific American Studies in social studies curriculums. In February of 2022, the Assembly proposed Raised Bill No. 5282 which requires Asian American and Pacific Islander studies in public school curriculum by the 2025-2026 school year. Both proposed bills have been referred to the Joint Committee on Education.
The New England Asian American Cultural Center demonstrates how Connecticut advances the community’s desire for increased AAPI visibility through education and awareness. According to Lt. Governor Susan Bysiewicz, the center commits to highlighting and uplifting the diverse AAPI community in Milford, especially entrepreneurs. The Center’s ability to host school trips and other educational opportunities showcasing AAPI history will greatly advance the goals of both SB 678 and Raised Bill No. 5282.
Within Connecticut, AAPI activism, education, and celebration of culture goes beyond community efforts and reaches universities as well. Several colleges such as the University of Connecticut and Yale College have long developed their own Asian American Cultural Centers with aims to advance the state’s AAPI representation at the university level. The University of Connecticut’s center was founded in 1993 and Yale College’s center was founded in 1981. The NEAACC adds to the many avenues to promote Asian culture both inside and out of Connecticut. Additionally, its efforts in the Milford community joins a larger country-wide effort to fight anti-Asian discrimination.
Alura Winfrey is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington participating in the Young Professionals Program. She is a third-year undergraduate student attending George Washington University where she is majoring in International Affairs with a regional concentration in Asia.