By Arlene Kiyomi Dennistoun
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
The Asia Pacific Cultural Center (APCC) held its 20th anniversary gala at the Tacoma Trade Center on Nov. 3.
Partygoers ate, drank, and got “lei’d” as dozens of orchid leis were hung on honored guests — a Hawaiian tradition.
Hundreds of people packed the room to celebrate APCC’s ongoing efforts to weave unique traditions of 47 cultures and countries into the fabric of Washington state culture.
The APCC threw down the gauntlet with entertainment, celebrating both its anniversary and its plans for expansion to a location next to the Point Ruston neighborhood waterfront project. The celebration’s finale was a show stopper. Executive Director Faaluaina “Lua” Pritchard performed a traditional and ceremonial Samoan Taualuga dance. Taualuga in Samoan culture is used to signify the final achievement and completion of building a house.
Donors threw cash on stage during Pritchard’s performance until money littered the stage — all for a worthy cause of the APCC’s plans to find a new home. It was a fitting end to an evening of “visiting” about a dozen different countries and cultures via traditional dance and song.
“The future is wide open. Washington state will never be the same” once the Ruston Way location opens, said Pritchard in a video presentation at the gala. “Everyone can go to the APCC, but not everyone can go to our countries.” The APCC still needs funding to secure a location next to the Point Ruston project, and its plans are an enormous undertaking that will create hundreds of jobs in construction and tourism. The APCC intends to accommodate all 47 countries and cultures in rooms dedicated to showcasing art and artifacts. Plans also include a food court, low-income senior housing, and rooms for demonstrations and other activities. The APCC serves about 50,000 people a year and continues growing each year.
The APCC’s literature touts its mission as bridging “communities and generations through art, culture, education, and business.” Congressman Denny Heck told the crowd whenever he needs information about Pacific Rim countries and cultures, the APCC always comes through. Congressman Derek Kilmer spoke about bringing his family to the APCC for diversity events that enriched their lives. Both talked about their reliance on the APCC for cultural insight as lawmakers.
Tyati “Ty” Tufono, the first Samoan Commission Chair of the Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs, emceed the gala. She reminded the audience that although she has been lucky enough to have visited most of the countries and cultures represented by the APCC, if you can’t travel, you can still “visit” the countries by going to the APCC.
Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland spoke of her gratitude to the APCC’s work in bridging cultural gaps and being a resource for Tacoma and the state. Strickland is Tacoma’s first African and Asian American mayor, and the second female mayor of Tacoma. Strickland was born in Seoul, Korea, the daughter of a soldier and an immigrant.
Strickland’s family moved to Tacoma after her father was stationed at Fort Lewis.
Pat McCarthy, Pierce County Executive, was also on hand to congratulate the APCC on its 20 years of community service and advocacy, and its multitude of contributions to the region.
Lt. Governor Brad Owen, who is counting down the days, hours, and minutes to retirement, spoke about the exemplary work of the APCC, and in particular, of Pritchard’s tireless work for the community. “When Lua calls on you, you don’t say no. You just say yes, I’ll be there.”
Retired pediatrician Dr. George Tanbara, 94, received the APCC’s Hall of Fame Award for his many contributions to the community, including founding the Pierce County Pediatric Society and being the first volunteer pediatrician for the Tacoma Branch of the Children’s Home Society of Washington. Tanbara was unable to attend, so his son and daughter accepted the award on his behalf.
Traditional songs and dances representing a dozen different countries entertained the crowd. Each representative presented gifts to the APCC before performing, expressing their gratitude for the APCC’s groundbreaking service to so many immigrants.
Eighth-grade girls from the Korean Traditional Performing Arts Group, “Kkocdooseh,” traveled all the way from Korea and performed an amazing synchronized traditional dance. Other performances included the Okinawa Kenjin-Kai Taiko Chijinshuu drummers, dancers from the Filipino Community Alliance, and performances representing China, Vietnam, Guam, Thailand, Indonesia, Hawaii, and Cambodia.
“There’s no future in having an entirely generic culture,” said keynote speaker Anthony J. Radich, PhD. Radich is the Executive Director for the Western States Arts Federation. “We are strong because we are diverse, not because we have one culture.” Radich reminisced about restaurants in the 1950s and 1960s, describing the food as “pretty bad.” The diffusion of cultures introduced new deliciously enticing food. Radich shared his belief that the APCC’s work in retaining the traditions of so many different cultures is the “mosaic model” of cultural diversity that he wants for the country, rather than a melting pot, which blends and distills the traditions of cultures and countries.
Arlene can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.