Christopher Davis decided he wanted to meet a new group of friends and learn more about the different aspects of his Chinese background as soon as he began his first semester at James Madison University. After joining the Chinese Student Association, Davis not only established a new family away from home, he made it a top priority to share his appreciation of the Chinese culture with the rest of the JMU community.
On the surface, the goal of CSA is to promote Chinese culture and traditions. However, the members of CSA work together to accomplish an even bigger goal of bridging the American and Chinese cultures, and remain dedicated to helping the JMU community understand the differences between the two.
"We want to break any barriers and disprove any stereotypes people have about the average Chinese-American student," said Davis. "CSA works hard to blend in seamlessly with other organizations on campus, and we hope students recognize that."
CSA members themselves come from diverse backgrounds including American-born Chinese, international students from China, students who speak Chinese and those who do not. Through the association members are given the opportunity to learn more about their heritage in greater detail.
"As an organization, CSA hopes to tap into the campus climate and help make the university a more culturally diverse place," said CSA member Amy Wu. "People are so supportive when they come out to events and performances, and a key goal is to help advocate for a more inclusive campus."
Cultural Values Spread Via Entertainment
Each spring, CSA hosts its annual culture show, which features various performances that educate the audience about Chinese culture, tradition and history. The event showcases dance and music compilations, such as modern and hip-hop fusions, an enchanting Thousand Hand Buddha dance and a mysterious Sichuan Mask Change.
The culture show, however, would not be complete without its star player: the lion. The highly anticipated Lion Dance, a fairly new addition to CSA's repertoire, was brought to JMU by former CSA President Michael Wu.
"A lot of people who have seen lion dancing enjoy it very much and always look forward to it. The Lion Dance effortlessly became a new tradition at JMU, and it is good to know that people on campus are starting to know what the dance is about - driving away evil spirits and bringing good luck," said Michael Wu.
CSA's culture show is scheduled to take place April 9 at 7 p.m. in Wilson Hall Auditorium.
Proceeds from the culture show and CSA fundraising efforts throughout the year have successfully raised thousands of dollars for the Half the Sky Foundation, Sichuan Earthquake Relief and Wolong Panda Reserve.
This year, CSA hopes to raise $1,000 for "A Child's Right," a nonprofit relief organization that provides clean drinking water for children in China.
Bringing Adopted Chinese Children a Little Closer to Home
In fall 2010, CSA partnered with Valley Adopt, a network of local American families that have adopted children from China. CSA hosts a Chinese folklore event that teaches the Valley Adopt children the value and importance of traditional Chinese tales.
Although Chinese New Year falls on Feb. 3, preparations have begun for the annual CSA Chinese New Year celebration that is scheduled for Feb. 13. Valley Adopt families are invited to mingle over food, movies and activities to learn about the significance of the holiday and to ring in the Year of the Rabbit.
"We seek to educate the children not only about culture, but also about integrity and morality," said Michael Wu.