The Glen Ridge Pan Asian American Association (GRPAAA) held its first event – a community picnic at Sherman Field – in Glen Ridge on Saturday, September 18th, 2021. Over 300 Glen Ridge residents gathered on the sun-kissed afternoon to both celebrate and raise awareness of Asian American culture in the community.
Attendees mixed and mingled with their neighbors and enjoyed delicious Asian American fare, both homemade and from local restaurants. The menu featured specialties such as dumplings, samosas, sushi, chicken adobo, lumpia, pancit bihon, and Korean fried chicken. “When we share our food, we share our Asian American culture and heritage,” said Lavi Raghavan, the chair of the group’s Communications Committee. “Good food bridges cultures and brings us together.”
Attendees also enjoyed a live performance by Glen Ridge’s own ABCD, a folk music band featuring the talents of Amanda McCabe, Brian McCabe, Charles Potters, and Daniel Kirk. Aruna Jain, a Mehndi artist, created stunning henna tattoos in exchange for a donation of $3 to the International Rescue Committee, which is assisting with resettlement of Afghan refugees in Essex County. This was a suggestion from one member’s 8th grader, who is reading I Am Malala at school. Dr. Keisha Harris, principal of Glen Ridge’s Central School, observed, “Events such as these build true allyship within the school community as culture is no longer a detached conversation but an experience where stereotypes are challenged, differences appreciated and commonalities strengthened.”
Also enjoying the event was the town’s School Board President, Elisabeth Ginsburg, who said, “The Pan Asian picnic was the best way to celebrate both diversity and the new school year. It was especially nice, after the past eighteen months, to see so many families come together.”
Felice Yeh Bettenbender, a GRPAAA board member, outlined the group’s objectives for attendees: “GRPAAA wants to engage our community with events like this picnic. Our board members are all Glen Ridge parents, and we love our town and want to be an active part of it. Within our school district we are helping to work on a number of initiatives including: a more inclusive curriculum; teacher and staff training on diversity, equity, and inclusion; and diversity in hiring. These goals will benefit all students in our district.”
To keep up with future events, sign up for the GRPAAA email list here. The GRPAAA mission is to engage and educate the Glen Ridge school district and the larger Glen Ridge community on specific issues that affect the Asian American population. The GRPAAA also hopes to promote cultural awareness. The GRPAAA is a sister organization to the Glen Ridge Black Diversity and Inclusion Association (GRBDIA). Both organizations are under the umbrella of the Glen Ridge Diversity and Inclusion Association (GRDIA).