Wichita Asian Association
Wichita, with a population of approximately 330,000 and an Asian population of about 11,300, is the largest city in Kansas. It is approximately 200 miles from the two closest large metropolitan areas, Kansas City and Oklahoma City.
In August 1981 four Asians discussed about developing an organization with the following goals:
• To promote cultural awareness among various Asian groups
• To foster an understanding and appreciation of Asian cultures by the community at large
• To strengthen awareness among youths of Asian ancestry and the legacy of their cultural roots
• To provide opportunities for expression through diverse Asian cultural arts
Thus in 1981, the Wichita Asian Association (WAA) was formed. Since its founding, WAA has had no paid staff. It is organized 100% by volunteers including the board.
The main promotional vehicle has been the annual Asian Festival presented each year at Century II and it is well recognized in Wichita. To the best of our knowledge, this type of festival is presented in very few cities in the US. Over the years, the festival has introduced new additions to the program. The most significant was the Miss Asia pageant which was started in 1984 and has been a showcase of talent for girls from ages 16 to 25. This festival became very popular and well recognized including by the Midwest Travel Writers Association. The participants in the festival are often students from local universities, area schools, community members and their children. Their enthusiasm cuts across all ages. Their eager participation deserves plenty of praise. None of the artists are paid any remuneration. They are happy and proud to exhibit their culture and tradition. Art and cultural exhibits are encouraged by providing free booth space.
The most significant accomplishment of the WAA is to bring together a vastly diverse community consisting of more than 13 countries from south and Fareast Asia, representing various ethnic groups and religions (Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Pakistan, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam) under one roof and collectively give a unique festival. The fact that they come together plan the event and participate and present is commendable. This is a great opportunity for them to inter act.
The other accomplishment is that through this festival and through other artistic and cultural events, the WAA educate non-Asians about Asian art, culture and religions. This is helping to promote cultural understanding, peaceful co-existence, and mutual understanding.
Several university faculty members and community based organizations request the WAA to give educational presentation about Asian culture. Many service providers also approach the WAA to learn how to interact with their Asian clients.