Happy Birthday, YK Lounge!
Posted Aug 13 2007
As you may know, the theme for this year’s Proactive Magazine is “place.” For the past 10 years, the Yuri Kochiyama Lounge has served as the home to the United Asian American Organizations (UAAO) weekly Wednesday meetings. In this time, the YK Lounge has also played an integral role in the Asian American community on campus, often the place for many meetings, discussions, and other activities. Very few people, both inside and outside of the Asian American community, however, realize the attention to detail inside the lounge itself and the lounge’s history.
Originally named the West Lounge, it was Minority Peer Advisor Daniel Zarazua who first came up with the idea of naming a lounge in honor of an Asian American. Yuri Kochiyama herself showed up at the festivities, while the Michigan Daily and Detroit Free Press reported on it the following day. In the past, Yuri, whose father was sent to the internment camps during World War II, has not just raised awareness on Asian American issues, but also joined to fight for other causes, like nuclear disarmament, rights for political prisoners, etc. Therefore, it was Yuri’s experience with coalition building and being an ally to other communities that appealed to Daniel and others.
A simple walk around the lounge reveals even more significance. The walls are adorned with pictures of influential Asian American women, like Maya Lin, Ngoan Le, and of course Yuri herself. In addition, the architecture of the room, which Maya Lin contributed to, can be fascinating. A framed document on the east wall reveals a number of things. The lounge’s wallpaper is made from shredded Japanese telephone book scraps, so if one looks closely enough, they may find a number or Japanese character. The layout of the carpet tiles and ceiling are supposed to match those of a temple, and a sculpture-plaque near the doors constructs hands pulling at chains wrapped around a heart. This plaque is dedicated to Yuri and her work in freeing many different groups of society’s-imposed shackles.
In a sense, the YK Lounge has grown up with us, the Asian American community at the University of Michigan. Ten years ago, UAAO had just been established for merely a few years, while the Proactive magazine and GenAPA were rolling off to energetic beginnings. Now, UAAO’s programming has expanded to include an annual Alternative Spring Break (ASB) trip, a yearly high school conference for Asian American youth, and the list goes on and on. In terms of lounges, the Mahatma Gandhi Lounge in Oxford Hall officially became the second lounge on campus in the past few years dedicated to someone of Asian descent. As for what is in store for the upcoming ten years, no one has the ability to predict that. One of the few certainties, however, is the role of that the YK Lounge plays in our community and in being one of the few spaces on campus recognizing the many accomplishments of Asian Americans.