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Indianapolis AAPI Pride Ball is first event of its kind in Indiana

It's a night for AAPI Hoosiers to celebrate their queer pride and heritage — even if their homelands don't celebrate them.
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Posted at 1:50 PM, Jun 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-24 17:54:57-04

INDIANAPOLIS — The Philippine Cultural Community Center is set to make state history this weekend with its inaugural black-tie event for LGBTQ Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) folk and their allies.

The AAPI Pride Ball is the first pride event in Indiana that exclusively celebrates queer AAPI Hoosiers.

"There's a lot of queer-friendly organizations out there. Unfortunately, not a lot have Asian American representation. And when you think about Asia encompasses a huge continent of countries, ranging from Western Asia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Russia, all the way to South Central Asia, like India, Sri Lanka, and then Southeast Asia, the Philippines, and then Japan, of course. And then you also got the Pacific Islanders, Polynesian countries, and such. So it's about representation," Philip Smith, the founder of Indy's Philippine Cultural Community Center, told WRTV.

The AAPI Pride Ball is about the celebration of cultures coming together.

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Inside the Philippines Cultural Community Center on the south side of Indianapolis, LGBTQ pride flags align the front room alongside the United States and Philippines national flags.

Smith says it's essential to foster space here in America, more pointedly in Indiana, where queer Asian Americans can come together and openly celebrate both the heritage of their homelands and their LGBTQ pride because in most AAPI countries there are sodomy and homophobic laws. Smith says the privilege he and his community have to be out is not lost on him and provides all the more reason for celebration.

"At least here, in a safe place, we can celebrate our culture of familiarities and also celebrate the pride of bringing our loved ones with us," Smith said. "What we're doing is we are creating a table for ourselves and inviting our friends and family to sit with us."

Michelle Dahl, a committee member of the Philippine Cultural Community Center, adds that it's equally as crucial for the AAPI community to come together in an uplifting way right now.

Hate crimes against Asian Americans have risen sharply over the last two to three years. This past fall, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) released data showing that hate crimes against people of Asian descent rose by 76% in 2020.

"Anytime that we can uplift the AAPI community is really important to me," Dahl told WRTV.

Dahl said she/they is ready to go into a room and "do the work that we want to do and celebrate each other without having to automatically defend ourselves."

She/They explained that as a Hoosier adoptee, she didn't grow up with many AAPI experiences or representation. The Philippine Cultural Community Center wants to be the place of representation for Indy's AAPI community's intersectionalities.

"Here in Indianapolis, in Indiana, we want to be more visible and show representation that we exist and that it's okay. You can have community. And we want to celebrate that," Dahl said.

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Michelle Dahl (left) and Philip Smith (right) are the event organizers behind the first AAPI Pride Ball in Indianapolis.

Although the AAPI Pride Ball is focused on Asian heritage, everyone is welcome.

"Just because it's an AAPI LGBTQ+ event that definitely doesn't exclude anyone. We live in a demographic that is primarily white, and those are our friends and our allies. And of course, we want them there," Dahl said.

The theme of the inaugural ball is "Crazy Rich Asians." All attendees are invited to dress in the traditional formal wear of their heritage.

The food at the ball will be representative of the vast AAPI cultures. Food, Smith said, is a vital part of Asian culture as a whole, which is why finding a venue like the VisionLoft Events downtown was a fortunate find. "A lot of venues don't allow outside food to be served, and a lot of American food is potatoes, cabbage, and chicken," Smith said.

There will also be cultural performances and a red carpet at the ball on Sunday.

The Philippine Cultural Community Center looks forward to throwing its AAPI Pride Ball annually during Pride Month.

"It's about representation. A lot of our country's homelands don't approve of such acts of love. And so here we can actually celebrate our culture, which is important to us," Smith said.

The AAPI Pride Ball is on Sunday, June 26, from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. at the VisionLoft Events space, located at 235 N. Delaware St. Tickets are $15.

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WRTV Digital Reporter Shakkira Harris can be reached at shakkira.harris@wrtv.com. You can follow her on Twitter, @shakkirasays.