Pacific Grove looks to issue apology for ‘Feast of Lanterns’ festival, historical racism and violence

Pacific Grove Feast of Lanterns
  • The Pacific Grove City Council is preparing an apology for its Feast of Lanterns, an annual event criticized for appropriating Chinese culture.
  • The festival, during which mostly white participants dress up in Asian stereotype costumes, was officially canceled by the council this year.
  • Pacific Grove's Diversity Equity and Inclusion Board drafted an apology letter after consulting 40 members of the Asian community.
  • Community members hope the apology will be approved and signed by Mayor Bill Peake in time for Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in May.

Local officials in Pacific Grove, California, are preparing an apology to the Chinese community for their controversial Feast of Lanterns annual celebration.

The yearly event, during which mostly white participants dress up in Asian stereotype costumes, was officially canceled by the council this year after continued criticism alleging cultural appropriation of Chinese culture.

On Monday, the Pacific Grove City Council reviewed an apology drafted by Pacific Grove’s Diversity Equity and Inclusion Board and to be approved and signed by Mayor Bill Peake.

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In crafting the statement, the board consulted over 40 members of the Asian community, including descendants of the city’s historic Chinese Fish Village, leaders of Chinese American organizations and other residents of Asian descent.

“An apology for grievous injustices cannot erase the past, but admission of the historic wrongdoing committed can aid us in healing the pain of the past and solving the critical problems of discrimination and racism facing Pacific Grove and the broader US today,” read the apology.

The apology also lists 29 items that recognize the historical discrimination and racial violence that early Chinese settlers and their descendants faced.

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Community members hope the apology will be ready for Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in May and read by the mayor at the Walk of Remembrance on May 14.

“That event was started by Gerry Low-Sabado. It was started by a member of the AAPI community. It is an authentic event that celebrates the actual history of Pacific Grove and it is also an inclusive event. And the Feast of Lanterns was unfortunately not any of those things,” said former Feast of Lanterns President Klarity Coleman.

The Monterey Bay Lion Dance Team will lead the 1-mile Walk of Remembrance, which will start at Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History. The council urged local residents and businesses to celebrate the Chinese American history and influence on the Peninsula by hanging lanterns outside.

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“If we can’t make significant change here. I’m really worried for the rest of our country. We have a great opportunity here and now with this instance to set a tone and create a larger change that’s going to continue,” Coleman continued.

 

Feature Image via Michael Yanoska

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