Nearly three years since COVID-19 arrived and negatively impacted residents and businesses in the Chinatown neighborhood of Oakland, California, community members are coming together for a historic street festival to celebrate their resilience against anti-Asian hate and the ongoing pandemic.
The festival will take place on 9th Street (from Franklin to Alice Streets) from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on July 30. Aside from highlighting the community’s renewed vigor, it will serve as an advanced celebration of Chinese Valentine’s Day, or the Qixi Festival, which falls on Aug. 4 this year. The Qixi Festival, also known as the Double Seventh Festival, is considered to be the most romantic of all traditional Chinese holidays.
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At least 10,000 people are expected to attend the event which will feature more than 20 food vendors and over 50 businesses that represent Chinatown. Local artists will also hold stage performances throughout the event.
The festival will include free COVID-19 testing and vaccination, according to the event organizer. There will also be a photo exhibit depicting solidarity against anti-Asian hate.
Oakland’s Chinatown has seen numerous anti-Asian incidents throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Organizations such as the Mental Health Association for Chinese Communities (MHACC), Korean Community Center of the East Bay (KCCEB) and Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN) – which are also co-sponsoring the event, among other groups – are currently at the forefront of combating hate and violence in the community.
The MHACC, who is hosting the “Break the silence — Stop Asian Hate” photography exhibition at the event, released a statement:
“Hate crimes against Asian Americans awaken painful memories of our past. While discrimination and stereotypes have remained for a long time, we do not realize their presence when they have been buried deep beneath the surface. Once these crimes are inflicted, the pain resurfaces once again. ‘Stop Asian Hate’ demands that we break the silence and bring the Asian American community together. When you witness injustice, please stand up and speak out against it. Do not wait until you personally experience this discrimination to make a change. Violence continues while we keep silent.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused chaos nationwide, but the Asian American community here and around the nation bore the brunt of this pandemic the hardest,” the OCIC said in a statement. “This pandemic and subsequent anti-Asian sentiments that followed have caused tremendous harm, not only to our residents, but our businesses and livelihood were also significantly impacted.”
The OCIC describes the event as a safe space for Asian and Pacific Islander Americans to “gather and freely express themselves without worries of physical harm or attacks.” The organization said it has made it a goal to collaborate with community members to ensure that Chinatown “maintains strong cultural and economic cohesion in these challenging times.”
“APIs from all over the Bay Area also come to Chinatown to dine, shop, bank and visit. This inadvertently helped us form our own small economic community to help us not only thrive, but provide support to those who need it,” the OCIC added.
Featured Image via Oakland Chinatown Improvement Council
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