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Asian American community in North Texas focuses on tradition, celebrations despite violent week

Jessica Chu, Executive Board Director for the Dallas Chinese Community Center, whose offices are in Richardson's China Town district served as MC during Saturday, Jan. 28 event
Brittany Stubblefield-Engram
/
KERA
Jessica Chu, executive board director for the Dallas Chinese Community Center, served as mistress of ceremonies during the Lunar New Year celebration on Sat., Jan. 28. The center's offices are located in Richardson's Chinatown district.

Hundreds of North Texans gathered in Richardson's Chinatown for the Lunar New Year Celebration one week following two mass shootings in the Asian community.

After two devastating acts of violence during the first weekend of the Lunar New Year, celebrations continued in the East Asian community in Richardson.

"On such a sacred holiday and time of new hope and wishes for the future, to have that horrific shooting happen at that moment in time in that community had a ripple effect even in the Asian American communities outside of California and in Dallas," said Stephanie Drenka, co-founder of the Dallas Asian American Historical Society.

A mass shooting in Monterey Park, CA left 11 people dead and a second mass shooting in Half Moon Bay, CA killed seven people.

This Lunar New Year is the year of the rabbit, which symbolizes new beginnings, longevity, prosperity, and peace.

"The Asian American community hasn't had time to grieve and process prior tragedies, let alone the accumulation of two in one week," Drenka said.

She believes that the Asian American communities of North Texas deserve to celebrate Lunar New Year. She sees it as a good moment for non-Asian Americans to partake and learn.

Eight individuals wearing white long pants embroidered with JL and purple athletic jerseys stand holding a red, purple, and gold dragon.
Brittany Stubblefield-Engram
/
KERA
The JL Sports Association's Jiu Long Lion Dance Troupe prepares for a Lion and Dragon Dance performance at the Lunar New Year celebration.

Jessica Chu, executive board of director of the Dallas Chinese Community Center, also served as the event's mistress of ceremonies on Saturday.

She provided a lot of laughs and fun as she introduced guest speakers and performances, including yo-yo acts and the JL Lion Dance Troupe.

"Our event is obviously not just for the AAPI community— it is for everyone," Chu said. "I think it's so important to learn more about other people and listen to their stories and try their food and just experience it."

With anti-Asian rhetoric and violence, Chu also shared her organizations' concerns for hosting this event in the wake of two mass shootings.

"To have something happen very close to a festival...it's hard. [So] we talked about it. And we were like, what do we need to change? Do we need to change certain protocols? That definitely did come up."

There was a heightened police presence at the event and the Richardson Police Department is less than half a mile away from the festivities.

A couple who found out about the event from Facebook says they felt safe to be there in spite of "everything that is going on in the world".

Even with cool temperatures and drizzle, nearly a thousand people came out to have fun and show solidarity.

Another couple brought their dog Pete, who was spray painted red, a color that traditionally means to ward off evil spirits.

The Dallas Chinese Community Center does have other events lasting through the end of Lunar New Year, but this was their biggest.

Lunar New Year 2023 ends with the Lantern Festival Feb. 5.

Got a tip? Email Brittany Stubblefield-Engram at bstubblefield-engram@kera.org.

KERA News is made possible through the generosity of our members. If you find this reporting valuable, consider making a tax-deductible gifttoday. Thank you.

Brittany Stubblefield-Engram is the Digital Engagement Fellow for Arts Access. She previously served as the Marjorie Welch Fitts Louis Fellow for the KERA newsroom. Born and raised in Dallas, Texas, she received her Bachelors of Applied Arts and Sciences from the University of North Texas at Dallas. She is a Hip-Hop scholar and prior to her trajectory into journalism, Brittany worked in non-profit management.