SAN FRANCISCO -- After recent tragedies involving both the Asian American and Black communities, an event in San Francisco's Bayview District on Saturday aimed to bring the two groups together.
Bayview/Hunter's Point is San Francisco's most concentrated African American neighborhood. On Saturday, the sound of pounding drum and crashing cymbals welcomed area residents to the 13th annual Black History Month and Lunar New Year celebration. The local YMCA began hosting the event in 2010 after tensions were running high between African Americans and Asians following a high-profile crime incident.
"We needed to do something to bridge the gap between the Black African American and Asian community," said Tacing Parker, the YMCA's executive director. "So, folks came together and said, what can we do? How can we promote peace, how can we promote unity?"
Saturday's program showcased performances from both cultures. African American residents were treated to a display of traditional Chinese tai chi and Asian guests experienced music and dance from the Black community.
"We use this opportunity to really uplift each other's culture, history so we can really come together and build community and build trust," said Eddy Zheng, event organizer and founder of the New Breath Foundation.
That trust is needed more than ever as both groups reel from recent tragedies. The mass shootings in Monterey Park and Half Moon Bay have reignited the fear Asian people suffered after a rash of anti-Asian violence in 2021. And the African American community is once again dealing with the death of another young Black man at the hands of police -- this time in Memphis.
"All these rifts or differences -- it's a reality. But then, there's also a lot of deceptions," Zheng said.
He said media coverage of attacks on Asians has created a barrier between the two communities so he helped create the joint celebration as a way to focus on positive cultural differences rather than just the negative ones.
"The fear is still here. People are afraid to go out to big events," Zheng said. "So the fact that people are here today is a testament to the people saying 'We want to take power. We don't want fear and violence to be the driving force for us.' And we want to focus on love and focus on racial solidarity."
"Events like this can show that Black Africans -- we're open to all communities," said 16-year-old Bayview resident Isabel King.
"I do think there is tension but I think we can change that," said King's friend Bezhaya Dozier, "By both of the communities coming together and making peace."
Their cultural differences are real but both groups have suffered violence and injustice throughout their histories. Perhaps that shared struggle can be a place where they can find common ground.
"We need to do something, right?" Parker asked. "We have to begin to have the conversations. We have to begin to get to know one another so that we are not inflicting harm on each other."
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