The capitol city of the United States has been celebrating the Chinese New Year for the past half century or so with a parade in Washington DC’s Chinatown section. This year was no exception. The parade did take place, but its organizers have some big changes in store for the future.
There was a dragon dance, a lion dance, kung fu demonstrations and the lighting of a giant firecracker, all mainstays of the city’s annual celebration.
Washington’s Chinese-American community, while substantial, is nowhere near as large as those in some other U.S. cities, like San Francisco and New York. But its Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Society wants its annual New Year parade to be as big.
Video prepared for VOA by Shivan Sarna
The organizations leader, Waymond Lee, said, “you know we have been organizing this parade for over fifty years. It has been the mainstay for the DC area. But you know, it’s mostly limited to the local Chinatown community. But I think it’s a cultural event that should belong to the general DC area. So in order to make it that way, we have to make it bigger.”
This year’s parade had an American component as well, with Washington DC high school marching bands, walking politicians and a float by Washington’s team in the National Basketball Association, The Washington Wizards. They play at an arena called the Verizon Center, located in the middle of Chinatown
“Being located right here at the Verizon Center in the middle of Chinatown, we’re located in close proximity to many of the businesses around here, and one of our main goals is to form a stronger relationship with many of the businesses around here. So we’re hoping to accomplish that. Last year was the first year we did a kind of outreach into the community with the Asian Heritage night, and this year, we’re actually taking part in the parade, something we’re very excited about, said Nick Creech, a spokesman for the Wizards. He says there are other reasons for the team’s, and the NBA’s support of the Chinese community
“It started with Yao Ming came over. It really did open the gate for many Chinese players. Yao really paved the way and “E” came next. The NBA is huge in China. You’re seeing more and more players signing shoe deals in China. In fact our own player, JaVale Magee, has a show deal with Peak, the Chinese shoe company. They’are really making big inroads in the country," he said.
There is an overriding theme in the parade said organizer Ed Chow, who is also the director of veteran’s affairs for the neighboring U.S. state of Maryland.
“I think demonstrations like this parade, demonstrations of our various cultures to our larger community shows that we are part of our world, we are part of America and we would like to be here to contribute just like anybody else. My grandfather came here in 1880 , and because of that immigration pattern, I’m here today to participate in the greatest country in the world," he said.
The hoped for changes that would make the parade much larger are in the planning stages for as soon as next year.