Afternoon in Chinatown During 40th New York’s AAPI Heritage Celebration

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40th Annual Asian American and Pacific Islander Celebration

It was a gorgeous late spring day in New York this Sunday, so I decided to jump on my bike and head down to Chinatown for the 40th Festival for the Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

I already missed yesterday’s opening of the #StarringJohnCho exhibit at Pearl River Mart, so decided I would not miss going there again, and added it to an expanding list of spots I needed to visit during my stroll.

Before going anywhere, I essentially took care of the essentials, first catching the last act of the festival, a choreography by the MoustacheCat Dance about the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. Got a pre-summer haircut and did my Chinese groceries.

40th Annual Asian American and Pacific Islander Celebration (last act, a choreography on internment of Japanese Americans during WWII)
Where Mott Street begins
Chinatown Fair Arcade
Mott & Pell during the 40th Annual Asian American and Pacific Islander Celebration
Taiwan/Republic of China flag on Mott & Pell

I thought, why is the Taiwan flag (probably more thought of as a Republic of China flag) so prominent in 2019? Maybe because this is Chinatown? (Like, in Montreal’s Chinatown, they still had a branch of the Kuomintang 10 years ago, perhaps just nominally related?)

I also stopped by Chinatown Fair, a video arcade that opened in the 40s and whose original incarnation existed until 2011, re-opened since under management. I don’t know any of that information first-hand, but I will return to Chinatown on Thursday to check out the screening of The Lost Arcade documentary on it, at MoCA ($15, at 6:30-8:30 p.m.).

After the supermarket run at Hong Kong Supermarket to replenish my stock of instant noodles and affordable veggies, I went to MoCA to check out the current exhibit. I saw that it was called Moon Represents My Heart, after the Teresa Teng song, thinking it would be something on the Taiwanese mother of Mandopop. In fact, it was a very personally interesting exhibit on music identify for hyphenated Chinese that I only had about 20 minutes to enjoy.

In my last years in Montreal, before moving to Hong Kong, I used to run a music show on the community radio about alternative styles of music sung in, primarily, Chinese languages (which I have mediocre control of). It was during that period that I found out about all sorts of Chinese rock bands under labels like Modernsky and Maybe Mars, twee pop Hong Kong bands like the now-defunct The Marshmallow Kisses or the still alive and kicking My Little Airport, or large music festivals in Taiwan dedicated to (more) independent music like Spring Scream.

So, definitely I would have to go back this summer. It’s on view until September 15.

Moon Represents My Heart at MoCA (May 2-Sept. 15, 2019)
Moon Represents My Heart at MoCA (May 2-Sept. 15, 2019)
Moon Represents My Heart at MoCA (May 2-Sept. 15, 2019)
Moon Represents My Heart at MoCA (May 2-Sept. 15, 2019)

I found out bumping into a friend at MoCA that Banana Mag was launching its 5th edition, aka 005, on the same day. I think it was after that friend spotted my collection of Giant Robot that he spilled the beans about Banana, a beautifully-produced magazine with stylish photography and original reporting that include interviews with high-profile New York Asian American cultural figures, food recipes, discussions on cultural trends. They do share some common themes that take me back to the mid-2000s when I discovering my identity as an Asian-Canadian.

I also got my hands on an elusive copy of long-gone 001! Here’s the preview, of me flipping through pages with greasy with hot wings fingers:

Banana Mag 005 launch at Canal Street Market
Banana Mag 005 launch at Canal Street Market

Next and last stop of the day would be the Pearl River Mart, the chinoiserie shop that re-opened on Broadway and Walker, on the Tribeca side of Chinatown, which now also hosts an art gallery for their artist-in-residence program, in the back mezzanine.

Worth seeing for yourself, if you’re in the area. The current exhibit is from William Yu, the artist-activist behind #StarringJohnCho. It’ll be on view until July 7.

Pearl River Mart mezzanine art gallery
#starringjohncho at Pearl River Mart (May 18-July 7, 2019)

3 thoughts on “Afternoon in Chinatown During 40th New York’s AAPI Heritage Celebration”

  1. Did you ever explore the mainland music scene especially in Beijing (e.g., Yugong Yishan club, Carsick cars) while you were over here?

    1. Yes! I saw Carsick Cars live in Beijing in 2008 before I lived there… After moving to HK, I didn’t follow the scene that much, especially toward the end.

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