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May 27, 2014 > Honoring Asian heritage in Hayward

Honoring Asian heritage in Hayward

By Jesse Peters

See a dizzying display of colorful costumes with accompanying music in a stunning display of cultural dancing. Hear the Taiko drums beat in synchronicity, each drummers movement a powerful rhythm. Follow your taste buds and pick something fresh from the farmers market or sample from a multitude of ethnic dishes. You donÕt have to cross an ocean to experience this cultural extravaganza, just head over to Hayward for the Asian American Heritage Festival on Saturday, May 31.

The 21st annual festival at Hayward City Hall Plaza will entertain all ages as local performers take the stage throughout the day in a vibrant display of cultural pride including Taiko Drums, Polynesian dance, Philippine dance, Chinese dance, Middle Eastern belly dancing, Taiwanese dance, singers, hula dancers, and many more.

Held in Union City last year, the festival has moved to Hayward, festival founder John Hsiehs home town. The move marks its 20th anniversary, the first time as a street fair. This yearÕs festival has expanded to include more performances and in conjunction with Haywards Farmers Market.

National recognition of Asian heritage was initiated in 1977 by U.S. House of Representatives members Frank Horton (NY) and Norman Y. Mineta (CA), who suggested that the first 10 days of May be designated as a period of cultural acknowledgment. In 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed a joint resolution designating it an annual celebration. Designation as Asian/Pacific Islander month came over a decade later. May was the chosen because it commemorates immigration of the first Japanese to the United States as well as the anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad. May is also Older Americans Month; Asian culture focuses on respect of the elderly.

ÒIt was in 1991 when I was invited by then president George H. W. Bush to the White House to observe the signature of the Proclamation (6288 Asian/Pacific Islander Heritage Month),Ó explains Hsieh, who is originally from Taiwan. ÒI came back to the Bay Area and since the country recognizes the Asian contribution to this nation, we should celebrate!Ó

Asian culture has strong roots in the Bay Area. The great Bruce Lee was born in Chinatown, San Francisco and started his martial arts school in Oakland; actress Jamie Chung is also from San Francisco. Featured in ÒAlmost Famous,Ó Rolling Stone writer and editor and San Francisco Chronicle radio columnist Ben Fong-Torres, who influenced much of the early rock and roll scene for the country, is from Alameda.

And of course there is the food. Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, and Cambodian restaurants can be found everywhere, often within a few feet of each other, providing colorful dishes prepared in unique ways, a fusion of flavors. They are a reminder of the local cultural melting pot, sometimes taken for granted.

The ÒAsian American Heritage FestivalÓ is a great opportunity to celebrate the wealth of culture in the Greater Tri-City area. It provides a unique perspective of our community. Come by and join the celebration!

Asian American Heritage Festival
Saturday, May 31
10 a.m. Ð 5 p.m.
Hayward City Hall Plaza
777 B St, Hayward
Free admission

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