Calling it a “historic” moment for Boston’s Asian American community, Mayor Michelle Wu Tuesday hailed the first-ever Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month celebration held on City Hall Plaza.
“It’s been such a pleasure and privilege to watch the city of Boston make sure that everyone could benefit from our cultural celebrations and the ways in which it brings communities together,” Wu said during the late afternoon event organized by the Asian American and Pacific Island Employee Resource Group, which is made up of City Hall employees.
Several city councilors joined city employees and dozens of community residents at the celebration featuring performances and food from Boston’s Asian, Pacific Islander, and Native Hawaiian communities.
Performances included a traditional Lion dance, a band playing Western and Korean musical instruments, and a Latin dance infused with Chinese elements.
“One thing we were all consistently pushing for is to be as inclusive as we can be,” said Sahil Nisha, one of the organizers for the event. “We wanted to represent as much as the breadth of the community as we can.”
As dozens of office workers and parents with their children stopped by to watch the performances, Nisha said they were glad to have the event in a high profile public space.
Connie Wong, an employee for Boston’s Fire Department, said it was exciting to celebrate AAPI heritage month outside on the plaza where more people could enjoy the event.
“The City Hall Plaza is the people’s plaza where people can just pass by and watch,” Wong said. “With an Asian American mayor, how could we not have it here?”
Jose Villegas, who stopped to watch the Lion dance performance with his children, said events that publicly celebrate the city’s communities are important and are “a good way to show citizens the various cultures we have.”
At-Large City Councilor Ruthzee Louijeune said it was important for the city to celebrate all of its diversity and culture.
“There’s so much richness in our Asian culture that you provide to the city whether it’s in a corner or in Chinatown,” Louijeune said to the gathering. “And as an at-large city councilor, I love learning from all of you and celebrating your culture.”
Wu said she grew up in Chicago not celebrating AAPI Heritage Month, so she was grateful to see how many people had gathered and how her colleagues have created more events that recognize and celebrate various cultural heritages.
“[AAPI Heritage Month] was something in some way that I think my parents as immigrants really shied away from,” Wu said. “They found ways to connect me through language classes and other programming, but it was always in little small circles kind of hidden away.”
Aaron Liu, a 16-year-old who performed the Lion dance, said it especially exciting to perform at the event considering Wu was Boston’s first Asian American mayor as it “gives us more of a representation of who we are.”
Sanay Doshi, a member of Northeastern University’s Naakhraas club, said the setting on City Hall Plaza is an important step toward exposing more people to the diversity of Asian cultures.
“It’s really exciting to perform for the city and and expose our culture to Boston,” Doshi said. “Performing outside will bring more eyes to our culture, and it’s cool to be at an event that ties in all cultures.”