NEW YORK—The Year of the Dragon roared down the streets of Flushing on Saturday, with a parade to celebrate the most auspicious of animals in the Chinese zodiac.
Drummers, dragons, and lions in brightly adorned costumes wended their way through the streets of New York’s largest Chinese enclave.
More than 100,000 people lined the streets to support the 40 groups and 25 floats from diverse ethnic backgrounds that participated in the parade. A record high, the number of floats almost doubled from last year, said Peter Tu, director general of the Chinese Business Association of Flushing, the parade organizer.
“We hope that associations from an even more diverse ethnic background will participate in the future. We also hope the Chinese New Year will become a formal holiday [in America],” Tu said, adding that many non-Chinese associations and groups joined the parade this year.
Led by the New York City Police Department band, state and city officials joined in, as well as Congressmen Joseph Crowley and Gary Ackerman. Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky who represents the 16th District that encompasses Flushing enjoyed the celebration. She said she was born in the year of dragon and got married also in the year of dragon. Marilyn Bitterman, district manager of Queens Community Board, has been helping with the preparation of the parade for several years. She said she likes it more and more. It is truly a community activity, and is becoming more popular, she said.
Chinese Cherish Their Cultural Heritage
Elizabeth Ouyang, president of Organization of Chinese Americans-New York chapter, is well-known for her dedication to defending the civil rights of Chinese residents in the United States. She did a lot of work for Chinese soldier Danny Chen’s case in 2011. Chen was a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan who committed suicide after abuse by fellow soldiers.
“Chinese New Year is a precious heritage for Chinese,” Ouyang said, “All Chinese should cherish this heritage. OCA-NY is very proud to be able to participate in the parade.”
Woody Lin, president of Taiwanese American Association in New York, organized the Taiwanese section in the parade. He hopes more ethnic groups will come to attend the parade to share the joyful and festive mood of Chinese New Year.
The 60-piece strong Divine Land Marching Band heralded in the lunar new year in neat rows of drums, trumpets, and other wind instruments. The band, comprising Falun Dafa practitioners, got a warm welcome in Flushing, after being excluded from the Chinese New Year parade in Manhattan’s Chinatown the previous week.
The spiritual meditation practice has been persecuted in China since 1999, and the move by the Better Chinatown Society to exclude Falun Dafa is a case of Chinese-Americans kowtowing to the communist regime’s influence, according to Rutgers University professor Ko-lin Chin, an expert on Chinese organized crime.
“Even if there’s no order from the Chinese Consulate, all these organizations know that if they allow the Falun Gong to be a part of it [the parade], they are going to get into trouble,” said Chin.
The Falun Dafa contingent was the largest in the parade and Falun Dafa Association representative, Yi Rong, said, “The purpose of our participation is to bring hope and peace to the audience. At the same time, we hope to help people know that, despite 12 years of persecution by the Chinese communist regime, Falun Dafa has spread to over 100 countries and warmly embraced by people of all ethnic backgrounds.”
Other Communities Participate
There were also other organizations from different cultural backgrounds that joined the parade.
Keith Jordan, director of music at Francis Lewis High School, said that they have participated in the Flushing parade for more than six years, with at least 30 students every year. The students live in areas other than Flushing but they still participate because of the great cultural experience.
Ms. Rogone, an employee from Saint Michael’s Catholic School said that their school has taught immigrant students for many years and they currently have 200 immigrant students, 40 percent of which are Asian. St. Michael’s staff and students alike have enjoyed the parade for many years, said Rogone. They take it as part of the long history of the Flushing community, feeling proud to participate.
Asian Official: Witnessing Community’s Strength
City Councilman Peter Koo said the Chinese community has grown stronger, drawing in elected officials of various ethnic groups to participate. State Assemblywoman Grace Meng also believes that so many people and officials came to attend the parade because the Chinese community has become more powerful.
Doris Ling-Cohan, a New York State Supreme Court Justice and Chinese-American, also participated in the parade. She said she grew up in Manhattan’s Chinatown and the parade used to be relatively small. Now the Chinese community has grown so much and the parade attracts many elected officials, showing their respect for the Chinese community.