The car was packed and I headed down to Hartford to the Dragon Boat & Asian Festival along the Connecticut River. I didn’t know what I would find at this two-day event where I had signed on to run children’s crafts and promote my book.
What I found was true multiculturalism.
The first person to buy my book was a lovely and energized man that is principal of an Asian Studies school with a young and diverse student body. He commented that it was good for his students to see “people that look like you” at the source of this Chinese culture book. Meaning of course, not Chinese or even Asian. His point was very deep for our fleeting encounter and how I wished I had an hour to engage with this inspiring community leader with a lot to say.
I realized, looking around at the swarm of families… Hispanic, African-American, Filipino, Chinese, Indian, and from numerous other parts of the world… that I was not an outlier… an imposter… for being there promoting Chinese culture. (You guessed it- I sometimes feel that way.) My race and ethnic background were not the focus. It was how and what I teach others…all others… in order to bring cultures together to grow as one world- in this case, teaching and fascinating children about China.
Everyone loved making my paper dragon boat craft with drinking straw paddles but what I sensed even more was a community of people with a true desire to be together with no boundaries. Even with several languages being spoken at my art table at once, everyone was smiling… mothers to mothers, children helping the children beside them and comparing their coloring skills, tattooed, bronze-skinned teens needing a respite as they checked their phones, and Asian elders enjoying the young energy while carefully inspecting my book for authenticity.
Granted, these festival visitors had an easier opportunity to expose themselves to vastly different cultures in such a diverse city, and could seek to understand their neighbors in work, school, worship and recreation. It is more of a challenge in other parts of the country including where I live. But true multiculturalism seems to be an active way of life and attitude, not just a status quo through proximity.
The dragon boat races were happening just over the bank and the shared passion for this Chinese tradition could be felt with every synchronized stroke as the slender boats sliced through the water. Over ninety teams represented every age, race and culture. And we all belonged.