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Pols host vigil to remember AAPI hate crime victims

Last year, eight victims, including six Asian women, were killed when suspected gunman Robert Aaron Long opened fire in a shooting spree targeting three spas in the Atlanta area.

One year later, elected officials in Queens held a candlelight vigil in their memory. The event was co-sponsored by New York City Councilwoman Sandra Ung, Councilwoman Linda Lee, Councilwoman Julie Won and Queens Borough President Donovan Richards.

Participants held up candles, white flowers and photos of the victims—Xiaojie Tan, 49, Daoyou Feng, 44, Hyun Jung Grant, 51, Suncha Kim, 69, Soon Chung Park, 74, Yong Ae Yue, 63, Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33 and Paul Andre Michels, 54—as speakers addressed the ever-present violence against Asian individuals in New York City.

“He deliberately sought out these businesses because they were owned by Asian women. Make no mistake, this was a hate crime,” Ung said.

“Just this week, an elderly woman was punched 125 times simply because she was Asian,” Ung continued. “Every week, we hear of new accounts of Asian women being attacked, including the recent deaths of Christina Yuna Lee, Michelle Go, and GuiYing Ma.”

Ung expressed how she fears for her safety as an Asian woman walking in the streets of New York City and taking public transportation. She also said AAPI children must be given a sense of dignity and seniors a sense of security.

“No one should fear for their life simply because of the color of their skin, their religion or who they love,” she said.“So many New Yorkers face intolerance and bigotry, and because of that, we won’t stop fighting to make New York a welcoming place for everyone.”

Lee, who became the first Korean-American elected to the New York City Council, said that a multi-prong approach with more culturally competent services is necessary to combat Asian hate.

“We need to make sure that there is teaching of acceptance in schools, and that Asian Americans are not seen as outsiders or others. We also need to continue to work with our public safety police officers and community liaisons so we can advocate and work together,” Lee said. “We need to make sure that we are actually increasing services and resources into the city as well, so people who are homeless have places to go, that the mentally ill are getting services that they need, and that our community groups have enough funding to be able to hire staff that speak in-language.”

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards addressd the crowd, saying: “an attack on us is an attack on all of us.”

During the vigil, Lee also shared that she was disappointed that a self defense instructor she recently met has a lengthly waiting list for classes geared specifically towards Asian seniors.

“They’re targeting women and seniors because we are more vulnerable,” she said. “We need to do as much upstander and bystander training as possible, and look out for each other and be there as a community because it takes all of us.”

Councilman Shekar Krishnan also spoke at the event, emphasizing that violence and discrimination against the AAPI community is not a new phenomenon.

“Hate against Asian American communities goes back generations where we have been invisibilized as communities—where we aren’t seen, we aren’t heard and many of the stereotypes and prejudices about our communities must be shattered,” Krishnan said.

“This invisibilization has meant that the fears and genuine safety concerns of so many seniors and Asian American women have not been recognized for so long,” he added. “To come out and to solve and eradicate this hate, the one thing that’s required first is to listen to the voices of our Asian American communities.”

NYC Councilwoman Linda Lee holds up an image of one of the victims of the Atlanta spa shootings.

Other elected officials who showed their support at the vigil, include NYC Comptroller Brad Lander, State Senator John Liu and Assemblywoman Nily Rozic.

“There have been nearly 11,000 anti-Asian hate crimes across the country in the year since those beautiful souls in Atlanta were lost,” Lander said. “We cannot tolerate that in our city and we must find ways to work together to make it safe. Asian New Yorkers, all New Yorkers, deserve to be able to walk around their city without feeling like they might be targeted for violence just because of who they are.”

Many of the evening’s speakers cited the statement made by BP Richards in regard to Queens. He said, “an attack on us is an attack on all of us,” symbolizing the diversity and sense of unity that is present in the borough.

“How many times must we stand here? We’ve been here too many times,” Richards said. “Almost every single day, we hear news of another Asian American being accosted or attacked, targeted for who they are and what they look like. Asian Americans right here in New York, of all places, have felt the sting of racism and violence.”

“I wish these were isolated events, but they are not. Crimes against Asian Americans have skyrocketed nationwide by nearly 350 percent. We must continue to stand in solidarity with them against this pandemic of prejudice,” Richards said. “Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson don’t have a vaccine for this virus… All of us standing here today are the cure.”

Flushing Town Hall to host first indoor exhibition in 18 months

On October 15, Flushing Town Hall will open its first indoor exhibition since its gallery closed for pandemic precautions in March 2020.
The group show, “Communicating Beyond Words,” will run through October 31 and features 12 artists from diverse cultural backgrounds who use letter forms as their visual elements. More than 30 artworks will be on display, including illustration, street art, calligraphy, tattoo art, and paintings.
An opening reception will be held on Friday, October 15 from 6 to 8 pm where visitors can meet the artists. Flushing Town Hall is asking for a $5 suggested donation, and the exhibition is free for members and students.
“We went through a lot, emotionally and physically, last year and were all affected by the pandemic directly or indirectly,” said artist and exhibition curator Stephanie S. Lee. “Comfort, resiliency, and healing are needed the most in times like this. There are many ways to cope with hard times, and often, one artwork is all we need beyond thousands of words.
Participating artists include Chavelli Tsui, a designer and lettering artist who specializes in letter-driven work that is elegant and eloquent; spirited, yet sumptuous, Minyoung Sim, a tattoo artist living and working in South Korea with more than 100,000 followers on Instagram, and Wendy Fung, a calligrapher, lettering artist and graphic designer based in Brooklyn.
In line with the theme of letter art, Stephanie S. Lee is hosting an in-person Turn Your Name into Art Workshop on October 23 at 2 p.m. Lee will provide a customized drawing with the participant’s name in Korean (Hangeul), in the style of Munjado (a genre of Korean Folk Art). During the 90-minute hands-on workshop, participants will then color in the drawing to finish the artwork.
Those interested in attending are asked to register by October 13 to have the drawing of their name converted in Korean. Participants will receive their name design in advance and need to print it out at home and bring it to the workshop, where they will be provided watercolors and brushes to finish their artwork.
This workshop is suitable for ages 12 & up and limited to up to 20 participants. The cost is $10/$5 for members.

Chamber promotes online services for small biz

The Queens Chamber of Commerce partnered with Councilman Peter Koo for a walkabout, visiting a number of businesses in Flushing and informing them of resources available through the organization.
Among the resources discussed was the Queens Chamber’s new “Open+Online” program, which helps businesses build a new website and assists in SEO (search engine optimization) free of charge.
“The pandemic changed shopping patterns for small business in many ways,” said Koo. “There was a major shift toward online shopping, so we want to make sure our businesses know about the chamber’s capacity to help build websites for our community free of charge. Customers are coming back, and we want to make sure our businesses have every available resource at their disposal so they too can come back and thrive in this post-pandemic economy.”
Beginning at Bland Playground on the corner of Prince Street and 40th Road, the tour made its way up 40th Road to Flushing’s bustling Main Street and Roosevelt Avenue.
“Small businesses are the lifeblood of neighborhoods like Flushing, but they’ve had an incredibly challenging year-and-a-half due to the pandemic,” said Thomas Grech, president and CEO of the Queens Chamber of Commerce. “Our Open+Online program can help businesses get back on their feet and thrive in the post-pandemic economy.”
“Online presence is important for small businesses to thrive,” added Dian Song Yu, executive director of Flushing BID. “Especially during this pandemic era, a website can serve as a key communication channel between merchants and consumers, allowing businesses to operate more efficiently and broaden their customer base.”

Monthly Jazz Jam returns with in-person audiences

The Louis Armstrong Legacy Monthly Jazz Jam will return to Flushing Town Hall for in-person events after being virtual for 17 months. The first jam will take place on September 8 at 7 p.m. and will kick off a lineup of fall programs.
“Let me say how utterly thrilled we are to see everyone return for a live, in-person jam,” said Gabrielle Hamilton, town hall’s director of Education & Public Programs,. “Over the last 17 months as musicians joined us online, we heard some amazing jazz from across the globe, including six of the seven continents, but now it is time to jam again in person.”
For those unable to attend in person, virtual audiences can watch a livestream for free on Flushing Town Hall’s Facebook page.
“I want to thank everyone who went on this virtual, musical journey with us this past year and a half,” said Carol Sudhalter, the band leader for the monthly jam. “The pandemic keeps testing the resolve of the arts community, but we have proven ourselves resilient and inventive.”
Additional concerts this fall include another performance in The Lioness Women in Jazz series featuring baritone saxophonist Lauren Sevian, followed by concerts with Dayramir González & Habana enTRANCé Cuban Jazz, then Yui Kitamura & The Mark Wade Trio.
Flushing Town Hall will also present the first art exhibition, “Communicating Beyond Words,” ins its gallery since the pandemic first closed its facility in March of 2020.
Flushing Town Hall will require all visitors, performers, and staff to show proof of vaccination, and masks must be worn at all times. For more information visit flushingtownhall.org.

Queens Night Market is thriving post-pandemic

Since its opening in 2015, Queens Night Market has built a reputation for its large crowds, diverse vendors, and delicious cheap bites. Although the pandemic forced the food festival to limit capacity and enforce restrictions, it has now returned to full capacity and shows no signs of slowing down.
Queens Night Market founder John Wang and his partner, oral historian and author of the book The World Eats Here: Amazing Food and the Inspiring People Who Make It at New York’s Queens Night Market, Storm Garner, discussed the festival’s origins, success, and cultural importance.
“The really short story is that I was a lawyer, got tired of it, paid off the student loans, and wanted to try something new,” Wang explained. “There were a lot of ideas, but one that seemed really cool was to start New York’s first night market, modeled off the ones I experienced in Taiwan but also something that was uniquely New York.
“We also wanted something uniquely un-New York: being affordable,” he added. “That was the genesis of the $5 price cap.”
Although the food at Queens Night Market is inexpensive, it does a remarkable job of representing the many diverse communities living within the borough.
“The truth is that Manhattan, Brooklyn, Staten Island, and the Bronx are all diverse, but Queens just happens to be the most diverse,” Wang said. “I think the year we launched was the year that Queens was named the ‘World’s Borough.’ It is, by some accounts, the most diverse place in the world.”
“I think it really is something unique,” Garner chimed in. “It felt a bit like an endangered species during the Trump era and certainly during the pandemic, but now it feels like it’s coming back.
“I challenge anyone to think of a place in all of New York, diverse as it is, where you can stand in the same place and within 50 feet of you in any direction talk to somebody whose life story is so different from your own and the person next to them,” she added. “The seven train is often just as diverse, but less happy.”
Located in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, the site of the famous 1939 and 1964 World’s Fairs, the Queens Night Market features over 100 vendors whose artwork, merchandise, and food celebrates the cultural diversity of Queens.
Yet like all of New York City’s institutions, the market was fundamentally challenged by the pandemic. Although many vendors are returning this year alongside the festival, others were not able to support themselves without a year’s worth of revenue.
“One of my favorite vendors, someone who I thought was really nice, lost her ability to be a vendor at the Night Market,” Wang explained. “ They lost their apartment because they couldn’t pay rent and had to move in with extended family out of town. We’ve been trying hard to get them back to New York.”
Despite these hardships, Queens Night Market continues to be a source of great joy for both Wang and Garner.
“There’s usually five or 10 or 15 minutes, usually when I have a beer or wine in my hand, that I can sit back and enjoy what has happened,” Wang said. “You stare around at all the smiling faces and it looks like all of New York City is in attendance.”
“If you come to the Night Market, especially in the last few weeks since the pandemic reopening, I have to say it’s just the most magical feeling,” Garner said. “It’s just so much joy. There are so many uncynical New Yorkers, who I’m sure they’re cynical in most of their lives, but for a few hours on a Saturday night everyone’s nice to each other.”
Queens Night Market is held at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park near the New York Hall of Science every Saturday night from 6 p.m. until Midnight. The market’s summer season lasts until August 21 and is followed by a fall season lasting from September 18 until October 30.

For more information, visit queensnightmarket.com.

‘Art in the Parks’ grant winners announced

Local artists Sherwin Banfield and Haksul Lee each receive $5,000 grants to create temporary art installations in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.
“In addition to supporting Queens-based artists, we look forward to activating the park with new artworks as we emerge from the pandemic,” said Elizabeth Masella of the Parks Department. “Both artists’ work highlights eco-friendly technology like solar and wind power, while honoring the park’s past, present, and future.”
The “Going Back to The Meadows: A Tribute to Queens Hip Hop Legend LL Cool J” and “Performance at FMCP” by Banfield will be located at David Dinkins Circle near the boardwalk ramp entrance to the park from the 7 train at Willets Point.
Banfield describes it as “a sculptural sonic performance artwork that evokes the feeling of Flushing Meadows Corona Park as an event space, channeled through the sonic frequency and artistry of Queens hip-hop legend LL Cool J.”
Banfield’s recent exhibitions include sculptures for the Queens Central Library, Marine Air Terminal at LaGuardia Airport, Socrates Sculpture Park, and the Factory LIC Gallery.
“The Giving Tree” by Lee will be located on the lawn bounded by Herbert Hoover Promenade, United Nations Avenue North, and Avenue of the Americas.
Lee describes it as taking the form of a tree, “to bring awareness of the environmental concerns in the Queens community.”
The main structure will be made of recycled materials collected locally. The top of the sculpture will function as a wind turbine to power a charging station in the tree’s trunk.
Lee’s work was recently exhibited in The Immigrant Artists Biennial, at the Korean Embassy in Beijing, and the Phyllis Harriman Gallery.
“The grant is intended to help transform these selected sites into art destinations through a series of rotating exhibitions with supporting events and programs,” said Alliance for FMCP executive director Janice Melnick.

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