Wonhee Kang will write an occasional column for the Connection.
Chairperson of Taste of Asia
Chairperson of Next-generation Entrepreneurship and Leadership Development Committee (NELDC)
Sr. Director of Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington, Fairfax County Region
Director of Worship-arts, Culmore United Methodist Church
Two years ago, the Taste of Asia event was created through a partnership with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington and the Asian American Chamber of Commerce to celebrate Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. This year’s event, Saturday, May 10, enjoyed a new location thanks to a new partnership with Everest College, Tysons Corner.
A wet weather forecast for the day had some committee members anxious about how the event would operate in both the indoor and outdoor locations needed for the event. Throughout a morning full of setting up; including transforming the normal every-day college classrooms into Asian celebratory places full of dragon decorations, colors, and shapes from a far eastern part of the world and collecting food from eight different restaurants located in Fairfax County, which truly brought the taste of Asia to the college location, the committee asked mother nature to keep the rain drops away.
We celebrated the event with an impromptu ‘Day Light Dance’ initiated by Robert Lee, the event’s Master of Ceremony, which was joined by everyone from the youngest dancers to the oldest, praying for the rain to stay in the sky. After the greetings, Sanjana Srikanth presented an Indian dance followed by an impressive presentation from a group from Taekwondo. The audience was mesmerized by these works of art from people of Asia.
The original Taste of Asia event was created to share the culture of the Asian countries and this year’s event shared the Asian food, performances, cultural arts and friendships with 200 people of varying backgrounds including many young people.
Along with the “taste” of Asia, which included food from eight restaurants and Coca-Cola’s Sponsorship, attendees had access to hands-on activities. With leadership from Ms. Lindsay Holt, arts and crafts tables were set up for origami (Japan), Cultural Masks (China), Weaving (Philippines), and Mandala (India/Tibet/South Asia). There was a table set up for Name Calligraphy where attendees’ names could be written in Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Hindi, Thai and Tagalog. While these activities were happening, I could hear a lot of dialogue about the meaning of names and background, helping the attendees make meaningful connections to each other.
All participants had a passport to get their stamps to be sure they were not missing out any valuable experiences from the event. I trust all participants from this event tasted Asia in many ways and I am grateful for that. I thank 30 -plus volunteers that we had for the event and special thanks to our event committee members who helped build many positive bridges among people in this diverse county.
When I witnessed some kids from Ghana, trying on Korean, Chinese and Thai dresses and having a photo-op, I saw a glimpse of ‘Promised Land,” that once Martin Luther King noted. When I witnessed Chinese women helping Hispanic young people wearing their Chinese costumes, there was heartfelt welcoming and receiving of friendship built. It was pleasure of seeing acceptance of each other and they are moving forward to learn about each other and they are reaching out and sharing their stories. Their hearts were wide opened to embrace each other for those moments. There was joy and happiness all around.
I saw what Dr. Martin Luther King dreamed: ”that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”
I am committed to seed the dream that Dr. King once talked about by offering a column that would continue to offer a place for a “Taste of Asia” and I am very excited about this calling.
As E.M. Forster noted, that this column will bring humanism to our living. “The four characteristics of humanism are curiosity, a free mind, belief in good taste, and belief in the human race.”