“The Greatest Show on Earth”

By Rev. Norman Fong

February 20, 2018

As a little boy growing up in San Francisco’s Chinatown, I really didn’t appreciate the history of Chinese Tradition, Culture and it’s rich history in the world. In fact, I was totally confused. I’d go to Jean Parker Elementary School in Chinatown where I was told to “Speak English Only”. Then afterwards, went to Chinese school at Cumberland Presbyterian Church (on Jackson near Powell) to speak Chinese (Cantonese only). In the 1950’s & early ‘60’s, we were all taught to be a part of a “Melting Pot” where the English language was the only American Language and to forget about your roots & Chinese Culture. In the late ‘60’s, after the “Civil Rights Act”, many communities fought back to create “Ethnic Studies” and pushed a “Pride” in one’s own culture. I remember at Galileo High School signing up students to support the first Chinese New Year Holiday. We’ve come a long way! Since then, I learned to appreciate our culture & even the annual Chinese New Year parade and how important it is not only for San Francisco Chinatown, but the world!

For Chinatown, the Chinese New Year Parade is the “Greatest Show on Earth” displaying the best to the world of what our San Francisco Chinatown & our Chinese Heritage represents. This year, our “Grand Marshall” is the renown “Michelle Yeoh” who is known globally as a movie super star! She hit international fame in being in movies such as the James Bond Film: “Tomorrow Never Dies” & “Crouching Tiger”.

Michelle Yeoh was born in Ipoh Malaysia to an ethnic Chinese Family of mixed Cantonese & Hokkien descent. At the age of 15 she moved with her parents to the United Kingdom! In 1983, she won the Miss Malaysia beauty pageant & was featured by People magazine (1997) as one of the 50 most “Beautiful People in the World”. She has been honored as one of the Best Actresses and greatest action heroine in 2000. In 2016, Yeoh was cast in the TV show Star Trek: Discovery. Michelle shines brightly in the world and we are all so happy that she will be the Grand Marshall in our San Francisco Chinese New Year parade!

chinese new year parade
San Francisco's Chinese New Year Parade & Street Fair is February 24, 2018

In the Chinese New Year Parade & Street Fair, the world is watching us in San Francisco as the oldest Chinese Community in America, but also, as a Chinese American Community that knows how to put together a display of our unity, our appreciation of culture and values & traditions that make us who we are. The parade and other Chinese Festivals in America began as a “We are Proud of our Chinese Heritage” even facing racism & exclusion in America… but today, it’s that and much more. It really pulls our whole community together with our supporters to put on a show of what it means to celebrate “diversity” in America & in the world. It’s empowering for our kids, youth, schools, martial arts & community organizations, but it’s also about appreciating our thousands of years of history in this world.

michelle yeoh
Michelle Yeoh in "Crouching Tiger" movie

michelle yeoh
Michelle Yeoh will be the Grand Marshall in San Francisco's Chinese New Year Parade

Be proud of your culture and heritage. Celebrate our impact in the world with such super stars as Michelle Yeoh. But more importantly, learn from and appreciate the great history of our culture & celebrate all the rich traditions of the world.

Originally published in Sing Tao Daily on February 18, 2018

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