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Thursday, May 14, 2009

AsianWeek: "Welcome to Little Saigon and the 5th Annual Asian Heritage Street Celebration"

Written by Angela Pang

The largest gathering of Asian Pacific Americans in the nation is back and bigger than ever, featuring Asian American artists, DJs, martial arts, j-cars, a Muay Thai kickboxing ring, diverse food, a karaoke contest, arts and crafts, anime, free hepatitis B screenings and more! New features this year include an Asian Heritage Street Celebration Best Dance Crew Contest and carnival rides and games for children.

The 5th annual Asian Heritage Street Celebration will be held Saturday, May 16, 2009, in San Francisco’s Civic Center in front of the Asian Art Museum, leading up to the Little Saigon District. Presented by California Pacific Medical Center and Subaru, the fair will take place from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

A celebration of all Asian and Pacific Islander cultures, the goal of the Street Celebration is to promote and foster Asian Pacific American identity by bringing together community and encouraging the sharing of differences and appreciation of diversity. In five years, the AHSC has quickly become the country’s largest assemblage of APAs, drawing over 80,000 people annually.

The AHSC returns all proceeds to various Asian communities, including newer and underserved communities like the Cambodians and Samoans, as well as more established populations. The AHSC has donated more than $50,000 to over 40 Bay Area community groups and charities, who are selected for their role in assembling diverse elements within the Asian Pacific American community. Fundraising for San Francisco public schools is another mission of the Celebration, which has created a raffle program with the goal of teaching children about community philanthropy at an early age. The AHSC provides prizes and administrative support for students and school groups to sell raffle tickets, and all proceeds are returned to participating schools.

The AHSC is the only outdoor event in the Bay Area to rotate its location each year, in order to showcase that APIs reside in all San Francisco neighborhoods. The first celebration highlighted the Japanese community in Japantown, the second showcased the Chinese on Irving Street in the Sunset District, the third year paid homage to the large Filipino community in the South of Market area, and last year returned to Japantown. This year, the fair celebrates the Vietnamese American community in Little Saigon.

“We are very excited to see the Asian Heritage Street Celebration to come to the Little Saigon Cultural & Commercial District, ” says Philip Nguyen of the Southeast Asian Community Center. ” We welcome this fair heartily, which will help promote not only Little Saigon, but also the whole Southeast Asian community of the Tenderloin, and of the city of San Francisco.”

Lan Le. of the Vietnamese Community Center of San Francisco, says he hopes the fair will raise awareness of the Vietnamese community and help kick-start the area’s many Vietnamese businesses. Le said he hopes the neighborhood will transform into a tourist attraction like Chinatown and Japantown, that visitors “must see” in The City.

San Francisco is home to the second Little Saigon in the United States, a name officially given only four years ago to the two blocks of Larkin Street between Eddy and O’Farrell. Approximately 2,000 of the city’s 13,000 Vietnamese Americans live in the Little Saigon/Tenderloin, with many arriving as refugees after the end of the Vietnam War in 1975. Vietnamese Americans have since made a home, creating schools, service centers and at least 250 businesses in the area.

To pay homage to the Vietnamese community, the San Francisco Little Saigon Gate- two eight-ton granite and marble pillars, a symbol of peace, happiness and safety for the Vietnamese that have settled here, were erected last July. They now stand at the intersection of Larkin and Eddy streets.

“It is a testament to the vision and dedication of the Vietnamese community in San Francisco that our Little Saigon is the setting of this year’s Asian Heritage Street Celebration, ” said city college board member Steve Ngo, the city’s first Vietnamese American elected official. ” What a wonderful occasion!”

Original article at www.asianweek.com

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