SF’s Richmond District Chinese Community Celebrates Resilience at Moon Festival

On a rare sunny morning in San Francisco’s Richmond neighborhood, hundreds of people filled San Francisco’s Clement Street between 7th and 10th Avenues to celebrate the Fall Moon Festival, a celebration of the action of graces and plentiful food – including, of course, the hugely popular mooncake.

Stalls set up by government agencies, community nonprofits and independent art vendors lined the street as lion dancers weaved their way through the crowds, often stopping to interact with young children fascinated by the bright and colorful costumes. Festival-goers and passersby walked in and out of Clement Street’s many restaurants, bakeries and cafes, often leaving with bags full of dim sum.

While the festival was a celebration of Chinese culture, music and arts, this year it took on a greater significance for the neighborhood’s Asian American and Chinese community — one of celebrating resilience.

“Last year the Asian American community went through so much,” said Assemblyman Phil Ting, who helped launch the Richmond festival six years ago. “This event is a place where Asian American families can hang out and feel safe. There is strength in numbers. »

A group of children react as a lion dance team performs on stage during the Fall Moon Festival in the Richmond neighborhood of San Francisco on Saturday, September 17, 2022.

Stephen Lam/The Chronicle

At the festival’s opening ceremony, many speakers, including City Solicitor David Chiu, Mayor of London Breed, and Chief Constable Bill Scott echoed this message, acknowledging the violence and difficulties the community has gone through over the past year.

“The Autumn Moon isn’t just about giving thanks, it’s about remembering, being reborn, and being renewed,” Chiu said. “With the pandemic, the recession and everything this city has been through, we’re back stronger than ever and we’re going to have a great time.”

Breed added that community groups in Richmond are working hard to keep the community safe, thanking them for what they’re doing and encouraging attendees to let go and have a good time.

“I know this city has its challenges and we have a lot of work to do,” she said. “But it’s a beautiful day in Richmond, so let’s enjoy it.”

Members of Lion Dance Me perform a traditional lion dance during the Fall Moon Festival in the Richmond neighborhood of San Francisco on Saturday, September 17, 2022.

Members of Lion Dance Me perform a traditional lion dance during the Fall Moon Festival in the Richmond neighborhood of San Francisco on Saturday, September 17, 2022.

Stephen Lam/The Chronicle

The Chinese Historical Society of America booth, a kind of pop-up exhibit showcasing the achievements of Chinese American women, seemed to capture that sentiment perfectly with its interactive flair.

On a table in the center of the booth was a small wooden board, broken in half, with the message “No dogs or Chinese allowed” – a nod to Bruce Lee’s film Fist of Fury, in which Lee punches through a sign with the same message.

With markers and simple wooden boards, museum executive director Justin Hoover encouraged those who stopped by to recreate the moment for themselves.

“Write down what oppresses you, what you have to go through in life,” he told attendees as he handed out the boards. “Then you will cross it.”

People clog Clement Street during the Fall Moon Festival in the Richmond neighborhood of San Francisco on Saturday, September 17, 2022.

People clog Clement Street during the Fall Moon Festival in the Richmond neighborhood of San Francisco on Saturday, September 17, 2022.

Stephen Lam/The Chronicle

And they did. As a museum volunteer held the board outstretched, people drilled through the things they hoped to overcome, covering the floor with shattered messages like misogyny, racism, homophobia and Asian hatred.

Supervisor Connie Chan, whose district includes the Richmond and who helped organize the event, said the museum booth was one of her favorites.

“It’s such a big symbol of empowerment for this community,” she said between conversations with constituents, often in Cantonese. The word she pierced? Corruption.

With Chan was Police Chief Scott, who also stopped to break a plank – choosing “community violence” as the obstacle to break.

University of San Francisco students Akio Goto and Uyen Pham, along with several other friends, were attending the festival when they stumbled across the booth and decided to smash their own oppressors. Pham wrote “Asian female stereotypes”.

(L-R) San Francisco Fire Chief Jeanine Nicholson, Mayor London Breed, Police Chief William Scott, District 1 Supervisor Connie Chan, California State Assemblyman Phil Ting, L Assessor-Recorder Joaquín Torres and City Attorney David Chiu pose with a giant mooncake during the Fall Moon Festival in the Richmond neighborhood of San Francisco on Saturday, September 17, 2022.

(L-R) San Francisco Fire Chief Jeanine Nicholson, Mayor London Breed, Police Chief William Scott, District 1 Supervisor Connie Chan, California State Assemblyman Phil Ting, L Assessor-Recorder Joaquín Torres and City Attorney David Chiu pose with a giant mooncake during the Fall Moon Festival in the Richmond neighborhood of San Francisco on Saturday, September 17, 2022.

Stephen Lam/The Chronicle

“In Asian households, girls are expected to be quiet, submissive, correct and feminine,” she said. “But I want to break that stereotype, because not everyone can be that. You have to say what you think.

For the director of the Hoover Museum, the activity was another extension of his goal with the organization – to change the narrative for the Chinese community from a victim’s story to a success story.

“It’s about fighting the oppressor,” he said. “For so many years the Chinese were workers, they built the railroads, they did all these things, but they weren’t recognized. Now we take that back and celebrate all the great things we’ve accomplished over the years.

Danielle Echeverria is a staff writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected]: @DanielleEchev

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