The Charm City Night Market Pop-Up event at Baltimore Center Stage was incredible! Everyone had a blast and the food and music performances were all amazing. It was great seeing everyone who attended and I am so excited for the next event!
While the last event was about revitalizing the historic Chinatown neighborhood here in Baltimore, the event at Center Stage was about understanding where your parents came from and in doing so, discovering your own origin story. It was also a one-time only storytelling experience. I had the opportunity to tell some of the real-life family stories from Baltimore’s multi-generation Asian American and Pacific Islander community. One that struck me as particularly interesting was when I introduced Meki Toalepai and the Tamure Polynesian Dance Group. Through their dance group, Meki’s parents, Meki and JoAnna, have been teaching Polynesian dance in Baltimore since 1969. His parents were also influential in repealing a discriminatory Maryland law against interracial marriage in 1967. While they didn’t get married in Maryland, their story started the campaign that eventually ended the unfair statute.
The goal for holding the night market at Center Stage was to highlight the cultural ties that bind across generations of immigrant families through food, dance and in the production of Lauren Yee's newest play, King of the Yees. The play follows the journey of one Chinese American family (the Yee family) as they search for their lost patriarch through time, space and other obstacles. It's a funny but poignant take on an Asian family's struggles to hold on to their culture and tradition in an ever-changing world.
One of the themes in the play is the narrative that plays out in so many immigrant families -- the mentality that in order to grow up and succeed here in America is to turn your back on your family's traditions that they've brought with them from their ancestral homelands. It is all tied up in the search for identity, of straddling two worlds at once and of constantly feeling othered.
I really love the way Stephanie Hsu, one of the main organizers of tonight's event described it. She said, "If you want to understand the Asian American experience or understand the struggles of communities of color have adjusting to this world, you need to see this play. It tackles topics like where do our names come from to how we maintain our traditions to the idea that success is sometimes defined by turning our backs on our communities because it's defined by someone else."
Here are some photos from our super talented event photographer, Joe Portugal.