Twin Cities Lunar New Year events push on after California mass shooting

The lobby during the Minnesota Orchestra's 2022 Lunar New Year concert
Guests enjoy activities in the lobby during the Minnesota Orchestra's 2022 Lunar New Year concert.
Courtesy Courtney Perry

Updated: 9:59 a.m.

As fears of anti-Asian violence rise after 11 people were killed in a mass shooting at a Lunar New Year event in Monterey Park, Calif., local holiday celebrations in Minnesota are still pushing forward — albeit with more conversations on public safety.

The tragedy near Los Angeles is a reminder to Asian Minnesotans “of the very real security risks associated with public events like these, especially when representing a minority community,” said Melody Zhou, executive director of the Chinese Community Center in Minnesota.

“We express our deepest sympathy to those who lost friends and family in the shooting this weekend. As an organization that has hosted Lunar New Year celebrations for over a decade, we cannot imagine the shock and pain that the community of Monterey Park must be feeling,” said Zhou in an emailed statement.

The center’s week-long festival last week was likely the largest Lunar New Year celebration in the Twin Cities area, drawing approximately 20,000 Minnesotans to Asia Mall in Eden Prairie.

Lunar New Year at Asia Mall
Kids learn about Lion "Eye Dotting" Ceremony, a ritual to empower the lion to fulfill its duty of bringing about protection, good luck, health, and prosperity, at a weeklong event held at Asia Mall in Eden Prairie on Jan. 17, 2023.
Courtesy of the Chinese Community Center

Zhou, also principal of the Minnesota International Chinese School, said the nonprofit will be “taking a closer look at security and what we can do to enhance safety at all of our events” in light of the shootings. Like other organizations that rely on community volunteers to run cultural and social events for Asian Minnesotans, Zhou said they have a small budget that makes it challenging to hire additional security.

Plans for upcoming Twin Cities concerts honoring the Lunar New Year will remain unchanged. The Minnesota Orchestra in Minneapolis and Theater Mu in St. Paul, the second largest Asian American theater organization in the country, are proceeding with their scheduled performances from local musicians and artists on Saturday evening.

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Around 2,000 are expected to attend the Minnesota Orchestra’s Lunar New Year concert, said spokesperson Gwen Pappas.

“We join the Monterey Park community and the world in mourning this tragedy that marred the joy, unity and traditions that are celebrated by many Asian cultures on this holiday, which marks the arrival of spring and the togetherness of family. In our concert this Saturday we will strive to embrace the joy of Lunar New Year traditions while also recognizing the loss and tragedy of this past weekend’s shooting,” wrote the Minnesota Orchestra in a statement.

About 100 tickets have already been sold for Theater Mu’s Lunar New Year Cabaret at North Garden Theater, a fundraiser for their group of Asian American artists. Staff hope to spread their mission of amplifying Asian American stories through the cabaret night, said Lianna McLernon, marketing and communications director of Theatre Mu. Security measures have not changed.

Although Minnesota has not seen anti-Asian violence like the stabbings in California and New York during the COVID-19 pandemic, there are still fears of anti-Asian hate among Asian communities here.

Anti-Asian bias has risen across the country since the COVID-19 pandemic began: From March 2020 to March 2022, a total of 11,500 racist incidents have been reported to Stop AAPI Hate, a nonprofit that tracks hate and discrimination against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders across the U.S.

“The fears and concerns that community members have had, they’re not less than because someone didn’t end up in the hospital,” said Sia Her, executive director of the Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans. “We are this vibrant and rich tapestry and we contribute to this country. We’re not a community of victims.”

Correction (Jan. 25, 2022): This story has been updated to correct the location of Asia Mall.