Monterey Park, California, USA, is the heart of the Chinese/Taiwanese/Cantonese American diaspora in Southern California. I know it because my parents know it. Because they have friends there, or friends of friends there, because first generation immigrants either settled or found community there. As The Washington Post put it:
“Here between the snow-capped San Gabriel Mountains and downtown Los Angeles is a place that decades ago made history, becoming the nation’s first Asian-majority city after years of determined emigration from Taiwan, Hong Kong and mainland China.
Now its history includes a grimmer development, one it shares with an increasing collection of American cities and suburbs.”
On Sunday we were planning to go there — my younger daughters were performing in their Mandarin language choir, as part of day two of the biggest Lunar New Year festival in the area. It was the first time Monterey Park was putting on the festival in three years, given all the COVID-related closures.
That “Monterey Park” and “massacre” are now in the same sentence, and that 20 people were shot at a ballroom dance studio where boomers were enjoying movement and community on Lunar New Year’s Eve, is absolutely gutting. It was the 33rd mass shooting in America in 2023.
The LA Times covered how we talked to our kids about it and snatched a little meaning and togetherness in a time of sorrow, as the moms who also had kids performing decided to come together and grieve together on Sunday with a play date and lunch at the park. It felt bonding, having to hold this difficult tragedy and our fears and grief about it, alongside the more mundane daily rituals of care. Today I appeared on a panel for MSNBC about what happened, with a gun control activist mom who discussed what to do now.
My youngest daughter, the five-year-old Luna, was the most sanguine about the cancelation of the festival, reminding the rest of us, “Don’t worry, there are LOTS of Lunar New Year performances, we’ll perform again!”