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Lunar New Year For All Expands Their Activism

Images courtesy of Lunar New Year For All archives.


HOST, TOMMASO BARONIO: The Lunar New Year Parade is coming up on Sunday: celebrating the Chinese Year of the Dragon. Marching in the parade on Sunday, Lunar New For All is a group that advocates for the acceptance of LGBTQ+ Asian-Americans in Lunar New Year celebrations. But this year, the scope of the group’s activism has expanded to take on broader causes beyond just empowering queer Asians. Karen Lee is a co-founder of the group. I asked her about the advocacy her organization is doing this year.

KAREN LEE: this year there is a lot going on in the world and as well as in New York City. as you have noticed in our Instagram, we have really been allies with folks who are, fighting for the rights of folks in Palestine. And then as well as in New York City, there has been a movement going against the mega jail that's coming up Around nearby Chinatown.

SAMUEL ELI SHEPHERD: Can you tell me about the megajail?

LEE: I don't know very much about that. Within the boundaries of Chinatown. I believe it was the Manhattan detention center. They are demolishing that to build a much bigger jail. A lot of people have called it a mega jail. And what a lot of communities are fighting for is why can't we put more assets into Chinatown, such as affordable housing or senior centers, youth programs, instead of building a much, much, much larger prison within Chinatown.

SHEPHERD: How has Lunar New Year for All gotten involved in that movement?

LEE: So I think that a lot of folks because of our deep roots within Chinatown and folks who share the same values as us. that's how we've been, aligned with them and we've been supporting each other.

SHEPHERD: Regarding advocacy for civilians in Palestine, is this something that Lunar New Year for All has always been involved in, or is this something that's new with all the escalations that have occurred since October 7th?

LEE: as early as 2011. There were Palestine, activists coming to New York City to garner more support for LGBTQ Palestinians. What is new about this year is that the great organizers better Chinatown has put in a stipulation in their application about this parade is a nonpolitical, it's a nonreligious parade. unfortunately, because of these requirements of the parade organizers, organizations within New York City, Asians who are fighting for the rights of Palestinians, are not able to march directly with us . And so we really believe and we really support a lot of these causes internationally within New York City, uh, in the world. but unfortunately, sometimes we are limited to what we can show. But we are showing support in other ways, as you have seen on our Instagram, we are inviting them to our other events that are open to the community. Because what you see, what you're going to see in our parade on Sunday isn't really the full story.

SHEPHERD: Another thing that crossed my mind was in 2023. There was a record number of anti LGBTQ legislation introduced in the United States, particularly targeting trans youth and school curriculums across the United States. Has the Lunar New Year for All group responded to this wave of legislation, at all?

LEE: a part of the reason why we exist today is we want to create this space for queer, trans, gender nonconforming people to know that they're safe, that they do belong somewhere, We are a part of a movement to increase visibility, to increase inclusion of us. So I think that to all the trans folks that all these laws and regulations are going against them, I want them to see that there are proud communities that support them and they, they, they do belong. And I think it's through these things that we can show the greater world that we are here. We are very proud of who we are and we are a great asset to the community.

SHEPHERD: Thank you so much, Karen.

KAREN LEE: Thank you, Sam.


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