Story and video by Diti Kohli
More than 200 attendees from the greater Boston area enjoyed a ten-course dinner and celebrated the Chinese Culture Connection’s success at the organization’s 14th annual gala on April 6. The non-profit hosted the event at the Hei La Moon restaurant in Boston’s Chinatown to raise funds for future programs and honor those who made an impact that aligned with the organization’s mission of “cross-cultural understanding.”
Performers in traditional garb showcased Chinese dances, karate, and tai chi, a martial art that doubles as a method of meditation, as entertainment through the night.
Organizers priced one spot at each of the eight-person tables at $100 dollars––profits went directly into the CCC’s fundraising trove.
Executive director Mei Hung thanked the city of Malden for aiding the organization’s efforts while reminding guests that their financial help is welcomed and needed. “Without the city’s official support, it would be very hard to do the work,” Hung said. “But this is still a fundraising event.”
Guests also bid on traditional artwork and other products from sponsors at the silent auction. Some bidders even fought for big-ticket items, including Red Sox tickets and a vacation package to Turkey, at the live auction near the event’s end.
The CCC runs an after-school program for elementary-age children, a youth leadership program, and weekend classes on an array of academic subjects, including Mandarin, throughout the year. It also hosts workshops and programs, like one titled “East Meets West” that promote intercultural dialogue and understanding in the Asian community.
At the gala, Hung and her team awarded Ose Schwab, founder of Malden Creates, the honor for excellence in Arts and Culture. Malden Creates facilitates arts and culture growth in the city through event planning and consulting. In March, the organization played a hand in the Arts and Culture summit that united arts-oriented residents and businesses.
In her speech, Schwab said the arts should not be depriotized in the city’s budget; her remarks appeared to be directed at Malden government officials like the mayor and city councilors who attended the gala.
“We all love art because we share in humanity, and we share in the longing for meaning, the longing for connection and love,” said Schwab. “So why is it that the arts are last to be added to the budget, first to be dropped, and considered a luxury?”
Eugene Welch later smilingly accepted the honor for lifelong community service, highlighted by his role as chief executive officer for the South Grove Community Health Center. After the Malden branch’s opening in June 2018, the center serves 32,000 of the city’s residents with a focus on underserved Asian-American citizens.
“In the first six months [in Malden], we saw 10,000 visits. We’re there for all people of Malden, especially for the Asian community,” said Welch. “It has been a great journey.”
Paul Watanabe, a professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston and the night’s final honoree for excellence in diversity and inclusion, was recognized for his academic work that analyzes issues of social, economic, and political injustice that pervade the Asian community.
Since relocating from Reading to Malden in 1999, the CCC utilizes Malden’s already diverse community to connect residents of all cultures to Chinese culture and programming.
Malden harbors the third largest Asian-American population in Massachusetts; 13.1 percent of residents identify as native Chinese speakers, and the percentage of Malden residents who speak any non-English language exceeds the national average.
In his acceptance speech, Watanabe said Malden emulates an ideal diverse community, making it the perfect base for the CCC.
“Malden is really a model of diversity and welcoming,” said Watanabe. “We want to build bridges, and more communities should be like Malden.”
Video below edited by Diti Kohli