Opening Remarks for May 1, 2005 - Official Opening of Edmonton's AHM 2005


EACH MAY, we celebrate Asian Heritage Month to showcase the accomplishments of the Asian Pacific community in North America, to promote new forms of artistic and cultural expression.

Our festival finds its roots in the United States, its branches now spread across Canada. Our Asian American cousins first planted the seeds in 1977, and since then, we have witnessed it blossom in our own backyard, when it was founded, here, in 1998.

Since its inception, Edmonton's Asian Heritage Month has continued to lead the way:

Our festival was the first to be officially proclaimed by a civic government and a special friend of ours, former Mayor, Bill Smith.

Our festival was, also, the first to be designated an official date by a provincial government.

Three years later, the Senate declared May as Asian Heritage Month in Canada.

This year, we celebrate our 8th Annual Opening, along with our Province's Centennial, with "the greatest indoor show on earth" - West Edmonton Mall. And, what a good thing, since the greatest outdoor show on earth - Edmonton - has been a bit cold, to date; never mind, our surprise snowfalls in May.

Distinction & Purpose

It has been said that Asian Heritage Month is an active movement, not a passive festival. We hope this will always remain the case.

If the intent of the founders of our festival was to bring Asian North Americans out of the margins and into the mainstream through the arts and culture, then may we humbly say, we have partially succeeded.

If our efforts have been to raise the profile of Asian Canadian artists, then we need simply mention the names of those who have graced our festival in the past, whether they are award-winning artists, such as Marty Chan or Hiromi Goto, Larrisa Lai or Evelyn Lau, Kerri Sakamoto or Sally Ito.

It was not that long ago we were told our stories were not of interest, that there was not have enough talent, or, even, that our accomplishments were not marketable in the "mainstream." We have indeed come a long way in a very short period of time.

Yet, while the Asian Canadian community is today the largest visible minority, our numbers are still under-represented in the arts, industry, and, media.

And, in the Century that is our City-how exciting, for example, would it be to elect the first Asian Canadian councillor, ever?

With that thought, I can offer five, simple words - "Wei Wong for [Edmonton's] City Council" - in 2010. And, five more, for the distinguished Councillor who joins us at our Official Opening, this year: "Kim Krushell for Prime Minister."

The Challenges Ahead

The work of Asian Heritage Month, however, is not confined to educating those on the "outside".

When our public institutions and, in recent years, appointed officials from our own Asian Canadian community fall short by continuing to perpetuate distortions of our own history in the national arena, we must remind ourselves that the month of May is a time for answering the call.

Before we can educate others, we must educate our own. The question is: Will we be up to the task? (It seems very appropriate that the National Day of Healing and Reconciliation this year will be held in the month of May, on the 26th. For the Asian Pacific communities, we appreciate all too well the significance of this endeavour.)

So -

To our Asian American colleagues, south of the border: we thank you for providing the inspiration for creating what has now become an international event.

To the leaders and artists in Edmonton and our friends across Canada who have dedicated themselves to advancing new forms of expression and constantly pushing the envelope: we say, Great job! Continue to serve as our role models and to those of our next generations. Your commitment has shaped our vision.

To the leaders and organizers of Asian Heritage Month in Canada, and across North America, we offer you this challenge: to stay true to the original principles and spirit of our distinct event, that the direction, energy, and integrity of our vision will remain genuine and strong.

And finally - To our partners and sponsors who have always supported us - you have our gratitude and appreciation as lifelong friends.

Thank you all for checking out our events in 2005. Have a happy Asian Heritage Month!

Kenda D. Gee
AHM Edmonton
May 2005

The author would like to thank all the contributors and volunteers, past and present, including, Wei Wong (Co-founder), Dorothy Au (President, AHM Society of Edmonton, 2005-2006), Angela Yung (Treasurer / Mistress of Ceremonies, AHM Society of Edmonton, 2005-2006), Nancy Ng (Mistress of Ceremonies, 2005 Opening), John Yee & Peter Wong (Stage Managers), Amber Wong (Mistress of Ceremonies), Jenny Mok (JenArtistic Network), Ashton Wong (Communications), Marty Chan, all the organizers and artists involved in AHM 2005. And special thanks to Ryan Peyton, Promotions Manager, West Edmonton Mall, and Kim Kurshell, City of Edmonton Councillor.

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