Chicagoans come together to celebrate Lunar New Year amid racial targeting

By Abra Richardson and Amina Sergazina

Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are too often targeted in Chicago and across the country, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said.

“We’ve seen too much ugliness and hate perpetrated against members of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community here in Chicago but also across our country,” the mayor told the Chronicle during an interview at the one of the city’s annual Lunar New Year parades. It’s “all the more reason and why we have to be here [and] feel joy together so that we are strong against any threats to this community.”

Lightfoot attended a Lunar New Year parade Jan. 28 in the Uptown neighborhood on the city’s north side. Another Lunar New Year parade in Chinatown was held the next day.

The parade route in Uptown ran along Argyle Street and featured local businesses, schools, organizations and the popular lion dancers.

Members of Columbia’s Asian Student Organization watched the parade with Clare Lake, director of International Student and Scholar Services.

Students compared the parade to a New Year’s Day celebration but with traditions that match their families’ backgrounds and connect them to their identities.

Jila Morakotgantachote is Thai and has been celebrating Lunar New Year with her family every year. Some of the traditions Morakotgantachote follows are early in the morning pouring wine and tea in cups to offer to her ancestors and gods, lighting incense, praying and exchanging lucky envelopes with money.

“It’s really important for us to make sure that we come out, all of us all, over the city, to celebrate Lunar New Year,” Lightfoot said. “As you know, particularly in the Argyle area, we have people coming from the entire Asian [and] Pacific Islander diaspora, and this is a community that stands together and we have to stand with them every step of the way.”

ASO is hosting a Chinese New Year celebration for all Columbia students on Feb. 7 at the Student Diversity and Inclusion office located at 618 S. Michigan Ave, on the 4th floor.

Asian students at Columbia said they joined the campus organization because of a lack Asian peers in their classrooms and in neighborhoods where they live.

Yulian Leshuk, a junior illustration major and creative director for ASO, said the campus group is a welcoming place.

“It’s really important that we come together and share these kinds of spaces, both to validate each other’s experiences and just to be able to relax in a way you can’t really relax in a very white college.”