Take a few seconds to imagine a day filled with neighborhood bonding, beautiful lights, dances, a cheerful crowd, tasty desserts — and an undercurrent of community activism.
Asian Americans United hosted the 27th annual Mid-Autumn Festival last weekend in Philadelphia’s Chinatown, bringing back the seasonal celebration for the first time since the city’s COVID lockdown.
Also known as the Moon Festival or the Mooncake Festival, the traditional event is a celebration in Chinese culture where fundamentals like expressing gratitude, praying, and community assemblage are showcased through performance, visual art, music, and food.
In Philly, the AAU’s edition of the festival is meant to symbolize cultural appreciation for all Asian Americans. It also has roots as a protest, and returned with a more bombastic atmosphere than ever.
That’s partly because last year’s event was canceled due to the omicron spike, but also because of a resurgent sense of resistance and pride, due to a new conflict between city plans and some Chinatown residents’ wishes.
The area has long battled gentrification. Back in 2000, neighborhood activists hosted a rally as part of a movement to successfully stop developers’ plans to build a $600 million Phillies stadium in the area. Today, AAU and others are fighting to keep a Sixers arena from being built on nearby blocks that currently house the Fashion District shopping mall.
Signs decrying the arena plans were visible throughout the Mid-Autumn Festival, but the day was filled with positive emotions as people recognized long traditions and reveled in their cultural heritage. Watch an overview and listen to the music in the video above.