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"Resilience 2.0": Pride ASIA brightens, enlightens despite damp day

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Photo by A.V. Eichenbaum
Photo by A.V. Eichenbaum

The concrete and the sky matched at Hing Hay Park on Saturday: both were cold and gray. Gathered on the steps and at the red metal tables was a reserved audience; they cheered, but they also drew into themselves to stay warm against the wind.

Photo by A.V. Eichenbaum  

They were cheering for the performance of Northwest Kung Fu and Fitness, whose traditional lion dancing enlivened the park with movement. Just minutes before, Deputy Mayor Monisha Harrell had proclaimed at the mic that May 29, 2022, would be recognized as Pride ASIA Day, and lauded the positive impact of the Asian and Pacific Islander community on the city.

Local drag artist and prominent activist Aleksa Manila hosted the event in a bright yellow pantsuit, along with Seattle drag legend Gaysha Starr and Miss Gay Washington Dutchess Drew. They added an energy that defied the dreariness and shined spotlights on whoever went on stage.

One such person was Joel Barraquiel Tan, the first Queer, Asian, Pacific Islander director of the newly reopened Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience. Tan started the job late last month, and his keynote address on Saturday was an invocation of the dead.

"Urvashi Vaid opened the door to the work I am doing today," he said, speaking of the late and deeply influential LGBT activist, who passed away in late May. "Urvashi and other Queer forebears were brilliant and tough as nails. I say they were 'antifragile.' They were not just resilient. Antifragile is the exact opposite of fragile. It is resilience 2.0. Where resilience is about bouncing back from adversity, antifragility is when adversity and stress make you come back stronger, better, more badass."

Tan said that antifragility is needed more than ever now, given all the myriad pressures facing the API community and the API Queer community, namely gun violence, the erosion of voting rights and right to marry, and the rise of fascism and dictatorships.

"As the new director of the Wing Luke Museum," Tan went on, "I wander our historic halls, calling on the spirit of Uncle Wing Luke. I call on Auntie Grace Boggs. I call on Uncle Bruce [Lee] and Uncle Bob Santos, and I ask them, 'What can we do in this time, when our civil rights are being systematically stripped away, our children and elders are being hunted and picked off, poverty is raging, and the unhoused are long suffering while billionaires colonize states?' Let's summon our ancestors to protect and encourage us in this time."

Photo by A.V. Eichenbaum  

Other speakers and performances
Tan introduced two LGBTQ youth speakers. The first was born in American Samoa, representing UTOPIA Washington, and she wowed the crowd with a vogue-style dance. The second read his own slam poetry, about the liberating feeling of growing out his hair during the pandemic.

The Miyoung Margolis Dance Collective showed off their first-ever public routine, using paper fans and ornamental knives. Miss Gay Washington 2022 Moltyn Decadence followed with a lip-sync performance in a flowing green outfit — no small feat with the wind picking up. Local musician and Queer immigrant Sepanta Bahri played guitar and sang lyrics taken from a Persian poem about love, longing, and mortality.

Photo by A.V. Eichenbaum  

The event continued like this for another hour, with performers and organizations taking turns at the stage. More local queens, like Kylie Mooncakes and Rylee Raw, ran their own dances and lip syncs. The YMCA and YWCA (collectively called "the Y") promised accountability to marginalized communities and social justice, and PFLAG Seattle, GLSEN Washington State, the Filipino Community of Seattle, and several other groups gave the audience a rundown of their missions and their services.

Near the end of the hour, the rain began. The drops were heavy and infrequent at first, but the pattering turned to a roar within minutes. Still, the performers continued. Rylee Raw lip-synced her heart out again, the rain only adding to the drama of her performance. What audience was left took shelter under the trees.

As the staff prepared for the closing performance by singer-songwriter Jack Mozie, Aleksa Manila and Gaysha Starr took a break for iced tea in the Hing Hay Park building. It was the second rain at the event in ten years, Manila said. "It almost feels like Mother Nature is saying, 'Oh, happy ten-year anniversary!'"

Photo by A.V. Eichenbaum  

It was also the first in-person Pride ASIA Fest since the pandemic began. And it felt great to be back despite the rain, Manila said, in large part because of the energy of the staff and the crowd, and because so many other community events had been taking place.

When asked about the lineup of speakers and performers, Manila explained, "On top of keeping it entertaining, we really want to keep it educational and informative — not just for people who live here or come through here but [those] even just visiting and contemplating making Seattle their home."

"We want to keep it multifunctional," she continued. "For us, it's symbolic of our intersectional identities, whether it's our LGBTQ identities or our API identities. It's a recognition of how diverse our communities are, and when we come together, it's such a powerful moment of seeing each other, celebrating each other, nurturing each other."