Dear Oakland Unified Community,
I want to wish everyone in our community a wonderful Lunar New Year. This is the Year of the Ox or Water Buffalo, which officially begins today, February 12. As Angel Ho from our Translation Team shares, “The ox is so important because, historically, many of our communities worked in agriculture, and this animal is key to our livelihoods as a hardworking, strong and reliable friend.”
The Lunar New Year celebrations can last up to several weeks, and many people use it to travel to see their loved ones, much like Thanksgiving in the United States. This year’s celebration, of course, is different as travel is not possible for most people because of the pandemic. For anyone missing being with family right now, I am sorry that these are the circumstances we are facing. But as Norma Ryuko Kawelokū Wong Roshi, a Zen Buddhist who teaches in Oakland, says, "The prevalent energy of the Year of the Metal Ox will be less chaotic, more determined. It is arriving at an important time – one in which there is so much work to do.” After the past year, we can all hope for less chaos and more determination in the New Year.
Regardless of the obstacles we may face, I hope everyone who honors this holiday has a joyous time together celebrating its history and meaning in our Chinese, Vietnamese, Iu-Mien, Hmong, Korean, Indonesian, Mongolian, and Tibetan families’ cultures and homes. To learn more about the Lunar New Year and the Year of the Ox, click here.
Unfortunately, at this joyous moment in time, there’s a depravity that I must also address, an ugliness that’s showing itself in our community. You have likely heard about numerous attacks on older Asian residents around the Bay Area. One 84 year old man was killed in an attack in San Francisco last month, and several others have been seriously injured in similar attacks including in Oakland’s Chinatown. Multiple suspects have been arrested in relation to these incidents, but the Asian community is still very much on edge, in pain, and calling for unity and healing. I echo that sentiment.
The kind of hatred that motivates people to commit these heinous acts has no place in our city, or in a civilized society. Since the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic, people of Asian descent have been vilified, including by people at the highest levels of our government. To counter this, I am pleased that within a week of taking office, President Joe Biden signed an executive order aimed at combating anti-Asian violence and xenophobia. So, I hope we are heading in the right direction as a nation.