I recently went to a community event in Brockton. I have been to many such events in the Chinese Community. There were similarities, with the tables, the speeches, the food, the fee for coming in, and the politicians and fellow business men showing up to show support. Just like the Chinese banquets, this one started late as well. But despite the similarities, there were some differences that made me come away at the end of it all with opened eyes. The event I went to in Brockton would be near impossible in Chinatown. First of all, it was run by a woman. Not to say that there aren’t strong women in the Chinatown Community. But to be running your own banquet where all the leaders of the community and politicians show up… and stay for practically the whole night instead of giving a quick speech and then leaving and all listening to a strong woman speak, that’s already rare if not unheard of. But not only that, the way she spoke was personal confident and open. “I am a survivor and a single mother.” she said, not in a way that was supposed to make you feel sorry for her. It was part of a fashion show. Even in the white community when strong white women say these things, there is an edge to it of anger, chip on the shoulder as big as the room, that makes everyone stare at the middle of the table. But the atmosphere here was supportive and loving and positive. A lot of members of the fashion show were children. I noted that I was yawning because it was past my bed time but these children didn’t seem to mind. But the banquet wasn’t really a party. There was a constant mantra of doing well in school, supporting your family, and focusing on your education. The phrase, “She is single and NOT available she is focusing on her studies!” was often heard. And the applause was genuine. Being a Cape Verdean event everybody was some sort of cousin. But that is actually a similarity to many of the Chinese banquets that are family associations. But among Chinese banquets there is a political cut throated-ness that underlies the events, which, IF they existed at this event, I was too much of an outsider to pick up on.
I asked if positivity was a strong part of Cape Verdean Culture, because the only time I hear that much praise and go getter-ness in the Chinese community, you start to feel awkward like someone is about to recreate the Great Leap Forward… or it feels like some sort of scam. I was told that this is something new, and that it is also common in the African American Community. But to be honest I have been to community meetings like that, often Inter-Faith and activist, and the positive somehow implies a short changing and sorrow that just wasn’t here as far as I could tell.
I feel like even the strongest Chinese women I know would be burying their heads in shame out of lack of “face” from some of the glitches to the show that happened, let alone from making your divorced status public. On top of that, Chinese culture is pretty shy as well when it comes to the figure of the woman and the clothing. There were young and old women in tops that looked like bras and have full figured women moving their hips and being very comfortable being in their bodies as well as displaying their body and yet it was not sexual. While they did this, the speeches promoted self empowerment, education, and owning a business and financial health.
I don’t think I could really describe this event to a Chinese person in words had they not been there. I would have to write a short story instead of an article. And when I tried to explain to Cape Verdeans how this event would be very foreign to the Chinese Community… I feel like I would have to take a Cape Verdean to several Family and Fraternal organization banquets and whisper to them the nuances of what was going on before it really sunk in.
The simplest way to explain the difference is here was a woman creating a banquet to promote her business, where the men showed up to listen and the women were really in charge and supporting each other and the children while dancing to clothes they designed with an African style to music with lyrics, “You are my African Queen.”
I’m going to put a link here (http://www.bostonchinatownblog.org/2015/12/ccba-president-election-opening-ballot.html) to an election where a woman in Chinatown ran against a man to be President of an organization. She lost by more than half the vote, which is unusual.
Most chalked it up to the old guard of Chinatown not being ready for a woman to be in the leadership position.