SF's Chinatown celebrates Lunar New Year while calling for unity, allyship after recent attacks on Asian Americans

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Friday is the beginning of Lunar New Year, traditionally a time for festivities. While the pandemic has put a damper on many celebrations, San Francisco's Chinatown has found a way to mark the Year of the Ox while sending a strong message about a recent wave of attacks on Asian Americans.

Usually, the opening of a playground wouldn't warrant such a grand celebration but the Willy "Woo Woo" Wong Playground is a $14.5 million dollar, nearly 10-year long project which is symbolic of the challenges this neighborhood has endured in the past year.

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"Hopefully it's more of a sign that Chinatown that has been battered by this pandemic is coming back. It's going to attract more people to work play eat in Chinatown," said Allan Low with the city's Recreation and Park Commission.

COVID-related xenophobia and hate battered this community early during the pandemic. As many as 90-percent of businesses in some areas were forced to close. This playground is a way to welcome people back.

"I hope this is the beginning of Chinatown coming back to what it used to be," said Low.

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As local leaders and community members gathered along the iconic Grant Avenue in a pared-down celebration, a strong message was sent.

A wave of attacks on seniors ravaged Asian American communities in the Bay Area in recent weeks. An example played out in a horrifying video from the city's Alta Vista neighborhood where an 84-year old man died after an unprovoked assault.

"A threat of anybody's parents or grandparents is a threat to all of us and we won't tolerate it here in San Francisco." Said San Francisco Mayor London Breed during Friday's gathering.

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So as the Year of the Ox gets underway and revelers socially-distance for outdoor dining dim sum and traditional sweets across the neighborhood there is a call for unity and allyship during troubled times.

"Celebrate what makes us unique and how we care about each other," said Joaquin Torres, the city's new assessor.

Actor Daniel Wu, who is from the Bay Area shared this message to encourage others to take action.

"Everyone is galvanizing, everyone wants to do something so we should take this moment and do that. There's so much you can do. Volunteer, work with grassroots organizations mending the disparities in communities. Patrol. We can do all kinds of things," said Wu.

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