Small businesses, food trucks and artists celebrate AAPI Heritage Month at SJ's night market

Lauren Martinez Image
Saturday, May 20, 2023
San Jose night market celebrates AAPI Heritage Month
Asian identity can mean different things and at San Jose's night market, it celebrated Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Asian identity can mean different things and on Friday evening, San Jose's Night market was dedicated to Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

The nonprofit EM Collective brought together a range of more than 40 AAPI small businesses, food trucks and artists.

Anthony Le is a board member that helped organize the event.

"I think especially in the Bay Area, particularly in San Jose, having a community that focuses on being able to tell our stories and then being able to tell our stories around some of the issues, is needed. Sometimes we look at Asian Americans as like one story or the model minority, or we look at one issue but there's so many different - I want to say facets to our challenges," Le said.

Leean Pan, a vendor, created her handmade jewelry line Club Chazu during the pandemic.

"I tried to take traditional elements of Asian culture and modernize it for the everyday wear," Pan said.

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She always wanted to create a business that represents her culture.

"So I am actually Chinese and Japanese, so I'm half and I think, that has always been a very large theme in my life. Kind of this duality that I've struggled with but also be blessed to be both," Pan said.

Some of her pieces on display represented friends from Vietnamese, Filipino and Cantonese American cultures.

"Just tell stories through jewelry and I hope people can connect with it and when they wear it you know they feel more connected to their heritage," Pan said.

David Nguyen said he's honoring his father's memory through his business Joy and Hope Candle Company.

"He raised money for orphans in Vietnam. And during the pandemic I had a lot of time for reflection obviously we're at home so then I was inspired how do I continue my dad's legacy," Nguyen said.

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Nguyen said a percentage of proceeds go to different charities.

"So me being out here starting a small business, giving back to my community, is my way of saying thank you to my parents for what they did especially all the struggles that they faced," Nguyen said.

Yoko Oji Kikuchi, who goes by the artist name Yoko Ok, was another vendor. Her way of storytelling is through map making, scene making and print making.

"I was commissioned by the Oakland Asian Cultural Center to make the map and it's a historical map of Oakland in the 1940's before the Japanese American incarceration and so every dot on that map represents a business that had to shut down," Ok said.

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Ok's said she is inspired by her great uncle who wrote a book called The Kikuchi Diary which chronicles his times in the camps.

"It feels like the more I connect with my culture the more opportunities open up," Ok said.

AAPI Heritage celebrations last through May.

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