And yet I was caught by surprise!
Bang snaps hit the floor hard filling the air with popping sounds, and the ground with empty paper casing littered the streets. The sights and smells of East Asian street food on display served behind pop-up stalls outside restaurants enticed hungry well-wishers. Red Chinese lanterns were a familiar sight hanging above every path of the celebrations (and on the costumes of certain enthusiasts!) And the people? A varied mix of Chinese, Londoners and tourists all jointing together in solidarity to celebrate a family-friendly event fused with Eastern culture.
Every year the Chinese New Year celebrations seem to get bigger and more extravagant in London’s modestly sized China Town. So why was I expecting anything less from 2014 – the year of the Horse?!
I invited along Barbara fellow Ghanaian Barbara Ntumy; member of NUS Black Students’s Campaign committee and NUS Womens’ Camapaign committee , to join me on my afternoon in China Town as London once again celebrated Chinese New in style – the biggest Chinese New Year celebrations outside Asia!
The celebrations expanded beyond Gerrard Street – China Town’s prominent parade south of London’s iconic Soho, to Trafalgar Square where thousands of onlookers gathered to watch the parades and performances which began this morning, ending just as the sun went down. A few streets were closed including parts of Shaftesbury Avenue, allowing room for visitors to walk freely; a rare sight in London. And it brought back memories of my time in Rio de Janeiro where every Sunday locals can enjoy Avenida Atlântica as a big pedestrian walkway parallel to Copacabana beach…
Unfortunately (or rather fortunately) there is no beach in London, but there was a sea of people with an intent on seeing the very best of Chinese culture on display during the celebrations.
Amongst all the celebrations we also spotted a campaign for “Stop live organ harvesting in China.” This sparked me to take the opportunity to ask Barbara about how East Asians fit into the NUS Black Students’ campaign, since “black” is a political term which is inclusive of Arab and Asian also.
People with East Asian origins can identify with similar issues that black African, Asian, Arab people identify with, i.e discrimination against them. They can definatly get involved in the Black Students’ Campaign. We need more of those people to tell their stories. Even though the BSC is a composent of all of these people, we do recognise that what I might face in terms of discrimination as an African person, is not exactly what an Arab person will face. So we need more people getting involved in that terms so that we can really support and actually bring to light the problems and that discrimination affects us all. We need people who can relate to the stories in order to help further the cause.
So how can people of East Asian decent get involved with the Black Students’ Campaign?
I would encourage students’ to come to the conferences that we hold and run for a position because by running for a position you are a representative of the campaign and that gives you more freedom and leeway to do the stuff that directly affects you and also bring other people other people in. Like I said before, we might all come under the umberella of experiencing discrimination but our stories differ. We don’t want to just cover that up as just being ‘black’, we want to explore that and we want people to feel that they are being supported and feel that those things are being challenged so that they can lead their lives the way they want to.
And on that note since it’s Chinese New Year do you know what your Chinese symbol is?
I don’t know I think it’s the year of the Chicken or Cockerel… I think it’s some kind of a bird, but you might have to check that!