As the kids ran around the park in Playa Vista on Sunday morning, their satin red qipaosor traditional Chinese dresses, signaled that this was no ordinary day.
They are members of a choir assigned to sing at the Monterey Park Lunar New Year Festival.
But because of the mass shooting at a ballroom dance studio in Monterey Park the night before, which killed 10 and injured 10 others, the nearby festival was cancelled.
Instead, they came to this park and played while their mothers complained about how they could talk to them about such a horrible event – especially one that happened in the Asian community.
The children all attend the same Mandarin immersion school, and their mothers put in the hard work to make them bilingual and bicultural.
Linda Zapel was open and honest with her two daughters.
“We want them to be able to ask questions. We have stated that the event will be cancelled. They don’t know where this person is yet, so they want to be safe. And my job is always to keep you safe,” said Zapel, 42, a Culver City resident who is Chinese-American and grew up in the San Gabriel Valley.
The night before, Zapel had gone to Monterey Park with relatives for a New Year’s dinner. Then there was a shooting.
On Sunday, she said, she “just wanted to be with my Asian moms.”
She was delighted when her fellow mom, Elise Hu, texted her and suggested a trip to the park and lunch at Whole Foods.
Hu, a journalist and former bureau chief of National Public Radio in Seoul, had set aside four hours a day for her younger daughter’s festival performance.
“It’s our kind of backup plan,” Hu said. “Backup plan… to see each other and hang out because they’re in theirs qipaobecause they would sing.”
Her approach differs depending on the age of the child – her daughters are 5, 6 and 9 years old.
“What we decided as adults in our family was to let them know the truth, which was that something bad had happened and the police had to block the roads and cancel the festival for today,” Hu said.
For the 5-year-old, she left out some of the “crueler” details so as not to scare the little girl. But many children, including her daughter, have older siblings and will certainly learn more.
“You’re so impressionable,” Hu said. “They’re going to talk to each other, so it’s not like you can really cover it up too much.”
According to Hu, the girls were “quite depressed” because they had worked hard rehearsing their songs in Mandarin.
“Was there going to be dragon stuff?” her daughter asked.
“Yes, there should be the lion dance,” Hu said.
“Awww!” the children replied.
Cassie Campbell asked college friends for advice on how to talk to her kids about the shooting.
That morning, her 9-year-old daughter told her that “people were being murdered.”
“It’s kind of sad that she even speaks that language,” said Campbell of Mar Vista, a third-generation Filipina-Chinese.
“It’s so normal. It wasn’t supposed to be normal — it was supposed to be scary,” she said. “It’s not like that for them because it’s so normal and it happens all the time.”
According to law enforcement, the gunman, who later died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, was of Asian descent. Regardless of his motivation, Campbell’s violence brought back memories of hate crimes against Asian Americans.
“You just wonder the little things like, ‘What about what I dress my kids in?'” she said, watching her 5-year-old daughter in traditional Chinese New Year’s red clothing.
The kids plan to take the stage at another Lunar New Year celebration next week and back at Disneyland next month.
But Sunday’s performance would have taken place on the actual Lunar New Year and marked the first time the Monterey Park Festival had been scheduled since the pandemic began.
“Here we are in the diaspora, trying to carry on our traditions and pass them on to our children,” Hu said. “And for that to happen is really hard.”
https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2023-01-22/choir-performance-canceled-monterey-park-shooting Choir performance canceled by Monterey Park shooting, children play while moms fret