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Oakland’s Lunar New Year parade finally returns, brings joy to grieving community

Members of the Toishan Benevolent Association dragon dance team perform in the Oakland Chinatown Lunar New Year Parade. | Philip Pacheco for The Standard

Recent mass shootings in California have shaken the Asian American community, but that didn’t stop thousands of people from celebrating the Year of the Rabbit in Oakland.

After decades without one, Oakland’s Chinatown hosted a Lunar New Year parade Sunday, bringing a much-needed dose of energy back to a struggling community still grappling with high-profile crimes since the pandemic.

Felicia Yu, Oakland chapter president of the Chinese American Citizens Alliance, said it’s heartbreaking that the Asian community had to face the gun violence and tragedies right before the festival, but it’s especially important to come out and support one another now.

Members of the Chinese American Citizens Alliance march in the Oakland Chinatown Lunar New Year Parade. | Philip Pacheco for The Standard

“We have to keep up our good spirits,” Yu said. “As we are standing together, we are standing stronger.”

Newly elected Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao, who’s Hmong American, attended the parade with state Assemblymember Evan Low and other local officials.

Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao addresses the crowd before the start of the Oakland Chinatown Lunar New Year Parade. | Philip Pacheco for The Standard

“We are celebrating a new year, obviously,” said Thao. “We are also celebrating a new way of building community with new leadership.”

It’s unclear when the last time Oakland held a Lunar New Year parade was, but according to sources familiar with Bay Area Chinese parades, Oakland had a Lunar New Year parade decades ago, which often happened a week before the iconic San Francisco parade.

Members of the Local 21 march during the Oakland Chinatown Lunar New Year Parade. | Philip Pacheco for The Standard

At 11:40 a.m., the Oakland Chinatown Improvement Council kicked off the event at the newly renamed Wilma Chan Park near the Lake Merritt BART Station with firecrackers, lion dancing and colorful floats. Parade participants toured around Chinatown, through Downtown, and then back to the park. The event ended at about 12:20 p.m.

Chan, a former Alameda County supervisor and a prominent Bay Area Asian American political leader, was killed in a traffic accident in 2021.

Thao said she’s committed to make this parade an annual event in Oakland and welcome more people to join and celebrate the city’s diversity in the future.

More photos from the event are below:

Members of the Toishan Benevolent Association waist drum dance team perform during the Oakland Chinatown Lunar New Year Parade. | Philip Pacheco for The Standard
A participant with the Mental Health Association for Chinese Communities marches in the Oakland Chinatown Lunar New Year Parade. | Philip Pacheco for The Standard
Participants wait for the start of the Oakland Chinatown Lunar New Year Parade. | Philip Pacheco for The Standard
Famous Chinese Opera singer Lana Wong Wai Lin looks on before the start of the Oakland Chinatown Lunar New Year Parade. | Philip Pacheco for The Standard
Members of the Toishan Benevolent Association lead the way. | Philip Pacheco for The Standard
Oakland City Councilmember Janani Ramachandran rides a fire truck in the parade. | Philip Pacheco for The Standard
Han Wong prepares the Alameda & Wuxi Friendship Committee float. | Philip Pacheco for The Standard
Members of the Toishan Benevolent Association prepare before the start of the Oakland Chinatown Lunar New Year Parade. | Philip Pacheco for The Standard

Han Li can be reached at han@sfstandard.com