Asian American and Chinese Proud

shirley lee
Shirley Lee

Asian American and Chinese Proud

By Shirley Wing

I’m a second generation Chinese American. Native SF raised in Nob Hill outside of Chinatown. I was an active youth member from the age of 7 to 18yrs old through Cameron House, a community agency. 

As a youth I wasn’t drawn to the Chinese New Year Parade due to the crowds, rain and hoopla. I watched it a few times on TV in the comfort of a sofa, snacks, restroom and household multitasking. As an adult, I was a student in a drumming-percussion group named SambAsia, a Latin samba band infused with Asian vibes. We had performed and were recognized in the annual SF Carnaval parade and in 2005 SambAsia was invited to perform in the Chinese New Year Parade. We were thrilled and honored. Imagine the difference: a day time Parade in the sunny Mission, scantily clad with feathers to a downtown, night time, rainy Parade with ornate head to toe silk robes! I love SF!

As I first strolled the route the audience was diverse in age, color, and gender. The crowds were dense, energetic and beautiful. This holds true for volunteers, contingents too. Especially those that travel from out of city and state. The logistics of scheduling, lodging, meals, responsibilities, and safety in the big city are huge commitments. 

As SambAsia dissolved, I needed to stay connected with this event. I contacted Debbie Chinn Wong, a seasoned marshal and Cameron House alumni to volunteer. I’ve marshaled for 14 years. Beyond the pageantry, reunions, and serving, each event is unique memory.

Here are my two favorite memories.

– A Marshal role is to organize the line up, monitor and communicate with contingents and parade staff. Prior to the parade, groups are warming up and waiting for kick off. As we wait, I notice a small Laotian contingent dressed in traditional bright and beautiful costumes were in a jam collaboration session with a huge marching band. It was dance, medleys, rhythms, heartfully synchronized. The lack of ego with no overpowered instruments, was filled with the joy of youth. I was touched by the universal language of music, openness to possibilities…transcendence. 

– I was fascinated Mayor Ed Lee. He was the first Asian Mayor of San Francisco. Ed Lee was raised in public housing, a lawyer, and nudged by former mayor Willie Brown to fill in for newly appointed Governor Gavin Newsom. Asian American and Chinese proud! As a majority of politicians and dignitaries ride in cars or floats, Mayor Lee choose to walk the entire parade route. It was a stellar 2012 year for our city as Giants won the World Championship. 

Each year I am reminded to celebrate with hope, gratitude & serve in our diverse city. Home sweet home! 

Interested in volunteering? Email us at