PACIFIC GROVE, Calif. (KION) Feast of Lanterns has been a Pacific Grove tradition for decades. For many who grew up in the PG community, like Kaye Coleman, it was a festival many were honored to be involved in. But now the once crowned Queen Topaz on the Royal Court, and former president of Feast of Lanterns Board of Directors is hoping to lend a voice by issuing a public apology for participating in the cultural appropriation.
“I wrote the apology and I presented it to the public in an attempt to role model for the community. How we can actually make real change. I'm learning how to be an ally and that this conversation is really about the Chinese-American community, the AAPI community of the Monterey Peninsula,” Kaye Coleman.
It was back in 2012 when Coleman started to look at the festival with a more refined eye. And in 2016 Coleman, friended Gerry Low-Sabado, a fifth-generation descendant to the first Chinese-American women born on the Monterey Peninsula. Their Chinese fishing village, which once stood along the bay, was burned.
“I began to understand, perhaps in a very small degree, what it was like for Gerry and what it's like for our sisters and brothers in the AAPI community when they are advocating for real change and no one will listen to them,” said Coleman.
Through her conversations with Low-Sabado, Coleman started to learn more about the issues surrounding the Royal Court, a play she once was a part of that included teenagers from Pacific Grove dressed in Chinese costumes. In addition, there were specific lines considered violent, and arranged marriages looked down on. Before passing last month, Low-Sabado was able to speak to the Feast of Lanterns’ board to address her concerns about racism. Coleman has speared headed several changes.
"We had rewritten this story and gone through a process of engaging the community around conscious change. And I had recommended that we adopt the tagline from Gerry's movement change with kindness and that as we change the face, that would be our theme for 2020, and that was met with a lot of resistance," Coleman.
Coleman has written the City of Pacific Grove, urging them to also issue a public apology. She signed her letter, "Change with Kindness" in memory of Low-Sabado.
KION did reach out to the Feast of Lantern Board but did not receive a response. KION also reached out to Mayor Peake who mentioned there is a new Pacific Grove Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force.