Representatives from Queens’ Korean organizations gathered in Bayside last week to welcome a proclamation from Gov. Andrew Cuomo officially declaring May as Korean-American Family Month in New York state.
The proclamation was officially passed in April after state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) introduced a resolution for the second year in a row that would recognize the month as a time to celebrate family in the Korean-American community, a tradition also marked in Korea during May.
“It’s not often that we get a chance to celebrate, in total, the Korean community, so today is unique,” said Avella, who represents one of the city’s largest Korean populations in Bayside.Though Avella’s resolution was not approved last year, it passed unanimously in the Senate April 29 and was immediately followed by an official declaration signed by Cuomo.
Avella said the idea for the resolution came to him last year after he learned that the Korean-American community holds so many events in May because the month is known as family month back in their home country, with Children’s Day occurring May 5.
“I thought it would be great to celebrate the tradition here and continue it in New York,” he said. “I hope this serves as a reminder to all of us to express appreciation to our family members and engage in family activities.”
When the resolution failed last year, Avella said he and other northeast Queens representatives continued to lobby and make sure Korean voices were heard. He said the passage of the resolution this time around is proof that the Korean community continues to make many important contributions to New York as a whole.
“I think the governor understands just what May means to Korean-American families,” he said. Several representatives from Korean advocacy groups across Queens said family is at the core of many of the values shared by their community, and celebrating family and togetherness has a high importance in the culture.
By declaring May Korean-American Family Month in New York, as well, it further reinforces the significance of having a close family that makes sure to spend time together.
“We believe that healthy families means a healthy community,” said Grace Yoon, executive director of the Korean American Family Service Center. “Everything stems from a healthy family and we believe it’s so important, especially in the month of May, to take the opportunity to really celebrate each other.”
Christine Colligan, co-president of the Korean American Parents Association of Greater New York, said the state’s formal recognition of an age-old tradition from Korea will bring to light the fact that many families, not just Koreans, place a high value on family and want to celebrate it as much as possible.
“Allowing this to become a tradition in America, as well, is really great,” she said. “Let this not be just for Korean families, but for all immigrant families across the board. All of us have shared values and issues, and it’s important for us to recognize that.”
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