Milford center emphasizes Asian American culture

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MILFORD – For Shirley Chock and Xiaoley Cheng, the New England Asian American Culture Center will be more than just a home for Tai-Chi or Kung Fu lessons. It will be a place to learn more about Asian culture.

With the stigma many members of the Asian American community have faced in recent years, Chock, who founded the center with Chen, says having a space where people can come together to learn more is crucial. on their culture.

“Right now we are already community leaders with Kung Fu and Tai-Chi, two things that bring people of all cultures together,” she said. “If you come to the courses you will see that they are very multicultural, and we wanted to have the opportunity to expand beyond the courses we currently offer.”

The center, located at 49 Research Drive, was established by Chen, who runs Wu Dang Kung Fu Academy with her husband, Master Jack Guo, and Chock, owner of Aiping Tai Chi.

Recently, the Connecticut General Assembly passed Raised Bill No. 5282, which, among other things, requires AAPI studies to be implemented in the state curriculum by the 2025- 26.

Attorney General William Tong said there is a long history of Asian American achievement in Connecticut that educators should be proud to teach.

“Students should know Joseph Pierce, a resident of Meriden, who fought in the Civil War as the highest-ranking Chinese-American in the Union Army,” he said. “Students should know Yung Wing, a Yale graduate, who in 1854 became the first Chinese student to graduate from an American university.”

With the implementation of AAPI studies in schools, Chock said they would be able to organize field trips dedicated to illustrating Asian American history.

“There aren’t many places where you can house so many people in one space and guide them through cultural programs,” she said. “It will also be an opportunity for non-native Chinese to learn Chinese, because the language is only one part, but if you don’t understand the context or the culture behind the language, you won’t understand the language. too. .

“It will be an opportunity for people who learn Chinese in school to better understand the origins of the language, which is the culture,” Chock added.

Besides the language itself, Cheng said they also offer other programs like calligraphy, singing and dancing.

The New England Asian American Culture Center will hold a ribbon cutting on August 19 at 11 a.m.

“There are a lot of things we can do here,” Chock said. “We can offer movie nights, where people can come and see Asian cinema together, we can offer workshops on dance and other cultural things. We can also have weekly programming for members of the Asian American community to have a place where they can feel comfortable, identify with their culture, and bring their friends to share the culture.

Before Chock and Cheng could fulfill their dream of sharing their culture with the community, they had to look for a larger building that could house both businesses and have enough space for community events. They found a home for their businesses at 49 Research Drive.

“Milford is more open and more connected to the outdoors,” Cheng said. “I know more Asian businesses have started to set up shop in Milford.”

“Milford is starting to become a hub for the Asian American community,” added Chock.

Milford has seen Asian businesses such as The Whale Tea, which hails from Najin, Singapore, with some 300 China locations, recently opened in the city, and Asian Spirits.

“There’s a contingency of the Asian community in the area who are thrilled to have all these amenities in the area that reflect their culture,” said Julie Nash, director of economic development. “It’s nice to have the diversity in Milford to lend to the culture we seek out on a daily basis.”

Nash said having diversity and culture in the city is good for economic development.

“You don’t want to go to a city or town that doesn’t have the options that we’ve had and are growing,” she said. “One of the things people love when they grow up in New York or Boston is going to Little Italy or Chinatown. These cities thrive on the culture and diversity they offer. So we can have, not the same thing because we’re a lot smaller, but to have that as options to have that in the town of Milford, we’re super lucky, that, we attract those kinds of businesses.

In the 2010 U.S. Census, the number of people in the state who identified as Asian was 157,088.

“I believe the reason Asian owners are choosing to open their businesses in Milford is because the Asian population is growing in the city,” Cheng said.

“In Connecticut, Asian Americans are Connecticut’s fastest growing minority or ethnic group, when we look at census data,” Chock said. “It makes sense that more and more Asian businesses are opening up because that’s the fastest growing population.”

According to the 2020 census, 172,455 people identified as Asian and in New Haven County that number was 37,520. The most populous cities in Asia, according to the New Haven County census, are New Haven, with 9,176 inhabitants; Hamden, with 3,491; Milford with 2,861 and West Haven with 2,709. Other nearby towns such as Bridgeport have an Asian population of 4,141 and Orange has an Asian population of 1,465.

“They have the market, and now they have to respond to community demands,” Cheng said.

However, Chock pointed out that it’s not just Asians who come to support Asian businesses.

“If you come to my Tai Chi classes, you will see that they are extremely diverse,” she said.

Cheng said Kung Fu and Tai Chi mentally and physically help people of different age groups. Moreover, youngsters who qualify for the US national team not only can represent the country in international championships, but they can also add it to their college admission.

Through the New England Asian American Cultural Center, Chock said they would be able to better accommodate people’s lifestyles by offering more programming.

“People’s lifestyles have changed after COVID-19, and we have to adapt to people’s new lifestyles and schedules,” she said. “So fewer and fewer people can just take weekly classes, so in this center we now have the opportunity to expand what we offer, where we can do more events and experience programming that can be more adapted to people’s way of life.”

With their businesses, Chock said they are limited in what they can do, but by creating the non-profit organization they hope to reach many more people.

“We can apply for a grant to bring these experiences and activities to more people,” she said. “We are also bringing technology to enable online programming and meet people’s changing needs and times.”

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