AAPI Parade Dazzles Midtown — But What Shadows Lurk Behind the Drums & Dragons?

The AAPI parade began only three years ago. Questions have surfaced over some of the organizers and their ties to the communist Chinese government.

| 24 May 2024 | 01:05

Thousands of colorfully clad participants and a mix of spectators— some there by cosmic midtown accident, others with the intent to cheer—converged on 6th Avenue from 44th to 55th Streets on May 19, for the 2024 Asian-American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Cultural & Heritage Parade.

Now in its third year, the AAPI Parade isn’t the biggest, nor the most well attended of the midtown parades but it might be the most intriguing. Or perhaps that should read intrigue-filled? But first, let’s take the event at face value, as one of many happy expressions of AAPI Heritage Month.

The theme of this year’s parade, which was organized by Better Chinatown USA, was “Unity is the Foundation of Peace.” Founded in 2001, Better Chinatown USA describes its mission as promoting Chinatown and Asian-Chinese American culture. To date, nearly all its events have been in Manhattan’s Chinatown—including the popular Lunar New Year’s Day Parade and Firecracker Ceremony. (The myriad Chinatowns of Queens and Brooklyn have their own traditions and local power brokers.)

Among the local dignitaries present for this year’s event were Mayor Adams, foregoing his usual blue caps for a black and orange Knicks Playoffs hat; City Council Member of Susan Zhuang of Southern Brooklyn; strikingly silver-haired State Senator, Iwen Chu, also of Southern Brooklyn; and Congresswoman Grace Meng of Queens.

On the international front, there was Chinese Consul General in New York, Huang Ping; Consul General of Bangladesh in New York, Najmul Huda; and others. Said Ambassador Huang in a social media post, “Together we promote inclusiveness and diversity, enhance mutual understanding and friendship, building a better future for New York City.”

The Grand Marshal of the parade was the renowned forensic scientist, Henry C. Lee, of the University of New Haven.

Among the many dozens of marchers and floats the NYPD Police Marching Band, stood out, crisp as ever while bearing three flags: NYPD’s own green and white stars and stripes, the American flag, and the red, white sand blue New York City flag. All manner of drummers, percussionists and dancers followed, including a group of largely Black adolescents of the Victory Music & Dance Company of Brownsville, Brooklyn; the American Fujian Association; and many more.

Among the floats, that of Mohegan Sun, the Uncasville, Connecticut casino, was a vivid, mobile reminder of the prominent place that gambling holds in Chinese culture, while that of the Chung Pak Local Development Corporation proffered the rich, lilting sounds of Chinese traditional music including pipa (lute), including flute, percussion.

Just when one thought they’d seen at least a sample of everything, there came a surprise: led by some red and black clad, sword carrying costumed warriors, with a phalanx of women dressed in various styles behind them: brightly clad robes and plainer clothes, Muslim women with headscarfs, and others bareheaded, most carrying red and white flags: the Indonesian Parade NYC had arrived.

The cheerful arrival of this prideful, internally diverse nationalist sub-parade unit begged the question: why is the AAPI Parade mostly Chinese?

As it turns out, as affable as the AAPI Parade appears on its surface, there have been serious inquiries about its organizers, their relationship with the government of China, and, among other things, whether the parade is really as inclusive as its AAPI name suggests.

Published on May 12, Newsweek senior reporter Didi Kirsten Tatlow’ story “Chinese Foreign Agent was Behind New York Parade Eric Adams, Emails” leaves one skeptical about the parade’s intent, particularly Asian-Americans whose politics might be in conflict with Communist Party China, including people from Taiwan, Hong Kong and Tibet.

As for Eric Adams—with whose blessing the AAPI parade first hit the streets in 2022— his passion for campaign donations is well-documented and remains the subject of multiple investigations. Adams has maintained, “I follow the law,” as recently as his May 21 press briefing when questions about an investigation into one of his aides surfaced. None of the investigations have directly targeted Adams.

In late February, the Bronx home of Adams aide and City Hall Asian affairs advisor, Winnie Greco was raided by the FBI. Also targeted were the offices of a Queens mall that, per prior reporting by The City, were linked to a possibly illegal straw donors scheme.

Sidelined after the raids, Winnie Greco returned to work in May, with the Mayor’s approval. “The final decision is up to me,” he told reporters, “and that’s the final decision we made.”