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Flushing to mark Asian American Heritage Month

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In an attempt to drum up participation from the varied ethnic groups in Queens, Fred Fu, president of the Flushing Development Center, recently announced the first Asian American Heritage Festival to encompass eight different nationalities from around the world.. The festivities will be held over a period of eight days at the Flushing Mall, with each ethnic group bringing its own flavor of food, dance and lifestyle.At a news conference in the Flushing Mall, local representatives from China, Korea, Malaysia, Myanmar, Israel, Afghanistan, India and Thailand turned out to show their support for the multicultural event in the nation's most ethnically diverse county."There are so many different people in the Chinese culture and in Queens," said Fu, past president of the Chinese Business Association. "That's why I put the eight cultures together, so people can know where the other countries are."As if to prove his own point, Fu mentioned the country of Myanmar, which borders China in the northeast. The country changed its name from its more commonly known name of Burma more than 15 years ago. Until recently, Fu was unaware of the name change and he still called the country Burma."This is why we need to have these events," he said with a laugh. "Because people won't know these things unless they see. People will get mad because I don't know, but then I ask Chinese people, 'Do you know where Florida is?' and they don't, and I say 'See?'"Sheila Tower, president of the Free Synagogue of Flushing, said she decided to pledge her support to the festival in order to spread the word about the synagogue as well as to open it up to different cultures."I've lived here for 40 years and this mall is new to me," Tower said of the Flushing Mall, located in the predominantly Asian heart of downtown Flushing. "That's part of the problem. We have got to get to know each other."The Chinese will kick off the events on May 1 with food, dance, music and educational exhibits and movies. Additional dates include Korea on May 14, Malaysia on May 15, Myanmar on May 21, Israel on May 22, Afghanistan on May 28, India on May 29 and Thailand on May 30.Fu said that while Asian Americans have celebrated their heritage throughout the month of May for years, this is the first year he has coordinated a multicultural event for Asian American Month. In the future, he hopes to draw enough people to fill up more days in May. Ideally, he said, Asian American Month will evolve to include a different ethnic group every day of the month."Maybe next year we will get more countries," said Fu. "Right now, eight is not enough. We have more than eight countries here."Reach reporter Scott Sieber by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

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