Editor's note: Ace is blogging about being a dad trying to rebound from the coronaivrus pandemic at My Rebound by FOX 17. He desired for his son to feel both pride in and connection to his Filipino heritage, so he founded the Grand Rapids Asian-Pacific Festival in 2016. Also a banker, he recently resigned from his position – now staying full-time with his 6-year-old son. He and his wife, son and dog live in Plainfield Township.
After an inspiration from Theresa Tran, our festival director, the Grand Rapids Asian-Pacific Festival’s new “Drive Thru Version” was in the works.
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The planning stages are the most crucial part of an event. This is where we can make or break the outcome. As I brainstormed with the rest of the team, one thing was for certain--this was our first event as a drive thru. We needed to factor in our inexperience as we proceeded. We had so many questions, from funding to logistics to new safety protocols. And will the event make money? We cannot invite the vendors to participate with complete uncertainty, but sometimes you can’t prove a thing until you’ve done it.
Keeping the event on track is a balancing act. One vendor wants things their way, one group insists on these accommodations, and even when you struggle far and wide to secure funding, there may not be a thank you. Since what we are doing is volunteer work, hearing complaints can suck the life out of you. Those are what I call energy suckers, and I have to try and stay away from them to make this event happen.
I also need to show Redd that he cannot please everyone. I'm a people pleaser. This is not a bad thing, but sometimes it’s not fair for my wife Jackie and my son Redd. Planning takes so much of my time, from helping communicate with the city to convincing sponsors to trust a first-time event. It takes away time from my family and I know this is the same for all of our team members. But what if Jackie and I simply abandoned the whole idea of the festival? Was it too much to try and balance my family, my finances, and the demands of this new normal just to share our heritage?
As we proceeded with planning and promoting, our social media posts started gaining attention. I was suddenly taken aback by a few horrible comments that showed up. The remarks were especially insensitive during this time of turbulent racial discourse and increased violence toward Asians. I deliberated for several days, hesitant and searching for the right response. I was deeply hurt. I couldn’t help but think of the struggle that Redd will face as he grows up to overcome anger and ignorance like this.
Finally I found the words to make my intolerance to these remarks clear and expressed my hope that they were a thoughtless mistake, and like all mistakes, a chance to learn. I extended a personal invitation to visit the festival and chat over an ice cream, on me, to help further break down any negative stereotypes.
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Is it easy to work with many others to find balance? We do not always agree upon details. We will have endless discussions about minute items. But this is how the community works. We talk, we argue, we communicate, we agree and in the end, we celebrate together. I know we need to do this regardless of the challenge!