Story and Photos by:

Andrew Brobst

How I Keep Looking Up, a project organized by the Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco (CCCSF) and created by artist and social practitioner Christine Wong Yap, came to fruition on a rainy, windy Saturday night when the immigrant women all braved the weather to complete the one and a half mile walk for this years Chinese New Year Parade. 

On Feb. 4, 2023, 16 immigrant, working-class, Latina and Chinese women stood proud in rain-soaked ponchos in Downtown San Francisco. Empowered by hope, resilience, and strength, these women accomplished an enormous feat over the past eight months, a feat that included organizing, learning, and creating at the 41 Ross Gallery and the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts.

Led by Christine Wong Yap, Yuanyuan Zhu, and Mariachi San Francisco, the contingent was met with a mix of ecstatic spectators. While marching, the faces of Latinx spectators were confused at first, looking at the mesh of cultures, but once they heard the warm chords of guitarróns and trumpets from Mariachi San Francisco, their own gritos wailed emphatically, filling the dimly lit sky with delight and surprise of representation. 

Throughout the parade, this contingent of women and supporters battled a storm of high winds and heavy rain, often having to regroup after being pummeled by the elements. Nevertheless, the group pressed forward in dance choreography to the sweet songs from the mariachi group leading the charge, while being greeted with awe from stands of onlookers.

As the contingent was nearing the finish line, they approached the Portsmouth Square Bridge, where families and loved ones waited; the women marched proudly in triumph, realizing what they had accomplished. Finally, the artists carried their flags, the embodiments of their personal journey and experience, and planted them firmly in front of their families and loved ones at the Chinese Culture Center, where they will be displayed from Feb. 7 to April 1, 2023. 

To learn more about the project, read our featured story on “How I Keep Looking Up,” which was published on Nov. 3, 2022. 

Lead artist Christine Wong Yap lines the front banner with LED lights and makes final adjustments before the group is called to formation.
Artists (left to right) Mayra Alfaro, Marcela Escamilla, Elsa Hernandez, Yurisma Gonzàlez, Lupita Iraheta, and AdreÍna Limón pose for a picture with excitement while gearing up for the main parade.
Project assistant and Spanish-speaking coordinator, Lee Oscar Gomez, secures Christine Wong Yap’s sash that reads How I Keep Looking Up in Spanish, moments before mobilizing.
Lupita Iraheta and Elsa Hernandez stand proudly in formation, eager to start marching in the parade.
The contingent of immigrant artists stand in a 4 x 4 formation, awaiting the signal to start marching.
Yuanyuan Zhu smiles while Mariachi San Francisco’s trumpets and violins serenade spectators.
The rain and wind grew more intense as the group approached Union Square’s roaring crowds and lights.
Education Director for the Chinese Culture Center, Vida Kuang, waves a flag that reads “power” in English and Spanish.
Christine Wong Yap is in awe of spectators while one member of Mariachi San Francisco shelters from the rain while simultaneously playing the trumpet.
Christine Wong Yap and Yuanyuan Zhu smile and greet onlookers as the contingent marches through the streets of Downtown San Francisco.
The project parted ways from the parade and cut through the narrow streets of Chinatown, greeting bystanders who stood confused, then in admiration of the colorful flags and banners.
The project parted ways from the parade and cut through the narrow streets of Chinatown, greeting bystanders who stood confused, then in admiration of the colorful flags and banners.
The How I Keep Looking Up group finally crossed the Portsmouth Square Bridge, approaching the Chinese Culture Center, where family and friends eagerly wait.
The full display of hand-made flags is presented to Senator Scott Weiner, Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, friends, family, and community partners. The hall roars in applause as the project they have been tirelessly working on is completed.