Baltimost: The Charm City Night Market

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Photo by Tedd Henn

The Charm City Night Market

In many Asian countries, night markets are a fixture of social life, drawing thousands of people to parks or commercial streets where vendors hawk food, clothing, art and much more. The event seemed like an ideal fit for the Chinatown Collective, a group of 8-10 volunteers looking to breathe new life into the city's old hub for Chinese culture and make make connections with the people who operate the businesses still there, as well as those who called it home during its peak.

Steph Hsu, an organizer with the collective, says the group was inspired by Katherine "Kitty" Chin and her husband, Calvin, who in the 1970s and '80s sought to revitalize the neighborhood as an "Asiatown" catering to numerous cultures.

"We really believed in that legacy and also saw an opportunity to expand that vision, to say that the Asian-American community is a larger part of the legacy of Baltimore City," says Hsu.

Last year, the group set up and hosted the inaugural Charm City Night Market, and it was a smash hit, with thousands of people descending on a block of W. Lexington Street and a nearby lot to enjoy a variety of cuisine, art and performance.

The market expanded considerably in 2019, taking over another block of Lexington and stretching all the way to the park at Center Plaza, where there were children's activities and additional performances.

One memory that jumps out for Hsu is a participatory dance led by the Baltimore Dance Crews Project.

"That was really, really, really amazing to look over the entire green space at 200 Park Avenue and see diversity of all kinds--ages, races--and to just see people dancing."

And there was an especially poignant moment this year when volunteers went through the notes at the wish walk, which allowed children to write a wish on a ribbon and tie it with string to a post.

One written in Chinese said, "I wish for my mom and dad to be happy every day." Though she can't be sure of the author's backstory, Hsu said the sentiment resonates with a lot of children of immigrants.

"That was really touching and motivating to see. It kind of harkens back to why we're doing this anyways, which is to harken back to the legacy of those who come before us."

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Brandon Weigel

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