The Sunshine Chinese Dance Group plans to perform at the upcoming Cultural Exchange June 18.

The Sunshine Chinese Dance Group plans to perform at the upcoming Cultural Exchange June 18.

Photo provided by Cissi Li

Cultural Exchange ready to mix, mingle outdoors

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published June 8, 2021


STERLING HEIGHTS — For Cissi Lin, June 18 will be a special day for the female performance troupe she directs, the Sunshine Chinese Dance Group. That’s because she said it will be the first time since March 2020 that they will perform for a live audience instead of a virtual one online.

“After the COVID, we have not been able to celebrate our culture, and I really feel it’s a great event,” Lin said. “All of us will be able to get together, seeing the people we have not seen in more than a year.”

The Chinese dance group plans to reappear that day at the Sterling Heights Cultural Exchange, where it annually has performed with traditional Chinese costumes and music for at least a decade, she said.  

“We feel it’s important for us to showcase our culture and to be inclusive and to let other people know our culture and to also learn of other countries when they are there,” Lin added.

This year, Sterling Heights will host its Cultural Exchange outdoors at the Dodge Park Farmers Market Pavilion. The move outdoors was motivated by safety concerns over COVID-19, and the city has vowed to abide by state and federal health guidelines.

Unlike most city events, the Cultural Exchange actually wasn’t canceled last year, since it ran in early March, prior to the city’s shutdown of major events and programming.  

As in other years, the Cultural Exchange will feature presentations, information, food and performances from local representatives of cultures around the world. Organizations and businesses will teach the public about their cultures’ traditions via educational displays. Dance ensembles are expected to perform. And this year, food trucks will feed the attending public instead of the past buffet method of serving samples.

The city’s Ethnic Community Committee has been planning the event, fulfilling its mission to foster ties among different races and ethnicities.

Ethnic Community Committee Chair Carmen Williams said her organization looks forward to not just seeing cultural representatives from Sterling Heights, but also those from elsewhere in the region.

Williams said some of the food trucks that are expected to appear include Street Salad, Mike’s Kabob Grille, Jet’s Pizza and Estia Greek Street Food. Some of the outdoor performances out of at least 10 scheduled include ones from Irish, Albanian, Iraqi and Filipino groups, she said. In addition, she said the event will have around 30 cultural information tables onsite where people can learn about African American, Asian Pacific, Chaldean and other cultures.

“It will be just like the years past,” she said. “I love the cultures that are on display, getting to know other cultures, getting to know their heritage.”

Williams, who also sits on the city’s African American Coalition, said the event will celebrate Juneteenth, which falls on June 19. The day, according to the Sterling Heights City Council’s recent proclamation, honors the day when in 1865 “African Americans in the slave-holding state of Texas first learned of freedom granted by President Abraham Lincoln through the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863.”

Youel Isho, the cultural exchange director of the Assyrian American Social Club of Michigan, said his organization will bring a dance group of seven to 10 people who will dress in traditional costume and dance to Assyrian music. He said the social club also plans to have a display showcasing Assyrian artifacts, and visitors can have their names transliterated and written in the Assyrian language, a branch of Aramaic.

“They love it; it’s something different, something neat and something they never have experienced before,” Isho said, describing the public’s past response.

Sterling Heights will host its Cultural Exchange 6-10 p.m. June 18 at the Dodge Park Farmers Market Pavilion in Dodge Park, 40620 Utica Road in Sterling Heights.

Public admission is free. Due to the city’s recent relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions, no preregistration will be required. Free overflow parking will be available at the nearby Senior Center, as well as the Community Center.

Find out more about the event by visiting or by calling (586) 446-2489.