North Side Immigrant Rights Group Foster Community By Folk Drumming

Hana Center, a nonprofit organization for Asian American and immigrant rights, provides neighbors new opportunities to teach them traditional Korean folk drumming, which activists frequently use in their advocacy. 

Community engagement coordinator Won Joon Lee tells Block Club Chicago that the group teaches Pungmul, a Korean folk tradition with deep historical roots. It originated in Korea’s pre-industrial farming culture and used the hourglass-shaped janggu (a double-sided drum) to protest immigration and racism. 

Lee explained that during the Japanese occupation of Korea from 1910 to 1945, public gatherings were prohibited except for musical performances, making Pungmul a form of resistance. 

In 2017, two long-standing organizations,  the Korean American Community Services, and the Korean American Resource and Cultural Center were combined to become Hana Center, named from the Korean word for “one.”

The organization has a long history of youth Pungmul programming, but this summer marked the first time the non-profit offered classes for adults interested in advocacy work. 

The first-ever class will proceed after the initial session of eight weeks has passed. As the new program expands, the instructors intend to continue enrolling new students in it on an ongoing basis.

Hana Drum School instructor Inah Jeong said Pungmul drumming is loud as planned, and they are culturally and politically distinct. Korean immigrants may connect with Chicago immigrants and join the immigrant rights and citizenship march, she tells Block Club Chicago.

The ensemble delivered its first drumming class this summer, but new students are always welcome to join in. Residents and community organizations can benefit from such events, according to the center’s administrators.

Choi tells Block Club Chicago that the current situation is both exhausting and frightening, but she believes the strong and loving communities they form may provide joy even in difficult times.

Their communities enable them to change the world now and in the future. The goal according to Choi is to turn community building into advocacy that targets racial, gender, and economic concerns along with immigrant rights.

Hana Center is located at 4300 North California Avenue in Irving Park. It also offers services to address needs related to citizenship and immigration, housing, and other areas.