Updated at 12:27 p.m. on May 22, 2023

The rain poured, but spirits were high Saturday as a crowd of hundreds gathered on Boston Common to celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

They amassed under and around a large tent, getting as close as they could to the day’s musical and martial arts performances.

This was the first Boston AAPI festival celebration since Massachusetts officially recognized the heritage month, with Gov. Maura Healey signing the proclamation last week.

You Yang, a youth performer with New England Championship Wushu, performed martial arts to a song called “Nice to Meet You.”

“Every time we see someone, no matter what race they are, no matter what culture it is, we always say, ‘Nice to meet you’ to each other,” Yang said. “Respect them and not, you know, have any conflicts.”

Michael Lu, who lives in Sharon, said he came out in solidarity with AAPI communities.

“It's gathering together to help each other, to be an example for our next generation to engage the community and help the community,” he said.

In addition to the festival celebrations, runners coursed along the Boston Marathon route in a relay that started earlier in the morning and ended on the Common. Runners were greeted to cheers from the crowd as they arrived.

Michelle Luo, president of the Chinese American Association of Newton, was among the more than 100 runners.

“AAPI [month] is our time to celebrate our heritage and also celebrate the inclusion [and] diversity in the commonwealth,” Luo said. “That's why we need to be here and share our presence, as well as share our physical strength and share our spirit with the community.”

Elected officials, some who identify as Asian American, spoke to the crowd about what this celebration means to them.

“I think being Asian-American is about building a team and embracing solidarity,” said Justin Tseng, a Medford city councilor. “It's about casting away the old divisions that might have separated us once and for all, and building a new, more positive future together … to counter the difficulties that we face in society.”

Somerville State Rep. Erika Uyterhoeven said visibility is critical — adding that she grew up "never imagining that I would be in this position to be able to serve on Beacon Hill."

Racism and discrimination directed at Asian Americans increased during the pandemic, both in the United States and around the world, according to Human Rights Watch and other groups monitoring such activity.

City Council President Ed Flynn said it’s something leaders are taking “very seriously” at both the city and state levels. “It's making sure that immigrant neighbors, AAPI residents, are treated with respect and dignity.”

Mayor Michele Wu, Boston's first Asian American mayor, also spoke at the event.

The New England Chinese American Alliance, or NECAA, organized the gathering. The group is also advocating for Lunar New Year to be recognized as an official holiday in Massachusetts.

Connie Dai, a NECCA board member, said this year she prioritized attending the festival.

“I need to be here to celebrate my culture,” Dai said. “But we don't end here ... We want that awareness to continue.”

Correction: This post was updated to correct the spelling of Michelle Luo's name.