Cellist of Cuban and Chinese descent surpasses expectations, talks about dealing with racism

CeFaan Kim Image
Saturday, May 25, 2024
Prodigy cellist wowing the world for over 15 years
CeFaan Kim has the story from Greenwich Village.

GREENWICH VILLAGE, Manhattan (WABC) -- Suuvi Bacelar speaks five languages fluently - English, Mandarin, Spanish, French, and German - but there is one language that is universal that she was born speaking - music.

Music is a language she learned at two years old. Her father, a Cuban refugee, played the cello for her the day she came home from the hospital. It was love at first sight.

When she was 10, her parents pulled her out of her New Jersey school after she was bullied for her Asian heritage. That same year, she was accepted to the Juilliard School.

Bacelar spent the next 16 years studying in conservatories and touring the world - but racism would follow her.

"When I was 16 and I moved to Paris, I remember my first week of school one of the lunch ladies yelled at me to go back to China," she said.

Bacelar said it was something that really scarred her.

"It was incredibly hurtful and it was something that I think really, really scarred me, because after that I developed a huge fear of speaking. And so I remember for the entire two years of my undergrad in France, most of the other students thought I didn't speak French," she added.

Racism showed up again in Berlin - this time, from a leader in the industry.

"People like you who come from China should consider changing your name because we have trouble telling you apart, and your names are all the same - and there are too many of you in the industry, we don't want to promote you anymore," Bacelar said.

She adds that she remembered going back to her hotel room and crying.

"And that's when I realized I was fighting to fit into a space that didn't want to accept me," she said.

In Europe, she wasn't fully accepted by Asian peers. As a child, she spoke predominantly Spanish, yet she was ridiculed by the Latino community as well.

"I felt very torn because I'm Asian and Latina - so I was like one side doesn't like the other side of me," she said. "I internalized being Asian to being something negative when I was really young. It was something I really tried to hide."

She is hiding no more.

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