Editors Note: 

Hello! My name is Pearl Ngai, the editor of the WOW Project’s new blog, WOW Weekly! I was first introduced to the WOW Project when I attended the (Re) Generation of Chinatown panel back in May and was immediately attracted to its vision of amplifying community voices. I am continually inspired by how actively the WOW Project strives to include the entire community in dialogue and hope that the W.O.W Weekly can be another platform for this purpose.

I envision the W.O.W blog as a space to start conversation addressing issues in New York City’s Chinatown in relation to the larger Asian American identity through a culmination of various media types. It will act as a space for writers, researchers, documentary filmmakers, photographers, designers, developers, activists, musicians and dreamers to share their thoughts through interactive posts.  The end goal is to try and capture the rich historical and cultural landscape of Chinatown as it changes and relates to larger issues in our society.

Through this blog, I look forward to sharing my passion for Chinatown, a community in which I have grown up in and hold close to my heart.  To have an opportunity like this, to give and receive knowledge and experiences for a cause that I am passionate about, makes everything that much more gratifying and exciting. 


April Activism Event 2: DIY!

Published on April 23, 2017

Hello W.O.W Weekly readers! 

This week's post is a little twist on our theme of activism in April in that it features an event you can bring anywhere with you! In my personal experience, I have shared that I have learned a lot from attending different events and forums where social justice topics have been discussed. At the same time, I know how hard it can be to get to some of these community spaces, whether it be because of a long commute or a scheduling conflict. That's why this week, I've compiled some podcasts for you all to listen to, wherever you are! They are free and can be easily downloaded for your drive home or train ride to school. 

The themes covered in the various podcasts either talk about current/specific activists movements, or they discuss topics pertaining to some of the more general challenges the W.O.W Project is currently working through, such as opening up more intergenerational conversations on social justice. (In fact, the first podcast listed actually features Mei, Jenni, Diane, and Melissa!!) In a lot of ways, I think it is important for everyone in a community to become well acquainted with the issues that they would like to solve before thinking of what the next step forward should be. That is to say, it is crucial to understand the nuances of a problem before we can decide how to best find a solution. 

With that being said, I know I learn a lot from simply listening to a podcast and totally immersing myself and hope that you will do the same and enjoy the few that I chose!

-W.O.W Weekly editor, Pearl Ngai

1. "ORAL HISTORIES, ACTIVISM, AND CHINATOWNS AND FUTURE CITIES WITH DIANE WONG, MELISSA LIU, MEI LUM, AND JENNI LOO"

  • PODCAST NAME: TRYTOBEGOOD
  • AVAILABLE ON ITUNES AND SOUNDCLOUD
  • CLICK HERE FOR A LINK TO THE PODCAST ACCOMPANIED BY A  SUMMARY OF SHOW NOTES 

2. "CHANGING COLORS IN COMICS"

  • PODCAST NAME: CODE SWITCH,
  • AVAILABLE ON ITUNES AND NPR.ORG
  • CLICK HERE FOR A LINK TO THE PODCAST

3. "A LETTER FROM YOUNG ASIAN AMERICANS TO THEIR FAMILIES ABOUT BLACK LIVES MATTER"

  • PODCAST NAME: CODE SWITCH, AVAILABLE ON ITUNES AND NPR.ORG 
  • CLICK HERE FOR A LINK TO THE PODCAST SITE, AS WELL AS AN ARTICLE EXPANDING ON THE PROJECT DISCUSSED WITHIN THE PODCAST 

4. "ASIAN-AMERICANS, REPRESENT!"

  • PODCAST NAME: ABOUT RACE
  • AVAILABLE ON ITUNES AS WELL AS PANOPLY.FM
  • CLICK HERE FOR A LINK TO THE PODCAST 

April Activism Event 1: NYCAASC

Published on April 14, 2017

Happy Spring W.O.W Weekly readers! I am happy to announce that this week, we  will be featuring the New York City Asian American Student Conference, or NYCAASC, on W.O.W Weekly. I was able to get in touch with Lisa Ng, one of NYCAASC's directors, and she answered some questions about the upcoming event. Keep reading to learn more! 

NYCAASC: The New York City Asian American Student Conference is a free, intercollegiate conference that aims to empower students form a consortium of schools in the metropolitan area by providing a space for activist and student leaders to engage in diaglogue on racial and sociopolitical matters pertaining to Asian/Pacific America. Under the question and answer section is the link the NYCAASC's website, where you can register for the conference and learn more about the program as a whole. 

-W.O.W Weekly editor, Pearl Ngai 

 
 

Q&A WITH LISA NG

Q. What is the theme that will be discussed in your upcoming conference and why was the theme chosen? Why do you think there is significance in this specific theme? 

A. The theme for this year's NYCAASC is REALITIES. We hope to provide a platform in which various marginalized groups can share their lived experiences, or their "realities" with one another while interrogating the structures that form various realities. The most effective way to build community begins with listening. Listening, learning, and loving - these are the three L's that I believe are necessary for community building and mobilization. I want NYCAASC to be a space where everyone feels safe and comfortable sharing, listening, and learning from one another. As we listen and learn more about one another, we will learn how to love one another better. We will learn how to build communities that are equitable to all, regardless of race, gender, and socioeconomic situation. Love is what drives out hate, just like light is what drives out darkness. Here is the full theme description:

2016 was an extremely divisive year - it revealed how little we truly know of our neighbors, even in New York City. Our city is segregated by our various identities, like race and class. Although we share a single city border, we hardly know our neighbors beyone appearances and preconceived notions. This year's conference will explore the theme of REALITIES -- by delving into the experiences, histories, and communities of our families and neighbors, NYCAASC 2017 aims to identify and question the power structures that shape our realities. 

Q. How was NYCAASC started? What was the intention behind holding this conference?

A. NYCAASC was started in 2007 as a collaboration between NYU students and Columbia students. It was created as a space for Asian Americans to learn about Asian Americana. 

Q. How did you personally get involved with NYCAASC? Why did you get involved? 

A. I attended my first NYCAASC in 2014. As an attendee, I was so gratedul to have found such a loving space to learn about Asian Americana. I was so excited to have found a space to learn about my history! I immediately felt at home and knew I had found a community of folks who inspire me to question, learn, and love more. I got involved because I wanted to be a part of the community! I spent the past two years as a member of the workshops committee doing programming for attendees, and now I am one of the directors of NYCAASC! I love this community with all my heart and I really hope that attendees feel welcome, safe, and loved in this space. 

Q: How do you think people will be able to benefit from attending your conference? What sort of take aways can people expect to bring back into their own communities? 

A. When I was tabling at the APA Community fair at Hunter College, someone came up to me and told me that NYCAASC was the reason they are now studying Asian American Studies. NYCAASC always has been (and hopefully, always will be) an accesible space for all to learn about Asian Americana. NYCAASC is always free to remain financially accessible to all. NYCAASC offers a range of workshops, so those not as well versed on socio-political jargon have the oppurtunity to learn from folks who are. Everyone is welcome at NYCAASC, and we work hard to make sure that people feel welcome. When folks attend the conference, we want them to feel like a part of the community. We want people to bring back what they learned at NYCAASC to their communities, share it, and get involved. We're always looking for folks who are passionate about APA issues to help us out! 

LINKS

  • To learn more about NYCAASC and to register for the event, click here to access their website. 
  • To keep updated with NYCAASC through videos and posts, click here to access their Facebook page. 

MORE ABOUT LISA NG:

Lisa studies Urban Environmental Policy at Brooklyn College - she is particularly interested in the intersection between solid waste management and environmental justice. She will work to ensure NYCAASC continues to be a nurturing space for folks to learn, love, and grow. In her free time she loves to watch TV, rock climb, and listen to her friends tell stories. 


APRIL ACTIVISM: AN open Call

Published on April 9, 2017

Hello W.O.W Weekly readers! Long time no see. It has been a while since the last post, but within that time the W.O.W Project has been thinking deeply about ways in which we can make W.O.W Weekly an even more interactive and open community space. We hope to engage more with our readers through posts like today's, which will be an open call!

For the month of April, I would like to focus on activism and ways that people can get involved in organizing within their community. In my own experience, I have learned a lot through attending different workshops and conferences. To me, it is most impactful and valuable to learn from people who know best; attending spaces offered by activist groups enable us to learn from those who are experts in their fields. That being said, I thought it would be really awesome to show some support and feature upcoming conferences that cover a variety of topics, themes, and issues on our blog. 

That leads up to this week's open call: If you are involved in any upcoming general forum, event, or conference that you would like to have promoted on the blog, please email us at: wowblog26mott@gmail.com! We are looking for anything that has an emphasis on creating open, inclusive environments for people to learn from others, regardless the topic. We would be more than happy to use W.O.W Weekly as a platform to spread the word. 

-W.O.W Weekly editor, Pearl Ngai


Our Asian American identities

Published on March 2, 2017

Hello WOW Weekly readers! Throughout the next year, I wanted to start a series that will allow the W.O.W community to share reflections about their identities. When I attended the W.O.W Panel "Tough Times: Chinatown Women and the Struggle to Build Community," I was struck by a personal story told by one of the speakers, Sophia Ng, who is now Vice President of her family's supermarket, Po Wing Hong on 49 Elizabeth St. She shared an experience about when she was asked to bring in snacks to share with her classmates at school for her birthday. Her parents suggested she bring in shrimp crackers, but when she brought them to school the other kids thought the snack was strange and didn't eat them. Sophia explained that this experience had stuck with her ever since and has very much shaped the way that she thinks about her Asian American identity as being the 'other' and different. Inspired by this, I thought it would be really meaningful for the W.O.W Project team and larger community to share a memory or experience that has shaped the way we perceive our own identities as Asian Americans. For this post, we are featuring a reflection from intern, Michelle Lee. Hope you enjoy! 

 

"I went to elementary school in Chinatown, so it was at my middle school where I was surrounded by more white people for the first time which made me really self conscious and want to fit in with them really badly. It was definitely a time when I internalized a lot of racism and self-hatred that I would eventually unlearn. I remember during 7th grade, I was at the home of this guy in my grade, it was my first time hanging out with him and two other girls, and they were all white. It was getting late, so I had to call my mom on my friend's flip phone. I basically never talk to my mom in English, so there I was sitting next to three white kids as I told my mom in Cantonese when I'd be coming home. They heard me speaking in Canto and were giggling uncontrollably and tried to repeat some of what I said, followed by more giggling. I definitely felt embarrassed, but I wasn't really mad or upset at that moment. In retrospect, it was a moment that just reminded me that being Asian American made me feel like an outsider. " -Michelle Lee

 
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Reflections on WOW's 2017 Visioning Retreat

Published on February 17, 2017

On Saturday, February 11th, W.O.W hosted its first ever visioning retreat. It was the first time that all W.O.W team members were able to share a space to reflect on 2016 and brainstorm ideas for the upcoming year of the rooster. Researcher and educator, Austin Volz facilitated the W.O.W team through a morning of reflection on W.O.W's journey to date, followed by an afternoon of asking tough questions about what the future of W.O.W's growth and development will look like in this political moment under Trump's presidency. Read some of our W.O.W team members' reflections on the full day retreat.

 

Sharing stories and reflecting about the objects that connect us to each other and to Chinatown.

 
Brainstorming ideas for W.O.W in 2017

Brainstorming ideas for W.O.W in 2017

"The visioning retreat was a really unique and important experience -- firstly for the W.O.W project, but also for myself. Simply having a day to disconnect from everything else and to focus on this project that we all care so much for was really special. By asking questions of ourselves and of each other (and then wading through the resulting answers) we were able to collectively carve out a core set of values and goals for the future of W.O.W. I am so grateful for the opportunity to participate in this conversation with such an inspiring and driven group of people." - Juliet, W.O.W permanent artist-in-residence.

W.O.W's timeline of memorable moments in 2016

W.O.W's timeline of memorable moments in 2016

"What a special moment! Focused and spirited, while taking a bifocal look back and forward! Everyone's heart and likemindedness, to engage and empower all neighbors in our changing community was inspiring! Thank you to all, for breathing into, and sustaining W.O.W's community building mission." -Gary, W.O.W steward.

 "The W.O. W visioning retreat was a really great opportunity for me to reflect on the past year at W.O.W and get a glimpse at what it has in store for the future, and how I'll play a role in that. I was reminded of what the project is about and what it means to me, as well as inspired by where other W.O.W community members and I want to see it go. It was also just really nice to regroup and spend time with other interns, who I hadn't seen in a while." -Michelle, W.O.W intern.

"It was great to reflect on past accomplishment and to build with so many people who have made the W.O.W Project what it is today. I feel energized and excited about the projects that we have in the works for the upcoming weeks and months. It's incredible the kind of creative ideas that come out of putting a bunch of people who care about the neighborhood in a room for six hours." - Diane, Cornell University doctoral candidate.

 

To learn more about our hardworking & passionate community, visit our team page. 

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Year of The Rooster Celebrations in ChinatowN, NYC

Published on January 30, 2017

Watch this short video from this past weekend's Lunar New Year festivities in Chinatown NYC directed & edited by Eric Jenkins-Sahlin. 


W.O.W Snapshots from 2016 

Published on January 2, 2017


2017: A Year To Participate in your Community 

Published on December 23, 2016

 
 

Hello WOW Weekly readers! Today’s post is very special to me. Inspired by the resource sheet compiled by our panelists from our discussion “Tough Times: Chinatown Women & the Struggle to Build Community,” this post will be focusing on ways in which my teenage peers can get involved in the Chinatown community. We first spoke with community member, Jimmy Yee, President of Kiwanis Club of Chinatown. Kiwanis is unique in that its mission focuses its efforts intergenerationally to help both youth and elders in senior centers and at public schools in our Chinatown community. The second organization we reached out to was the Teen Resource Center (TRC) at Charles B Wang Community Health Center (CBW). Sonora Yun and Kyla Cheung (two wonderful people who were both my past supervisors!) gave us insight on how TRC, under the leadership of CBW, is engaging teens within Chinatown to actively learn about important health topics and become involved in volunteer positions for different service projects in the neighborhood.

I think oftentimes we think of community participation and involvement as a huge commitment. With this post, we hope to provide a starting point for younger folks to get involved in the Chinatown community.

-Pearl Ngai, editor

JIMMY YEE of Kiwanis Club of Chinatown

Q: In what ways do you see your organization influencing and affecting the growth of Chinatown?

A: “Kiwanis Club of Chinatown helps promote and develop leadership skills of our children through sponsorship of Key Clubs and Circle K Club. We are currently supporting 2 High School Key Clubs, Stuyvesant  High School and Nest M High School, and Baruch College Circle K Club. Part of our activities involved our Key club and Circle K members to volunteer in helping Chinatown Community, such as acted as translator for PS 124 Parent Teacher conference and organized the library for Transfiguration Pre-school campus. In addition, Kiwanis International organizes Leadership Workshop and conference to provide Leadership Training to our Key Club and Circle K Club members every year. They meet other club members from all over the United States, learning best practices and understanding diversity as well as building leadership skills. Our children are our future leaders. Their current active involvement in our Chinatown Community plant the seeds for their networks and roots here. They will be the group of people make our Chinatown Community strong in the future.”

Q: What are some upcoming events that you would like to promote to the community of Chinatown? (Who are these events mostly targeted towards in terms of age/accessibility?)

A: “One of the major projects we are working on is to publish a Chinese version of Drug and Alcohol Abuse Prevention Booklet for Parents to help them understand the impact of drug and alcohol as well as how to educate their children to prevent the abuse and get help from other resources in the community when needed. We are looking for partnering with professional organizations to deliver educational seminars on this topic and then distribute the free booklets to non-English speaking parents. We are working on the translation and targeting the distribution in 2017.”

SONORA YUN AND KYLA CHEUNG of Teen Resource Center at Charles B. Wang Community Health Center

Q: In what ways do you see your organization influencing and affecting the growth of Chinatown?

A: Charles B. Wang Health Center (CBWCHC) started as the free Chinatown Health Fair back in 1971 to address the needs of Chinese people in NYC, who faced many barriers to health and healthcare (many of which still exist today). It’s pretty amazing to me that since then, the center has grown to 5 buildings (3 in Chinatown, 2 in Flushing) and literally hundreds of employees. To me, it’s pretty unquestionable that CBW has served as a source of life and health for many people in Chinatown.

Teen Resource Center (TRC) started back in 2003 to coordinate youth development within the Pediatrics department. One thing that’s important to me about both CBW and TRC is that when we think of health, we don’t just care about the clinical and biological – it’s also your mental and social health. We don’t expect a magic pill to solve everything. So TRC aims to create a safer space for youth, who are mainly Chinese from all over the city, to feel free to express themselves and to ask us for what they need, whether that be finding a swim teacher to reading college essays to being vulnerable to discussing what Asian American means to learning how to make a videos that enable us to be effective community health advocates.

Q: What are some upcoming events that you would like to promote to the community of Chinatown? (Who are these events mostly targeted towards in terms of age/accessibility?)

A: Teen Resource Center has our holiday open mic this Friday! Catch us at Project Reach, 39 Eldridge St starting at 4pm, and we’ll be giving a free goodie bag to the first 50 attendees. We’re definitely teen-focused and this year we’ll be having both English-speaking and Chinese-speaking emcees! Check out the Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1818534808364680/

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All about the 店面 Residency

Published on December 16, 2016

Chinese New Year has always been a time when community members share in celebration of welcoming a prosperous and lucky new year. Storefronts (店面 in Chinese, pronounced diàn miàn in Mandarin and dim3min6 in Cantonese ) hang red banners with new year’s wishes, Chinese lanterns light up the streets, and families gather and watch the numerous groups of lion dancers perform. For the inaugural 店面 Residency, The W.O.W Project has teamed up with China Residencies to award one artist with a $500 stipend and a two-month residency to create a new, exciting and festive Lunar New Year window display for the year of the rooster during December and January. The artist's work will be on view until the end of March in the street-level windows of 26 Mott Street. This residency will provide access to Wing On Wo & Co's basement studio space equipped with silkscreen facilities, as well as project support from China Residencies and The W.O.W Project. The 店面 resident will be invited to give a presentation about her work, and there will be an opening reception party for the window unveiling on January 26, 2017.

Read more about Melissa Liu, our 店面 resident and what's coming up for the 店面 Residency in the coming months. This residency is in part possible thanks to the support of Nom Wah Tea Parlor

 

Wing On Wo & Co.'s 店面 storefront at 26 Mott Street

 
 
The screen printing studio at 26 Mott St. 

The screen printing studio at 26 Mott St. 

 

OUR 店面 ARTIST IN RESIDENCE: Melissa Liu 劉慧慈

As Wing On Wo.’s inaugural Lunar New Year 店面 Artist in Residence, Melissa Liu is creating a window installation that will be filled with handmade red envelopes (紅包, known as lai see in Cantonese, hong bao in Mandarin) and short-form oral history responses collected from members of Asian Communities in New York City and beyond. In the weeks leading up to Lunar New Year (January 28, 2017), anyone identified with the Asian Diaspora celebrating the Lunar New Year is invited to participate in workshops organized by Melissa in collaboration with The W.O.W. Project, local artists, and community members and groups. Participants will have the opportunity to design and make their own red envelopes, in which they will place a question to share with a family member or friend from an older generation and collect a written response from. Participants will also receive basic training on how to conduct an oral history interview within their community, and have a safe space to discuss issues that Asian communities face in today’s political moment.


Through her window display project, Melissa hopes that the exchange of questions through red envelopes between younger and older generations will spark deeper conversations and moments of empathy that can help bridge intergenerational understanding in Chinatowns and Asian American communities through shared Lunar New Year traditions, and also result in the sharing of stories, experiences, and memories from the Asian Diaspora with locals and street passersby.

Want to get involved? E-mail: Chinatowndiaspora@gmail.com and sign up for the Lunar New Year Red Envelope & Oral History Workshop on 12/29.

"Cooking Through the Diaspora" ongoing work around identity, self-determination, and decolonization through cooking practices and the exploration of modern-day food culture. (photograph by Ricky Flores, 2016)

Melissa Liu 劉慧慈 is a cultural worker, activist, oral historian, and social sculptor, and a first-generation Chinese American. Melissa has worked as an arts administrator in Los Angeles, Paris, and New York with institutions and organizations such as The Laundromat Project, Columbia University School of the Arts, Hammer Museum, Fowler Museum at UCLA, Terra Foundation for American Art, and The Getty Foundation. She has organized and facilitated workshops for the College Art Association and Kelly Street Garden Bronx, and was part of Arts & Labor and its Alternative Economies working group. She is currently part of the working board of Museum Hue, and a longtime advocate for better representation of communities of color in cultural institutions. As a social sculptor and oral historian, Melissa explores culture, cuisine, identity, and place in the Asian Diaspora through cooking, writing, artmaking.


Who are the chinatown women of Today? 

Published on December 9, 2016

This Saturday, December 10th, the W.O.W Project will be hosting our third panel titled: “Tough Times: Chinatown Women & The Struggle to Build Community.” We will be showcasing four prominent female leaders of our community from different generations to speak about the challenges they have faced and the ways in which they have overcome them. For today’s blog post, we will be sharing snippets of interviews with a few other female leaders in the community about their unique experiences starting businesses in the neighborhood. Below is some food for thought for tomorrow's panel discussion, Enjoy! 

Morgan, owner of Chocopocalypse, on finding balance as a long-time Chinatown resident & a new small business owner:

“I am a new business owner and I am a relatively young person, so, I totally welcome everyone’s advice and all that, but I do feel that at times there were more patronizing ways that people said it to me. Other than that, I really haven't faced that many challenges as a woman in Chinatown. I’m on the street, so I’m more subjected to guys screaming not great things at me, but you know, that’s more with the kids that come into Chinatown, it’s not really coming in from the locals or anything like that. I grew up here my whole life and I’ve never really felt me being a woman has really prevented me from doing anything or prevented me from wanting to start a business here. I run the business with my boyfriend, but he’s more the backgrounds guy and I’m the day to day person. I would say some challenges so far is trying to fit into the neighborhood because chocolate is not a Chinese thing, it’s not like I’m trying to sell a Chinese product or anything like that. I think that my greatest challenge is trying to be a part of the neighborhood without intruding on it, which is [a] weird feeling, you know, because I’m from here. I think most people assume that I’m a newcomer to Chinatown and that I’ve never been here before. I try to fit in but still not pretend to be anything I’m not.”

 

Susan, owner of Manhattan Florist, on maternity leave as a female entrepreneur: 

 

“I think despite the different generations, one challenge as a woman entrepreneur is, you know, I started as a single woman, I felt like I could handle as many hours as I needed, which was sometimes 70 to 80 hours a week. As we become older and go through the different processes, like becoming married and becoming a wife, and then having my children… the challenges is that we want to have a family. To have children, yet at the same time there is no such thing as maternity leave for a woman entrepreneur. I can say that I really had none. That's really one of the challenges, especially, I think, for Chinese women. I remember my mom she worked in the factories, and a lot for Asian women, even back then, there were no luxuries of a lot of time off. As a small business owner we need to be balancing between family time and children, they only get to be young once, you know?

Nancy, owner of Wing on Wo & Co., on working in a male-dominated Chinatown community: 

WOW weekly 2 - wow.jpg

“I never had any problems with men, like you say. I dealt mostly with men because there weren't that many women working [in positions] like me. Only the men that you got involved with. Sometimes they didn't...they thought you didn't know anything, like you’re a woman and they underestimate you. When they saw that I could add, they were very surprised, “Oh boy, you're very good!” (laughs) Because most of the women they dealt with were very stupid!! Now, I think it's a little different, there are more women in business and in leadership roles. They have more respect for women...I think he (Donald Trump) underestimates women, in Chinatown or elsewhere. I think Chinese women are pretty strong, they could manage very well, from what I see, the present Chinese women.”

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A Look to the Future: 

An Interview with Diane Wong & Kira Simon-Kennedy

Published on December 2, 2016

For our first post we wanted to honor and appreciate two women, Diane Wong & Kira Simon-Kennedy, who have contributed greatly to the growth of The W.O.W Project. We asked them a few questions about how they view the future of the W.O.W Project through the lens of their work. 

Diane & panelists pose after the (Re) Generation of Chinatown panel in May 2016.

Diane

Q: What do you hope for the future of The W.O.W Project?
A: It’s been such an incredible journey and privilege to see the W.O.W project grow these past couple of months. I remember when Mei and I first sat down last December to talk about the possibility of creating the W.O.W project and what it could mean for Chinatown -- I don’t think either of us imagined for it to move so quickly. In retrospect, I think much of what seemed impossible back then has already been made possible because of the W.O.W project’s ability to meet people where they are at. The W.O.W project is an example of what community control could look like for a neighborhood – it inspires us to think about the future of cities and what we would like to see in our communities. The project provides residents the space and resources to build the future they want to see. My hope is that the W.O.W project will be able to engage in these conversations across Chinatowns in the United States and in a global context. I think we are often so absorbed in what happens locally that we forget that we are all situated in global context and the issues that New York City Chinatown faces stretches to communities in other cities and across oceans. My next question for the W.O.W project is: how do we situate the W.O.W project’s current work in a diasporic and transnational context – especially with regards to displacement and resistance.

Q: What type of interactions would you like to see W.O.W have with the NYC Chinatown? If possible, how about in other Chinatown across the US? Have you seen other similar movements/projects in other Chinatowns across America? What are they like, how are they alike/different than W.O.W?
A: There have been a lot of changes in New York City due to gentrification. The push for luxury development and displacement in Chinatown reflects a systemic issue that stretches beyond New York City. I would love to see the W.O.W Project collaborate with other businesses in Chinatowns across the country to strategize on the ways that small business owners can creatively organize against displacement alongside low-income tenants. Many people including the media still portray gentrification as a natural process but there is nothing natural about the physical uprooting of families that have called Chinatown home for generations. I would love to see the W.O.W Project challenge this narrative by building with community-minded businesses across the country to uplift the struggles of tenants who are currently facing displacement and pool resources that can be used to preserve what Chinatown means for low-income immigrant Chinese families. While there are similar resistance movements in Chinatowns across the country, I think that what sets the W.O.W Project apart is the fact that Mei is always careful to build on existing grassroots efforts and is mindful of who she and her project is accountable to at the end of the day.

China Residences and The W.O.W Project recently put out an open call for The 店面 Residency which invites creatives based in NYC to design a Chinese New Year window display for Wing on Wo & Co.'s storefront.

Kira

Q: What do you hope for the future of the W.O.W?
A: I hope that the W.O.W project continues to come into its own alongside Wing On Wo to create an exciting new chapter in the long and peaceful history of 26 Mott Street. I think the conversations Mei has started have already started to take root and will grow into action-oriented movements that shape the neighborhood for the better. I hope that the talks, challenges, screenings, and residency projects continue to inform each other so that Wing On Wo can continue to be a space for gathering, trade, and creativity for generations to come.

Q: Have you seen movements similar to W.O.W in other spaces in China?
A: There are very interesting community spaces like Digua Society in Beijing creating inter-generational communal areas through design, barber shops, and libraries. There are also artist-run and independent spaces that share some of the same motivations, like Handshake 302 in Shenzhen and Lijiang Studio in Yunnan.

Q: What is the relation of art to these movements and projects both in the States and in China? 
A: All these spaces realize that the art world and the real world are one and the same, and although the "art" world tends to isolate itself by creating often elitist spaces that comment on the "real" world from afar, it doesn't always have to be that way. Other organizations in NYC like the Laundromat Project really take this to heart too.


About Diane & Kira

Diane Wong is a doctoral candidate at Cornell University where she writes on race, gender and the gentrification of Chinatowns. As a scholar activist and educator, her research stems from a place of revolutionary praxis and love for community. As a first generation Chinese American woman born and raised in New York City her research is intimately tied to Chinese diaspora and the immigrant experience. Her current dissertation research explores how gentrification impacts low-income immigrants and how Chinese residents with limited resources mobilize to fight for their homes, shifting away from the narrative of immigrants as non-political. You can find her online at @XpertDemon.

 

Kira is the co-founder and director of China Residencies. She is currently a member of NEW INC, the New Museum's art, design & technology incubator, and produces independent documentary films.

 

 
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