About the West Coast Tour
We’re excited to launch The W.O.W Project's Chinatown Oral History Collection… with a west coast tour!
This is a collaboration between Mei Lum, fifth generation shop owner of Wing On Wo & Co. and Diane Wong, independent ethnographer and doctoral candidate at Cornell University. From Figueroa St in Los Angeles to Mott Street in New York City, the process of gentrification has changed dozens of Chinatowns across the United States. As metropolitan Chinatowns continue to change and residents are displaced due to increased rents and forced evictions, it is important that the histories at risk of being displaced along with the people are preserved for future generations.
Bringing our work with The W.O.W. Project in New York City’s Chinatown to other cities., we hope to share strategies of survival through the themes of regeneration, multi-media activism, and inter-generational learning. In our workshop we draw from a series of oral histories that were conducted with a diverse cross section of Chinatown residents including tenants, organizers, small shop owners, restaurant and garment workers, creatives, and nonprofit administrators to explore the social, cultural, and political effects of gentrification. We engage a series of core questions: How do we historically contextualize the gentrification we see in Chinatown? What are immigrant elders and youth doing to fight back against gentrification? What are the implications for social participation, community, and mental health? We also call into question who gets to decide what gets preserved in Chinatown and what it means to preserve while still being accountable to the community. Our workshop will be interactive with participants who wish to learn more about resistance and how to combat the gentrification happening in immigrant neighborhoods across the country.
SF Bay Area: 10/6 -10
ABOUT the Speakers:
Mei Lum is the fifth generation owner of her family’s 92-year-old porcelain ware business, Wing on Wo & Co. (W.O.W) In early 2016, her family’s building and business was on the brink of sale. In an effort to resist against contributing to the process of gentrification in NYC’s Chinatown, Mei decided to take on the role of running W.O.W to continue her family’s five-generation-long legacy in the neighborhood and help protect the heart of Chinatown from encroaching gentrifying forces. In May 2016, with the help of Diane, Mei founded The W.O.W Project out of a desire to bring community members’ concerns of a rapidly changing Chinatown into a space for dialogue. At its core, The W.O.W Project is working to reclaim ownership over Chinatown's future by reviving, protecting and encouraging Chinatown's creative culture through arts, culture and activism.
Mei is currently a National Art Strategies’ Creative Community Fellow where she is working to build a socially-minded business model for W.O.W that supports the future growth of The W.O.W Project.
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 Flushing, Queens, her research is intimately tied to Chinese diaspora and the urban immigrant experience. Her current research explores how gentrification politically impacts the Chinese immigrant communities in San Francisco New York City, and Boston. Her research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, American Political Science Association, and Cornell University's American Studies Program. Diane also works as a community organizer with groups like CAAAV: Organizing Asian Communities and Chinatown Art Brigade.
Vipul Chopra is a New York City-based designer creating all kinds of interactive experiences. He has developed a wide range of transferable skills from designing brand identities, print ads, websites, spotify playlist covers, snapchat filters to animating html ads, motion graphics and 360 VR videos. His experience of working with diverse clients and environments has enabled him to develop a design approach that is both inclusive and accessible.
Vipul is committed to producing work that is socially responsible and delivers a meaningful impact, in his own time he has partnered with various community-based organizations such as The W.O.W Project. Most recently, he created a series of 360 VR videos that explores gentrification and displacement in New York’s Chinatown. He is inspired to push the boundaries of technology and to use design as a tool to create work that is relatable and empowers the voices of diverse communities.
*If you'd like to get in touch and arrange a time for us to meet with you, lead a workshop or attend one of your community's events while we're in your city, please leave a note below and we'll get back to you as soon as possible!