TINA M. MCDUFFIE: Chinatown in Boston, in Chicago, and in Washington, D.C. CYNTHIA YEE: I grew up on Hudson Street.
Everybody's father worked similar jobs, everybody's mother sewed.
MURIEL LEE SARMADI: This was the beginning of our journey to meet the American Dream.
MCDUFFIE: The evolution and challenges of these unique American neighborhoods.
ANDREW LEONG: They feel a belonging, and that's what we're trying to preserve.
MCDUFFIE: "A Tale of Three Chinatowns" on Local, U.S.A. ♪ ♪ (gong clanging) EVELYN MOY: Chinatown for me is a cultural touchstone.
This is a place where my parents and grandparents came and lived when they first came to the United States.
ANNITA TAYLOR: It's a group of folks that actually came here to settle and they were looking for a better life.
JENN LOW: I can connect with my heritage and my identity.
BEN KAUFMAN: Where newcomers to the country or to the neighborhood can go to have something they're familiar with.
CHRISTINA POY: You can do business with people who understand the way you do business culturally.
TAYLOR: This is their, their spot, their place where they actually said, "You know what, this is home."
MICHEL MARTIN: And if you've been to a Chinatown lately in a number of East Coast cities, like New York or Boston or even Philadelphia, you might have noticed something.
They're getting less, well, Chinese!
♪ ♪ (slide projector clicking) CYNTHIA YEE: I grew up on Hudson Street.
I lived there from my birth.
In my childhood, it was really like a village.
It was a village model.
Because you only had a limited number of Chinese immigrants.
They were Toisanese rural people, with kind of rural values.
You could say it's brotherhood, but it's neighborliness, certain basic level of honesty, and kind of helping each other, and small.
We played in the streets.
Very easy to make jump ropes.
On my street, there was one brother and sister who had a set of bikes, so we just took turns with the bikes.
And all toys were shared.
I attended the Quincy School and we didn't speak English.
The only person in the classroom who spoke English was the teacher.
Everybody spoke Toisanese.
All the children spoke Toisanese.
You know, everybody knew everybody else.
Everybody ate the same food.
Everybody's father worked similar jobs.
Everybody's mother sewed.
We had a lot of freedom to go in and out of each other's houses.
To me, it was Toisan paradise.
♪ RAYMOND LEE: When my father came to this country, the United State, he was about 18 years old.
My father was a merchant who worked in Chicago, and, uh, naturally, you bring your children.
I came to this country at the age of 15 from Guangdong.
Coming to here was different.
Now everything is on my own.
The biggest thing is loneliness.
At those day, 1950, is a lot of discrimination going on.
I used to write to my sister in China, said, "Don't come to this country.
It's very difficult, very lonely."
(projector clicking) EDDIE MOY: We lived right on 6th Street, 6th and H Street Northwest.
We had a house.
We had basically three rooms-- one for my parents, one for the girls, and one for three of us, the sons.
My father, which, who was Hamm H. Moy, he grew up in Alexandria, Virginia, and then, when he graduated from high school, he was drafted in World War II.
He met my mom from China, and eventually got back to the United States.
They out came here and lived in Chinatown with some relatives, and then eventually, he wound up buying a house.
Growing up in D.C. Chinatown was very memorable only because we had a lot of our friends who lived very close by.
Whenever we want to do something, we would just knock on their doors, run over to their house.
And say we, we wanted to play football or basketball, we'd go to a certain park, we'd just walk over there.
We didn't have cell phones.
We didn't have malls.
We didn't have luxury cars, we kind of, like, enjoy the time we had together back then.
♪ (horn honking) ♪ All Chinatowns have served as a sanctuary role from the 1850s onward, with the anti-Chinese era.
The Chinese at first were welcomed because of the need for cheap labor.
But then they were harassed, and had to gather back together.
In numbers, we have greater level of protection.
MARY TING YI LUI: We have seen, as historians looking back into this period of the 19th century, that the term Chinatown gets used very loosely.
Basically, if there's a cluster of Chinese seemingly residing in even a block or a street, it suddenly gets labeled as Chinatown, so the space itself becomes racialized as connected to Chinese people.
But Chinatown itself isn't just simply because the Chinese chose to live there, it's also a process of racial segregation.
It is partly created as a result of whites not wanting the Chinese to expand beyond a certain part of the city, and so definitely limiting their abilities to live or work.
LEONG: There were not just local laws, there were state laws that were anti-Chinese in flavor.
In the 1860s and '70s, Chinese could not own property, Chinese could not intermarry.
The Chinese, by that time, were in all kinds of activities: fisheries, farming... And they were working very well, and working very hard, and generally paid less.
♪ LEONG: After the establishment of the Chinatown in San Francisco, we actually saw the expansion of the Chinese community into the United States.
And then they started going elsewhere and forming Chinatowns in Los Angeles, Seattle, Portland, as well as throughout the West and the Northwest.
But were met with violence.
Lynchings in old Los Angeles, the Rock Springs, Wyoming, Massacre, the Snake River Massacre: all this type of violence drove the Chinese out of these settlements, where they had their own gold mines or their own fisheries.
Where do they go?
They were forced to go back to either larger Seattle Chinatown or San Francisco Chinatown.
TUNNEY LEE: The context of why the Chinese were driven out of the West was that the very railroad they built brought Euro American immigrants to the West.
♪ LUI: The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 really marks the first time that Congress has ever named a national or ethnic group to be barred from immigration.
This is a profound moment in the nation's history, where it's clearly pointing to one group and saying, "You are not welcome here."
The fact that the U.S. federal government has passed something like Chinese Exclusion really sends a signal that the government is no longer there to protect Chinese.
TUNNEY LEE: And there was a campaign against the Chinese.
"They're taking our jobs."
You know, "White people should be working these jobs."
And the Chinese were vilified.
And they were physically driven out of small towns.
And there's no place to go, but to the cities and to the East.
And that's the first settlers coming in around 1870.
Chicago, New York are probably the main destinations, but then they went on to places like Boston and D.C. ♪ PAUL LEE: My father came to this country when he was 13.
My grandfather was already here running a laundry, and they wanted to bring my father over.
By 1944, he became of age, so he was drafted.
My father served in the Army, and actually, we have a picture of his company.
They were all white males, except for my father and one of his colleagues, who were both Chinese and they were about a head shorter than everyone else.
After World War II, he went back and married my mother.
They came here and lived in Chinatown.
So I was born here in Boston, we lived on Hudson Street in a row house.
It's basically a two-room apartment with the bathroom down the hall.
Back when I was a kid, Chinatown was a really vibrant neighborhood.
A residential community.
There were two or three main streets: Hudson Street, where we lived, Tyler Street, and then Harrison Avenue.
And both sides of the street were these three-story tenement buildings, row houses, full of families.
So we would just walk out the door, and we would have friends to play with.
And since we all went to the old Quincy School on Tyler Street, we're all classmates, too, so we just knew everybody.
My father initially worked in a hand laundry.
And then he moved on to work in restaurants as a waiter.
Most of my friends, their fathers were working in restaurants.
And my mother and a lot of the other mothers worked in sewing factories as garment workers.
CYNTHIA YEE: And mothers all sewed at home, so every home had a sewing machine.
So what you heard everywhere was the sound of sewing machines.
Children of Chinatown had lots of freedom, mainly because the fathers were not home.
What you would see every day around 2:00 is this parade of fathers sort of all going to work at the restaurants where they worked as bartenders, maître d's, waiters.
But basically, you had no fathers to really monitor you.
Except one day a week, it'd be really special.
It was called day off.
So they would cook, like, special meals, and maybe take their child to what we thought was our park, was the Boston Common.
I didn't realize it was a tourist attraction, and I thought it was our park.
RICHARD CHIN: Well, I lived on Tyler Street.
Life was pretty much four blocks.
We had our elementary school.
We had our YMCA.
We had our local church.
And we were told not to go beyond the Chinatown borders.
When you didn't see any more Chinese people, that was the end of your line.
But of course, I always ventured beyond those boundaries.
♪ I was able to learn about the Western ways of life because it was downtown, it was the Combat Zone.
We had theaters to go to.
We could learn all about the different types of food that the American palate offered.
The only contact we came with white people were our teachers.
In the late '50s was prior to 1965 and the Civil Rights Act.
There wasn't a lot of privileges for Chinese people.
When I used to go in the afternoons to spend at my father's laundry, I would go in the backyard to play with the Irish kids.
And they of course would introduce me, "Ching Chong Chinaman," "You (bleep)," and that sort of thing.
Which really kind of didn't bother me, because I didn't really know the racial repercussions of it.
But one time some kid said something very bad to me, and I got so mad that I picked up a big boulder and smashed it on his foot.
Well, he got hurt and he told his father.
And his father came right up to my father and said, "What are you going to do about it?
"Because your son just hurt my son.
He had no reason to do that."
And this was a learning point in my life.
So my father slapped me twice in front of the white kid and the white parent.
And said, "My son will never do that to you again."
And so I'm thinking, "Why did I get hit?"
And then I, later on, I realized that he was protecting me from further abuse, because unless he took immediate action to show that he was sorry for what happened, and that my son would be repentant, that this white man would then further take more liberties in harassing, and maybe even do something bad to my father's laundry.
My mother wasn't the only one.
Many of the Toisanese mothers, who were basically on their own, because the husbands were at work, on the restaurants, raised their children with this idea of separateness and this idea of how we're different from what was around us.
So therefore, because we were being raised under kind of adverse conditions, and it was a way of telling us, "Well, we're not like them."
So it was always made clear to us, "They're different from us."
That kind of, sort of separateness in some ways was good, okay?
In some ways.
But when you have insularity and you have patriarchy, it can be toxic for girls and for women.
And for boys and for men.
When I discovered my aunt would call me to wash the dishes at age 12, but not her son, who I loved, it's because I was a girl, and I knew that was why.
So I was, I was like a, kind of a woman warrior starting at a young age.
(laughs) Because I could see the patriarchy in Toisanese culture.
That preference for the special treatment of boys and men.
If you have insularity, you don't think you can go outside of your community to get help.
You essentially can get trapped.
♪ We were forced to move around 1962.
So we were told we were being evicted because the Expressway was cutting through Hudson Street.
I mean, it's ironic that tearing down of my street coincided with me hitting puberty, shortly after puberty.
So you have major changes with your body, but then you have some major changes with your environment.
Suddenly, you lose all your friends and neighbors.
I recall, like, in the late '50s, they started breaking down the houses, all the buildings on one side of Hudson Street, and they had begun building the highway.
PAUL LEE: So it really broke up the neighborhood, and so everybody, virtually everybody moved.
RICHARD CHIN: They were building the new Massachusetts Turnpike extension, and they tore down half of Chinatown on Hudson Street.
CHRISTINE YEE: It was a full block, there were four apartments in each building.
RICHARD CHIN: So 200 families had to find a place to live, and it forced the remaining housing stock to diminish even further.
And the landlords-- I don't know if they were Chinese or not, but they doubled and tripled the rent.
LEONG: All those people were displaced.
And this was one of the longest continuous existence of Chinatowns across, you know, the United States.
I remembered my parents looked at a place in the South End.
And it, you know, and the South End back then was pretty run-down, too.
But it was so run-down and the neighbors were just so sketchy that they just decided they didn't want to raise a family there.
CYNTHIA YEE: My family moved to the Combat Zone, which is grungy, okay?
(laughs) Because it's the prostitution, porno house area.
I was, like, afraid.
Once we moved into the Combat Zone, it was a shock to me after leaving paradise, right?
Toisanese paradise, I saw prostitutes at work.
And I knew what they were doing, but I was sassy, so I liked to ask my mother something I already knew just to see what she'd say.
And she would always say, "Mo hai": "Don't look!"
You lost that community of neighbors, because everybody had to scatter.
LEONG: Throughout lower Washington Street, there is the adult entertainment Combat Zone.
You know, by 1974, because the Boston Police Department said, "We don't want adult entertainment "to be scattered throughout.
"It would be a very difficult situation for us to manage "with all the various different associated crime "that goes with adult entertainment.
Now let's create an adult entertainment zone."
Boston Chinatown, in probably one of the worst instances of environmental racism in the United States, is the recipient of the zone.
We moved from Chinatown about six blocks away into the South End part of Boston, which at that time was kind of run-down, but many Chinese went to this particular area because it's walkable to Chinatown and bought homes for dirt-cheap.
But the move for many of the Chinatown families, it meant that they had to be a little more brave and courageous to be mixing with non-Chinese.
When I moved out into the suburbs, first of all, it was a culture shock, because we were the fourth Chinese family to move to Brookline.
My classmates were primarily Jewish, and I had never met anyone Jewish before.
With that, I was really putting all my energies into trying to find myself in the suburbs.
♪ Chinatown's whole history in different stages has, is a history of being shaped and squeezed by development events.
You know, in the '50s and '60s, it was urban renewal, so it was actually federal government laws which decided to take homes from people for the so-called public good, and ended up using the land primarily to build highways.
With the Chinese Merchants building here on Hudson Street, the community did a fundraiser post-World War II to build the building, all right?
This was a brand-new building with this Chinese pavilion on the very top, right?
In order to kind of attract tourists to come into Chinatown back in the day.
The original plan of the state was to take the whole building away.
This was one of the first instance in Asian America where you actually saw people, Chinese Americans, organizing.
So people were able to do letter-writing campaigns, petitions, protests, and got the state to back off.
What the state was successful to do is to, you know, basically have a settlement where they would only take half of the building.
And so that was, you know, just one chapter in the various different struggles that we've had in Boston Chinatown.
Those zoning decisions created huge profits, and created the speculation that we see today that caused the rise in prices, and forced people out of the community.
♪ (crowd yelling) LEONG: Throughout the '60s and into the '70s, because of the civil rights era, we saw younger Asian Americans coming back in the movement to serve the community.
PAUL LEE: A number of the major social service organizations in Boston Chinatown date from the late 1960s: the Community Health Center; the Asian American Civic Association, which provides immigrant services and job training; the Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center, which provides day care, adult learning.
A lot was happening in the late 1960s, and as part of that activism, the government authorities were forced to agree to some affordable housing developments.
A lot more college-educated Chinatown kids came back to try to help out to be sort of the spokesmen for the Chinatown interests.
CYNTHIA YEE: I became a teacher in Chinatown because we were the generation of the Civil Rights Movement, of Martin Luther King, of John F. Kennedy, and we were so inspired.
When I arrived to teach at the Quincy School, the science books said, "Someday, man will go to the moon."
That's how outdated the materials were in Chinatown.
We became politicized, of course.
We spoke English, we knew how things worked.
So, then the school department started paying attention and actually, they picked on some of my friends who were teachers, and say, "Are you responsible for putting this in the newspapers?"
They didn't want the world to know that they were taking advantage of the Chinese community.
PAUL LEE: At that time, the Consolidated Benevolent Association was really the only organization in town.
Everyone looked to them as the representative of Chinatown.
They were involved in building a couple of large affordable housing projects, Tai Tung Village and also Mass Pike Towers.
CYNTHIA YEE: But tearing down all that housing was major, and the building of Tai Tung Village, Mass Pike Towers, they're high rises.
Life for a child in high rises is not the same as life for a child in a row house.
Simply because in a row house, you're going in and out easily, and you'll have somebody upstairs and somebody downstairs, but when you're in an apartment building, it's a little more complicated.
You don't necessarily know who your neighbors are.
You ended up with a little more crime.
You know, in the last 50 years, there's been enough of a base that's been established so that the immigrant can have a better way of life than they did perhaps maybe 50, 60 years ago.
♪ I think Chinatown is a passage for many people now.
♪ LOWE: Chinatown has so many stakeholders, that's one of the strengths of the community.
(speaks indistinctly) LOWE: There's the residents whose lives depend most on the survival of the community.
- (speaking Chinese) LOWE: There are also the small business owners, and there are the community organizations and social service agency professionals, whose mission is really to serve.
WOMAN: What kind of programs does this community need?
PAUL LEE: I think that because of the power and the importance of the social service organizations in Chinatown, it still is a magnet.
So people still come back to Boston Chinatown.
The question is, can we preserve it?
Because all the row houses that you see in Chinatown now are being sought after by commercial developers.
LEONG: Chinatown started as a racially segregated, forced sanctuary in various undesirable neighborhoods.
People felt a sense of communal bond in their shared language and culture.
But over time, because of its proximity to the center city, next to culture, restaurants, and everything else, it became desirable, and so now, it is ripe for gentrification.
♪ With communities, ethnic enclave communities across the country, we're seeing huge forces happening.
Whereas before, in the '50s, '60s, it was a white flight to suburbia.
White folks, with the creation of suburbia via redlining and the history of wealth creation that the government gave to white folks to create white suburbia, now we have the forces coming back into a reverse trend, into the center city.
Empty-nesters who want access to art, culture, food, they're moving out of suburbia and coming back into the center city.
Which means that the working poor, the immigrant that had occupied this particular space in the downtown area, where at one point in time it was not attractive, it was dirty, it was congested, now they're being displaced.
We're seeing a massive demographic shift.
With the current course, unless there's further activism, I really see it becoming D.C. Chinatown.
♪ WESLEY CHIN: My parents were originally from Toisan.
And my grandfather actually had come over to the States much earlier.
In the late '20s, he worked in a laundry on 9th Street.
But in 1950, he sent back for my father as a store manager.
My father, along with my mother and their five children, came here.
The original Chinatown was located along the south side of Pennsylvania Avenue, roughly between 3rd to 7th Streets Northwest.
In the 1920s, the government wanted to build a set of government office buildings called the Federal Triangle, that was bounded on the north by Pennsylvania Avenue, on the south by Constitution Avenue, and stretched roughly up to 13th or 14th Streets.
Chinatown had to be moved about five or six blocks north to H Street and up to I Street, from 5th Street to 9th Street Northwest.
♪ There were a lot of kids around the Chinatown area.
At first, it was just a matter of running around the neighborhood.
We got roller-skates together.
We had bicycles together.
We'd play football and baseball in the alleys and the parking lots.
What I loved the most about Chinatown was gathering with friends.
You'd have automatic teams of baseball players or basketball.
Back then, you just go into the alley and you have a pickup game.
♪ LINDA JEW: The sense of community was the defining factor.
It's a little self-contained community, kind of like Mayberry.
You didn't just know your neighbors, but, you know, you knew the business owners in Chinatown, and the business owners knew everybody else.
♪ EDDIE MOY: We had a clubhouse which, C.Y.C., or Chinatown was known for.
stand for China Youth Club.
And we'd do lion dance, basketball, and volleyball.
But it was fun and it was convenient, because everything was walking distance.
Restaurants were available.
♪ LOWE: I remember it to be, you know, quite a thriving area where a lot of-- I won't say exclusively, but pretty much, but almost exclusively-- Chinese businesses that catered to people in the neighborhood, and who catered to Chinese families who came into D.C. to do their grocery shopping, because that's where the Chinese, you know, markets were.
♪ ♪ RAYMOND MOY: We lived in the basement of what is now the Moys' Association.
Each family has an association where they did things to support the family.
It's just like there's a Lees' Association, there's a Yees'.
The Moys' Association was a group of elderly people that got together and helped to assist new immigrants.
The goals of the association, I believe, was to also support things back in China.
So a lot of it dealt with paying homage to the ancestors, the funerals, and so every year, they paid folks to do cemetery rites that they'd perform.
- (praying in Chinese) RAYMOND MOY: You also have to understand, the basement of the Moys' Association wasn't a lot of room for the seven of us.
It was a kitchen area with, like, the side room, and all seven of us lived in one area, basically.
We had to make do with what we had to make do with.
So it was kind of a transition.
We saw some new immigrants coming in, but pretty much after the '60s, the newer immigrants were actually moving into the suburbs instead of moving into the Chinatown area.
Some people say it was because of riots in D.C. in 1968.
♪ EDDIE MOY: We lived right next door to a liquor store, and the liquor store actually was broken into during the riots.
The police threw a smoke bomb in there to keep the looters out, but the problem was that, you know, we could smell the smoke and gas in our house, so we had a rough time during the riots.
♪ WESLEY CHIN: It just devastated 7th Street.
Anything above Massachusetts Avenue was pretty much burned out.
That did make a lot of people leave, but I don't think it was the only thing that was happening there.
It's not, like, the safest part of town, either.
WESLEY CHIN: The thing about just being in the middle of Chinatown was that it was usually loud until really late at night.
(siren blaring in distance, bottle clinking) Some of the gambling houses were let out at, like, 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning.
RAYMOND MOY: There were areas that you were wary of.
There were, you know, biker bars.
We didn't feel uncomfortable, but, you know, we always traveled in numbers because we were always in groups.
WESLEY CHIN: It was a rough neighborhood.
It was basically a ghetto, I mean, if you want to call it that, but it was a fun place for us.
SARMADI: The reason that we moved out to Virginia was to seek the American Dream.
My parents bought a carry-out in Vienna in early '70s.
I was told to get on a bus on Friday afternoon and ride out to Vienna to help wash dishes.
And then a year later, my parents said, "Well, okay, well, we need you out there more often."
So it was my second sister, myself, and my brother right after me, we moved out to Vienna.
When our parents moved us from Chinatown, we just went with the flow of things.
We came here to come out of poverty.
This was the beginning of our journey to, I guess, meet the American Dream.
♪ WESLEY CHIN: And then it was the Convention Center, roughly in 1976, that got rid of the Chinatown area past 9th Street, and pretty much eliminated the Chinese folks that were on New York Avenue.
We had to move because they were gonna build the Convention Center.
We moved in the spring of 1979 from 9th and I Street up to 16th and Longfellow Street.
When we moved, it was kind of like a bomb hit, everybody just, pff.
Everybody just kind of disappeared.
We all went different ways.
Everybody on our block had to move that we know, which were at least about a half a dozen families.
I can't even speak to the volume of all the other families in the other areas, I mean, within that area, how many had actually got displaced.
WESLEY CHIN: When the new convention center came in, that basically took away the boarding houses from 9th Street over, and above New York Avenue.
So, there were fewer and fewer places for immigrants to stay.
It wasn't that the Chinese American community, the Chinese community, just got up and walked away and said, "Goodbye, Washington, D.C." It was quite different.
Many persons who lived in the community were actually displaced.
Some homes were torn down, and as a result, the government made the commitment to create the Wah Luck House.
EDDIE MOY: There was a lot where the Wah Luck house is now, and we would play football, which, it was, back then, was the empty lot.
When the Wah Luck House started, many Chinese against it.
That project was designated to, you know, fill the dislocated Chinese residents from the old Convention Center block.
They had the first right of priority to move in that project.
WESLEY CHIN: And then it was the Verizon Center coming in, in 1997.
That brought a lot of businesses into the area.
JOHN TINPE: There was a plan during the '80s to develop it into a shopping center, business office building, that would become Asian-owned and Asian-oriented, but that plan was not successful due to lack of funding and investment.
So for many years, the land stood empty.
There was a lot of parking lots and D.C. government office building.
All that was put together, and the arena was funded.
SOOHYUN JULIE KOO: In 2001, there was a lot of, you know, demographic changes, of course, and also economic change in Chinatown.
The main point of struggle is that we don't have a community who actually live in Chinatown to support Chinatown.
In terms of the actual number of Asian American community members in D.C., it's already small.
Census 2010, it was four percent, and out of that, those members who actually live in Chinatown were the members who actually live since, like, '80s.
You have to have, like, residents who live in Chinatown to have these many aspects of Chinatown to continue to sustain a Chinatown, but it wasn't there.
There were buildings owned by Chinese American members being sold.
And therefore, those stores being also changed to different box stores.
Also, when people have family and people start having more money, they want to live in suburbian area.
♪ ♪ My grandfather passed away in the 1970s, and then my dad took over the grocery store.
And he basically ran it until he passed away in the mid-1990s.
And then my oldest brother took over the store, and he ran it until 2004.
During that time, though, business had been steadily declining.
The thing that pretty much broke the camel's back was the establishment of Gallery Place in 2004.
That brought a tremendous amount of new businesses on 7th Street, and it's, all of a sudden, you saw these big high-rises coming in, the condos, and it became more, much more expensive in the downtown area.
I don't recall what year it was, but one of my very good friends, we got together and were just walking around Chinatown, and we turned the corner and walked down 7th Street, and I saw Hooters.
And that was the moment I thought, "Yeah, this is not where I grew up."
BONDS: Neighborhoods change, but it doesn't mean that all of the people in a neighborhood are gone, and it doesn't mean that their culture is not there any longer.
♪ I was head of the agency called Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs.
My role is to provide equal access to government services for Asian and Pacific Islander communities.
(talking in background) KOO: There were a lot of talks about shrinking of Chinatown.
And the community members have expressed a lot of concern about it, to the point where the mayor thought that we actually had to have a plan to have a systemic approach to preserve Chinatown.
We have a committee to support the action of preserving Chinatown, but that, again, was more of aesthetic factors of Chinatown.
Businesses who open their business in Chinatown proximity have to follow this design guideline to use Chinese characters, to translate the names of business establishment, as well as have Chinese-themed design in their establishment, talking about façade.
There's a portion, right, of cultural appropriation.
This is exotic for me.
This is the Disney-fication that I've talked about that exists in D.C. Chinatown, right?
Because, you know, we don't have a whole lot of residents left here.
Maybe, what, you know, roughly under 300?
Disney-fication is a term that I started using around gentrification.
Disney-fication is the destruction of a traditional, living community.
A traditional community is no longer present in that area.
You don't see Chinese businesses, you don't see Asian American businesses there, you see some sort of a city ordinance to say, you know, "All the signs here have to be in Chinese."
You know, who are the Chinese business signs for, but for bringing in the tourists?
And so that is really our ultimate fear for the destruction or for the Disney-fication of Chinatown to happen across the United States.
♪ RAYMOND MOY: The Chinatown that's there today, from my opinion, is not the Chinatown that I know.
And I would not call it Chinatown.
KOO: One of the biggest challenges is lack of sustainable actions.
That can be only achieved by having a pointed leadership with a support in funding, whether it's from government or from community, to continue to carry out action items to sustain and preserve Chinatown.
(man talking indistinctly in background) KOO: I would say it's...
Desire is there, but sometimes it's hard to bring out actions.
It's easy to talk about, but then it's hard to sustain that actions, whether it's a community support in funding or government funding.
You cannot only rely on volunteers forever.
LEONG: Without younger generations taking over all the necessary roles in social services, in activism, we will not have these Chinatowns for the future.
The exception to the rule of these shrinkages of Chinatown, and the changes and the Disney-fication of Chinatowns that's happening across the country, is Chicago.
♪ They have attractive spaces, a park, they have a water view, as well as highway access.
Chicago Chinatown is also located on a transit line.
All those particular features that we're seeing the demise out of the traditional older Chinatowns across the rest of the country, those are the kind of danger signs, the warnings, that the residents and the leaders within Chicago Chinatown needs to be aware of, and to make sure that policymakers address, you know, to preserve, to make sure that this community exists into the future.
♪ GENE LEE: Having been born and raised in Chicago, I kind of knew everyone.
The decade of the '50s, the '60s, Chinatown was very small, a couple of blocks.
Growing up in this community back then, sometimes it wasn't the safest thing to do to travel outside your community.
Other times, you made friends, but it was usually after you tangled or fought.
I went to John C. Haines School.
The class was majority white, Black, some Latino, and a handful of Chinese.
You did something bad, your parents and everyone else in the community knew.
If you were dating...
Shoot, my parents would know who I'm dating in the community before I even got home.
♪ My father served in the Navy.
When he got out of the service, he learned to be a shoe repairman.
Simply a cobbler by day, and he drove a taxicab at night so the family could survive.
♪ RAYMOND LEE: I came over February 1950.
The first day, when I arrived Chicago with my father, we both live here on the third floor, on the southwest corner of this building.
This used to be a grocery store, wholesale to a restaurant.
♪ I came into the U.S. from Hong Kong in 1963.
I was 12 years old.
'Cause my dad and my mom, they don't speak English.
And then my dad worked in Chinatown, so that's why we moved to Chinatown.
Chinatown was small.
We don't even have one bakery.
In the '60s, and at that time C.C.U.C., they had a class called English as a second language to help us newcomers to learn to improve our English.
During that time, it's very funny, because we had two separate group.
One is called ABC, American-Born Chinese.
And the other Chinese group is called F.O.B., Fresh Off the Boat.
(laughing): And I'm fresh off the boat.
So we don't get along very well, because they don't, they think we are in a little lower class because we don't speak English that good.
We are not in their category.
So at that time, even in Chinatown or friends-wise, that's two separate group: ABC and F.O.B.
When you come to this country, you get an education, you get a good, a better job, good job, then you move to suburb.
That was almost like, most people do that.
I did not, because my mother is always in Chinatown and my wife didn't want to go.
I came into Chinatown in 1950 and I'm still here as of now.
(laughs) I graduate from college in 1960 and then, then work as accountant.
And I, and I was very fortunate, because in a few year, I become office, assistant office manager, office manager, and a controller, a vice president, and a senior vice president.
And I really did not get involved in Chinatown because when I finished school, I raised a family, and all that.
LAU: I work at Haines School.
And that time, there were a lot of new immigrant in the '70s, so I worked there as a school community representative.
I'm like a liaison between the parents and the school.
We had a department called multilingual education.
So they need a multilingual person.
After my children start going to school, I start volunteering.
GENE LEE: I was drafted during the Vietnam conflict.
When I came back in approximately September of 1970, I became active in the community.
And what I noticed in the community was, obviously there, there was some growth.
Some organizations are starting to become more active, not only in the community, but in the political mainstream, as we would say.
I got to know my alderman a little bit better, Fred Roti, because he had, got his shoes fixed by my dad.
Politics is important here in America.
If you're not involved in politics, you don't have a voice.
And I'm going to give you a little story about this Chinatown.
107 years at Cermak and Wentworth.
Back in 1912, before we moved to this location, we were at Clark and Van Buren-- South Loop.
Our business people were not able to extend their leases, buy property, do upgrades.
What's going on?
Well, what's going on was that we were not "at the table."
We had no voice.
We had no input in regards to our future, or our issues, our needs.
The planners, the people that had the power, want to expand downtown.
We were not part of that plan.
So we were looking around, and we found this area, Cermak and Wentworth.
Which is why we have 107 years.
How does that relate to politics?
Everything revolves around politics.
Whether you're an immigrant, not yet a citizen, and that's how I helped Alderman Roti to encourage our people to become registered to vote.
LUI: So at the turn of the century, increasingly, what you begin to see is the use of restrictive covenants that bar people from renting or purchasing a property on the basis of race.
And you begin to see Chicago employing these restrictive covenants in the early 20th century that really starts to cover in the area from downtown Chicago all the way to Chinatown.
So it's almost as though the Chinese are settling into an area that they can only move into because these restrictive covenants were not present in that location.
♪ Ping Tom was a businessman here in Chinatown, and he is one of those leaders in the community that wanted to help the community take the next step.
GENE LEE: Ping Tom, one of the founders of the Chamber of Commerce.
It was Ping Tom, Allen Lee, Raymond Lee.
They had the vision to start the chamber, develop Chinatown Square, connect with local government.
RAYMOND LEE: Ping Tom, he said, "Raymond, why don't you be a commissioner of the Park District?"
I said, "Me?
"Who else gonna do that?"
I said, "You know, I, I... "I'm so busy.
You know, I'm running a business and all that."
You know, he's so convincing.
Ping Tom was a very persistent person.
♪ Ping Tom died from pancreatic cancer.
I took the job to develop Chinatown Square and the parking lot.
GENE LEE: We've been fortunate to have other leaders through the chamber to continue in those footsteps.
♪ WU: Chicago's Chinatown steadily has been growing over 100 years.
Just in the last three decades, it's grown significantly.
In the 1990s, there was about 12,000 Chinese.
So in the year 2000, it went up to 18,000.
By the year 2010, it was around 27,000.
(people talking in background) WU: What makes Chicago's Chinatown vibrant is, we not only have new immigrants who have very immediate needs and immediate concerns.
Do you have responsibilities at home?
- What do you do?
WOMAN: Do housework.
TEACHER: Do housework.
WOMAN: Take care of my family.
STUDENTS: Everyone living in the United States... WU: Chicago's Chinatown has incorporated enough established people-- people who've returned, people who've stayed-- that community can grow.
Because a lot of times, the newest immigrants don't have time to kind of enter politics, or, or at least learn to interact with the government outside.
♪ SPENCER NG: I grew up right here in Chicago.
Born and raised, right in the heart, Chinatown-Bridgeport area.
♪ (speaking Chinese) I worked in consulting.
And I was sent to Hong Kong, worked there for almost two years.
Met my wife out there and came back to the family business, in the restaurant.
In '92, my mom opened Triple Crown in Chinatown on 22nd Place.
In 2006, she hit a rough patch with the economy, so being the first-born, I was obligated to come, come home to help the family.
And, also, at the same time, my brother was in between jobs.
So we decided to partner up together and get the place open and up and running.
So that was 2009, and fast-forward, and we're still going.
♪ WU: Chicago's Chinatown isn't really surrounded by, like, institutions that are trying to move into the area.
For a long, long time, between Chinatown and downtown was the area called South Loop.
It was basically a commercial-industrial area.
So they weren't looking to expand into Chinatown on the south, and on the west side, there wasn't, like, large universities or developments that were trying to push towards Chinatown.
So I think that has kept kind of Chinatown insulated.
The Chinese American Service League, it's the largest employer here in Chinatown, whether it's helping seniors to stay independent or helping an immigrant just learn enough language so they could take care of their family financially and get a good job.
Will they be able to retain and preserve those particular spaces for their elderly residents?
Will they be able to preserve and save those particular mom-and-pop small businesses?
But it's not just about the history.
It's about also serving the needs of the people, of the immigrants that are coming in, to smooth their transition into a next generation.
The central question that we have to answer is, who is Chinatown for?
♪ FENG (in Chinese): ♪ (speaking Chinese in background) FENG: TINPE: Relatively speaking, in Washington, D.C., it is one of the most valued pieces of land, and it has the most traffic in terms of pedestrian traffic, also.
I think the prices of the properties will continue to rise.
We've seen many investors coming to buy commercial properties.
They are no longer just local, they are international investing companies.
I would say Chinatown will be the new Fifth Avenue of Washington, D.C. ♪ EDDIE MOY: My dad started buying property because he wanted to invest his money.
He knew that, you know, there was a market for renters and, 'cause there were a lot of people that were working in Chinatown.
Once my dad passed away, my mom wanted to sell the property.
Three out of four of us are in their 60s now, so at this point, we decided, you know, we, we should just go ahead and sell it, and that way, we can then do our own thing.
BONDS: Chinatown has been shrinking.
There are two major housing developments that remain: the Wah Luck House, and, of course, Museum Square, and that is really about it.
(traditional music playing) (people applauding) BONDS: The majority of population in Chinatown would be the elderly.
(people talking in background) BONDS: The issue in the District of Columbia today is, "I got to go where the price point says I can afford it," and, and no community is untouchable, so to speak.
WOMAN: We love you, Chinatown.
(people laughing) We gotta keep it going.
And I was telling my colleagues here that I miss all those Chinese restaurants.
I grew up here and it was far different, so... We need to somehow move and kind of get together at some point.
So, "See you in Chinatown."
(traditional music playing) Xin Nian Kuai Le.
Happy New Year to everybody.
BONDS: Displacement, I believe, is inevitable.
I think what the government does, and can do a better job of slowing it down and making it very meaningful for those that remain in the community, and assisting those that do move, because they feel they're displaced, helping them to find a new location.
We still have parts of the community that the density is very low.
(birds twittering) (speaking Chinese) CCBA stand for Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association.
They help Chinese newcomers.
(in Chinese): (laughs) ♪ YENI WONG: When they do things for communities, like, they build the Wah Luck House.
The Wah Luck House will continue improving.
We are going to build a senior center, provide the medicals, recreations, food service on the first floor.
EDDIE MOY: The restaurants here are fading.
Town is fading.
It's fading very fast.
It will always be D.C. Chinatown to me because of memories.
♪ ♪ YAN CHI CHEN (in Chinese): ♪ MEI QUN HUANG (in Chinese): (talking in background) ♪ A lot of the Chinese families live in Chinatown not out of desire, but really out of necessity, you know, for survival.
A neighborhood like Chinatown allows both recent immigrants and longtime immigrants to feel some sense of community, some sense of home, that otherwise you, you end up losing when people, when people are dispersed.
One of our long-standing projects is to be working with community groups in Chinatown to fight against the displacement that has occurred in the neighborhood over the years.
And I think that's come in the form of institutional expansion.
So hospitals and education institutions expanding into the neighborhood.
It's come in the form of, in the past, urban renewal and highway extensions, expansions.
And in recent decades, it's come in the form of luxury development.
The biggest pressure on Chinatown is economic.
And it's the development that comes from the so-called downtown revitalization.
As a result, the city's, particularly, downtown areas are being reborn and reshaped for the benefit of the global elite.
And I think that that in turn has driven speculation because of the loosening of financial controls.
There's this aspect of white privilege that's involved.
You know, white folks would say, "Why do you need a Chinatown?"
You know, "We can move in here.
"It should just be reserved for whomever that has "the money to buy in this particular space."
White folks benefited from that wealth creation via redlining, whereas communities of color did not.
We got the shaft.
We never got anything.
A lot of Chinatowns, not just the African American communities, were also redlined.
We were not able to also, you know, have our space in suburbia.
So, you know, we see a reverse migration coming back now, with the empty-nesters.
They're all coming back in here, and, you know, white folks would say, "Hey," you know, "This is a funky spot," right?
You know, "I can, I can now tell people, 'I live in Chinatown.'"
♪ YAN CHI CHEN: ♪ KAREN CHEN: The Chinese Progressive Association, our mission is to work for full equality empowerment of the Chinese American community.
Our works revolves around improving the working and living condition of Chinese Americans and that ordinary people can have decision-making power in issues that impact our daily lives.
YAN CHI CHEN: ♪ SHEILA DILLON: Chinatown is complicated, and it certainly doesn't speak with one voice.
There are a lot of low-income renters that are very concerned about being pushed out.
And they have an advocacy, advocacy groups, and they're, they're very outspoken, and it's always good to hear from them.
Then you have business owners that have been there for long periods of time that like the growth.
You have landowners, many of which are Chinese, and building owners, many of which are Chinese.
And they have very strong opinions, too, about historic preservation, or rent control, or what should be developed on property that they're selling.
It's a complicated neighborhood to navigate.
Boston, like, like many coastal cities right now, our population is growing at a very, very fast rate in part because there are so many jobs here.
So as the population grows, there's a lot of pressure on, on existing housing stock, and commercial properties, as well.
♪ LEONG: Housing is a huge issue for us.
In the '80s, a lot of the private landlords there were trying to get rid of their tenants so that they could sell to a private developer on a building-by-building basis.
Throughout the '80s, and then into the '90s and the 2000s, we were seeing less and less of those kind of building-by-building gentrification, condo conversion.
And much more of a total, whole parcel of land in the community that would now, whatever older buildings that had existed would be demolished, and then a whole new skyscraper, high-rise, come in.
Now, Boston Chinatown was beginning to face and deal with gentrification as we know it much more in a modern sense.
LOWE: Today, if you walk down Chinatown, there are these, you know, big glass towers, you know, where millionaires are living, and living side-by-side with the restaurant workers.
The amount of luxury housing has started to force more people out of the community here.
KAREN CHEN: In the last 15 years, there wasn't any policies that was put in place to protect residents from displacement.
♪ MEI QUN HUANG (in Chinese): (voice breaking): (breath trembling) ♪ - Eat pop candy.
- Can I try?
MEI QUN HUANG (in Chinese): (talking in background) (talking in background) ♪ KAREN CHEN: How do we ensure that, you know, people have a right to remain into their community?
There is a housing crisis.
♪ DILLON: I monitor Chinatown very closely because I'm always very, very worried about it.
There's some land that is owned by the city, or public, uh, public agencies, state.
And so we're very much looking at that, that, those properties as being a new, dense, affordable housing.
LOWE: This is not something that's only happening to Chinatown, but Boston as a city is really facing a deep question about its future.
You know, will there be working-class neighborhoods in the city of Boston in the future?
And I think that it's so important for us to organize and really say that housing is a human right.
ORGANIZER: We believe that we will win!
CROWD: We believe that we will win!
LOWE: Housing should not just be a commodity to be speculated upon by the ultra-rich, for no purpose other than to squeeze more money out of buildings.
We need to first make sure that our people have homes to live in.
We should be able to solve the problem of homelessness.
It's not that we don't have the wealth, or we don't have the means, we just don't have the political will and we don't have the level of democratic control that we need.
PAUL LEE: ACDC started in 1987.
We advocate for housing in the community, but we are looking for ways to actually do the development.
To actually build the buildings and make them available.
We also had to know the Chinatown politics.
When we were putting the financing together for our first project, that was during the President Reagan years, when there was no federal money available, so we had to rely on banks making tax credit investments.
As a corporate lawyer, I was able to call a number of bankers that either I knew or my partners knew, and they really wanted to help the community.
LEONG: I think if development unabated, uncontrolled, probably within ten, 15 years, we will have a totally different Boston Chinatown that will be devoid of a residential element.
The little mom-and-pop bakeries, the little Chinese restaurants, will no longer exist.
♪ What I would like to see is some attempt at preservation, or at least a reduction of the displacement of the people that occupied this space for the longest time.
It is telling, it is informative of how the, how City Hall addresses the housing needs of people.
LOWE: Boston Chinatown serves many, many sectors.
It serves the tourists, and the people who want to go to the restaurants, the customer base.
It serves the broader Chinese and Asian American community that come here on the weekends for dim sum or come here to shop.
But most importantly, it serves the working-class immigrant residents who live here day in and day out and who, I think, still really rely on Chinatown as the stepping stone when people first immigrate to this country, really need a place where they can speak the language, where they can learn their way around society here, they can get introduced to how to find work, how to get certain services.
We think that for all of those reasons, Chinatown's important and Chinatown's important to fight for.
♪ LI XIU WONG (in Chinese): CHRIS HUANG: When I first came to Chicago, I attend Chicago Public School in Chinatown.
I only went for college for one year.
Somehow, I just don't feel right to stay in college.
So I quit college and then I start working.
Our commercial printing company, we print menus, a lot of advertisement for restaurants.
For the past 25 years, we grow from a two-man company to a 25-employees company.
After I had my business for around ten years, I noticed my life missing something.
So I starting to join community events, and then I starting to join organizations.
In order to make a community better, you have to be part of it.
When you're being part of it, you are like a family member.
And you treat everyone else like a family member.
And that's how you make a community better.
♪ SPENCER NG: Chinatown has grown, I would say, probably 40% in my eyes.
From the neighborhood in Bridgeport, having all the restaurants down there, expanding to East Pilsen a little bit.
And we have a lot more manufacturing.
Like, fortune cookie companies or food distributors are down south, even, by the airport, so they can distribute to all the Chinese buffet restaurants.
So a lot of these workers are coming from Chinatown area.
I would say the last five years, people are coming from abroad, New York, Michigan, Ohio.
They're coming from everywhere.
GENE LEE: You don't generally start up a business if you don't have a base of people, clients, citizens that are going to eat at your place, get their laundry washed at your place, buy supplies from your place, so that, that's all good.
LEONG: But we're also seeing a phenomenon where not Asian immigrants, right?
But second-, third-, fourth-generation Asian Americans are coming back into Chinatown.
And I think that has a lot to do with the kind of identity, the socialization that... You know, maybe they grew up in the burbs, but this is "home" to us, and it resonates again to that, that feature of Chinatown being a sanctuary.
♪ I have lived in Chinatown since 1997.
We moved into Chinatown to be close to my parents.
Once having my daughter, being involved with her school, that exposed us to more of what was needed and happening in the community.
At the time when my daughter was in school, she would go to the library, there wouldn't be any seats to sit in.
You'd see grandparents sitting on the floor.
There was a long line for the computer use.
♪ There really wasn't a playground in the area or a field house.
And it's exciting, like, in a matter of probably ten years, getting an updated library, and then getting an expansion on the park, and then getting a field house.
And I think that's why folks are still moving into the community and realizing that there's resources, and things that they can utilize, and actually live here, and be comfortable, and be a part of the community.
(playing traditional music) We've also worked on a lot of different issues.
We've tried to register people to vote.
We tried to get people counted during the census.
The Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community has been working on a neighborhood high school.
(crowd cheering, drum beating) Chinatowns are important for our country because it reflects the diversity, introduces people to culture.
(crowd cheering, whistle blowing) LAU: In Chicago Chinatown, we handle Chinatown Lunar New Year parade.
It's a lot of work, but on the end, even we're tired, when we see people from all over, that is the biggest reward to us.
GENE LEE (on speaker): Oh, yes!
Yes!And the, oh!
The other way!
I'm getting dizzy.
WOMAN: Thank you, ladies.
GENE LEE: They're amazing.
(speaking Chinese) WOMAN: Thank you, Happy New Year.
♪ SAM NG: I start my school in my garage, early days, when my son was in high school.
And my son officially formed my school, the Ng Family Martial Art, 20-some years ago.
So we are the co-founder.
I teach mainly three styles.
I teach Choy Lay Fut, which is, you can see in the background.
It's like a southern style.
My son, he's an actor, action actor, as well as, like, a choreographer.
He portrayed Bruce Lee, Birth of the Dragon.
The student I have, I'm really proud of it.
I get them off the street.
Either you're Black, white, yellow, doesn't matter.
I've been doing kung fu since I was six years old.
I've been here for almost 20 years now.
The bonds that you really build here doing martial arts are, you know, really strong.
Chinatown is for everybody.
LEONG: Who has a right to the city?
Who has a right to this particular community?
Chinatown-- not just Boston Chinatown, but all Chinatowns-- they have a history, a legacy that we will lose, that we are losing, when new people, gentrifiers, come in that don't understand, that don't appreciate the struggle, that generations and generations have kept alive this particular geographical space, and the histories and the struggles that are connected with it.
They don't know.
And they don't want to know.
So Chinatown is not just for the landowner.
Chinatown is not just for the restaurant owners.
Not just for people who make a profit out of here.
Chinatown is not just for the immigrants that need it.
But Chinatown is a space for the Asian American community, not just the Chinese American community, but the Asian American community.
Here in this space, we don't have to explain ourselves.
We don't have to explain our food.
We don't have to explain our language.
And again, it's not just about being Chinese, because I've seen many, many Asian Americans coming into the space and feeling much more relaxed, right?
They don't have to explain themselves if they're Filipinos, Vietnamese, Koreans, Japanese Americans.
They feel... ...a belonging in this particular community.
And, and that's what we're trying to preserve.
That sense of identity and belonging.
You have a place in this country, in the world, and that you are accepted.
♪ Chinatown is a state of mind.
That's where I want to find the root of Chinese America.
(traditional music playing) ♪ YILIN ZHANG: Chinatown is all about family.
It was all about connecting at a cultural and language level, and so it's always felt like home to me.
(crowd cheering and applauding) ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪