May is Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month. While we should celebrate ALL of our unique and diverse Asian cultures everyday, it is a time to highlight our community further. Many of us are immigrants or children of immigrants whose histories and stories suffer from erasure and lack representation. There is also a common experience growing up Asian American where we felt ashamed of who we were as youths because we weren’t “American” enough.
Today, those feelings have reemerged given the rise of xenophobia attributed to the Coronavirus stigma. According to NBC News, the first quarter of 2021 saw a 169% increase in anti-Asian hate crimes in 15 major cities in the US. New York City had the sharpest increase in the same period at 223% followed by San Francisco, Boston, and Los Angeles. In a report by Stop AAPI Hate, which tracks incidents of discrimination, hate and xenophobia against the AAPI community in the US, businesses are the primary site of discrimination, followed by public streets, and public parks. The xenophobia that feels rampant now has affected not only the safety of the Asian community, especially our elders, but it has also impacted Asian businesses particularly in Chinatowns across the country.
I have fond memories growing up with an extended family that spoke Vietnamese, Laotian, and if you were at my paternal grandmother’s home, Chinese. I grew up visiting Seattle’s Chinatown frequently. My grandmother was part of a Chinese elderly association in Chinatown, where she would often take me, my sister, and my cousins to when she was babysitting us. It’s also where my mother religiously shopped for groceries even to this day. Now I am always comforted when I am in a Chinatown in any city because there is a familiarity there. I know how to navigate it. It feels like home and reminds me of being with my family.
It’s disheartening to know that the Coronavirus stigma that is unfairly attached to Chinatown has caused many businesses to struggle or close down. In New York’s Chinatown alone, institutions like Jing Fong closed their iconic dining hall and 88 Lan Zhou closed its doors permanently. According to the NY Times, Wellington Z. Chen, the executive director of the Chinatown Business Improvement District/Partnership, reported that at least 17 restaurants and 139 ground-floor stores in Chinatown have permanently closed during the pandemic. Now, some visitors and tourists are still keeping a distance from Chinatown because of a rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans.
Send Chinatown Love is a nonprofit organization started by Justin McKibben, who is Chinese Vietnamese American and lives in Manhattan’s Chinatown. At least 25 other young professionals joined him in creating websites for Mom and Pop businesses in New York City’s Chinatown. Many of these businesses rarely used the internet to conduct business, spoke little English, and were rejected for government loans due to application requirements that are inequitable to immigrant-run microbusinesses. Through these websites, anyone can make donations or buy gift cards. Send Chinatown Love volunteers manage everything from outreach and translation to web design and marketing for these disproportionately impacted businesses.
To date, Send Chinatown Love has raised $609,650 in donations and directly supported 32 merchants. And from January through June of 2021, Send Chinatown Love is one of the organizations we are donating 10% of our profits from sales to. We couldn’t be more proud and excited to include Send Chinatown Love to our cause organizations!
We also want to bring up that Send Chinatown Love has also raised $48,000 through their Light Up Chinatown initiative, which aims to draw more foot traffic to Chinatown and to assist struggling businesses. It is a collaborative effort between Send Chinatown Love and Patrick Mock, a community advocate and manager of 46 Mott Bakery, where donors can adopt a paper lantern have it personalized and hung on Mott Street to show their support for the neighborhood. The initiative has been successful and even gained attention and a donation from Will Smith. The lanterns are along Mott Street from Canal Street to Bayard Street, but the initiative is now being extended down Bayard Street toward Bowery Street in New York City. Please check it out if you are able to, tell your friends and family about these beautiful lanterns, and consider donating!
If you’d like to donate to Send Chinatown Love directly or learn more about their work, please head over to their website.
And if AAPI month is new to you, get to know us and learn more about the history and diversity of our cultures. Help us dismantle racism and xenophobia against all community groups.
- Hoa, We Are CHIMMI Co-Founder