Messages from the Executive Director

April 2016

Embracing Diversity

It’s amazing how much we have grown at Chinatown CDC, serving a huge diversity of people. I’m talking about race and culture, nationality and age groups. “Embracing Diversity” has been the number one over-arching strategic goal of Chinatown CDC. Yes, it’s challenging as we embark on a journey to take over public housing in Chinatown that is racially and ethnically diverse. But for me and Chinatown CDC, it is truly an opportunity to “live the Dream” that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. preached. Our mandate is to ensure that our families and seniors have safe and stable housing and that they have access to needed support and services to enhance their quality of life.

We are also privileged to partner with such groups as Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA) to build 101 units of affordable housing in the Mission and to partner with Swords to Plowshares to serve homeless Veterans. MEDA works to improve economic and social conditions for primarily low and moderate income Latino families and Swords to Plowshares works to increase the self-sufficiency of all veterans and end homelessness and poverty among veterans. When working outside of Chinatown, we work with community partners so that we can be more responsive to the needs and aspirations of various communities.

During this critical period of “Black Lives Matter” to a Presidential election that has polarized America, we at Chinatown CDC are trying hard to “Embrace Diversity” and become a welcoming home for recent immigrant families living in Single Room Occupancy Hotels; African American and Black families living in public housing; homeless veterans; Middle Eastern and Latino families living in our buildings; and seniors from Russia, Latin America, China, or Philippines.

Meanwhile, we continue to grow both Youth and Senior leadership programs. We are celebrating 25 years of our youth work which I began with just eight high school students to improve our alleyways and now youth are running a multitude of programs. Angelina, Judy and Jennifer (our fantastic youth staff team) were originally participants in our Adopt An Alleyway (AAA) program and today they are staff members leading award-winning programs such as Youth for SROs; the program was recognized nationally as “Champions of Change,” – doing extraordinary things to make a difference in the community. Our Youth Leadership program is impactful. Supervisor Jane Kim fresh out of college used to work at Chinatown CDC running the Chinatown Alleyway Tours and is now a candidate for the CA State Senate. WOW!

We also are addressing a diversity of needs in Chinatown from preserving small businesses like “Sam Wo” to many other businesses that have been in Chinatown for generations and now are threatened by spiraling rents and economic forces. And the endless job of preserving our affordable housing from threats of gentrification and displacement is always a high priority. By the way, Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors came to meet Chinatown CDC youth during the Lunar New Year – isn’t that cool and “embracing”… (Special thanks to Board Member Theo).

We couldn’t do the comprehensive and complex community development work that we do without the diversity of volunteers, board members, staff, residents, youth, and the family and senior leadership we have built together through the decades. Super-thanks to thousands of you who have “embraced the dream” and empower us to build that beloved and inclusive community. It’s tough work but the impact is “heavenly”.

Rev. Norman Fong 方小龍
Executive Director