super sunday engagement political chinatown san francisco chinatown community development center cdc ccdc
Super Sundays were created by Chinatown CDC as a way to inspire change from within Chinatown’s own community. PHOTO BY GEORGE E. BAKER JR.

A Community Engaged
Monthly gathering gives Chinatown residents a voice


Super Sundays are unique to San Francisco’s Chinatown, and were started by Chinatown Community Development Center (Chinatown CDC) in the early 1990s. What began as a small meeting quickly morphed into a monthly community event that draws hundreds of attendees. Participants talk about what is happening in their own neighborhoods — and how they can factor themselves in.

“I was Deputy Director of Programs then and we decided to hold one big, giant Chinatown convention — with all the groups we worked with all together,” Norman Fong, Chinatown CDC’s Executive Director, remembered of the first meeting. “Everyone was simply asked what they would like to change in our neighborhood. We came up with a great to-do list and I thought, ‘We should do this every month.’ It caught on so fast — people loved it.”

As time went on, it wasn’t just community leaders and residents attending Super Sundays.

“Pretty soon, the mayor learned of it and started dropping by, and so did other politicians,” Fong said. “This is real democracy. Before this, we were missing some voices like immigrant seniors, for example. It empowers everybody. And it puts our voices on the map. City Hall knows about it, and knows it’s a galvanized group that is not afraid to speak out.”

Today, Super Sundays are organized into two separate but similar groups: one for the Community Tenants Association (CTA) and one for single-room occupancy (SRO) residents. Both focus on housing issues and tenants’ rights, of course, but each also provides an important flow of general information — both for the residents who attend the meetings and Chinatown CDC.

“When you’re poor, you don’t have a TV,” said Rita Lui, who helps organize the CTA meetings during Super Sundays. “And some of our residents can’t read the newspaper. We’re their source for what’s going on in the community.”

For example, she said, during the wildfires last year, Super Sundays allowed Chinatown CDC to disseminate critical advice for dealing with the dangerous air quality, information that is especially important for seniors.

“Residents are also able to gather and give us local information we wouldn’t have otherwise,” said Kitty Fong, who is involved in the SRO meetings during Super Sundays. “They are the eyes and ears of our community.”

The weekly event also offers a much-needed social component: Lunch is served afterward by Chinatown CDC’s youth team, and frequent carnival-like Fun Days take place when there aren’t holiday parties with games and gifts.

But the political engagement is what matters most.

“I wish there were more town hall meetings — I think every neighborhood in every city should have one,” Norman Fong said. “Because if you don’t have people engaged, the politicians and the power-brokers make all the decisions and residents’ voices would be left out.”

 
 
Article by Thea Marie Rood. Published in What Does It Take to Save a Neighborhood?

 
 
 
 

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