“Chinatown and the Mission District should be Friends!”

By Rev. Norman Fong

June 25, 2018

Recently, Chinatown CDC and Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA) joined together to break ground for a new senior housing development in the Mission District. This will be the first new 100% affordable housing to be built in the Mission District in 10 years! Casa Adelante, located at 1296 Shotwell will have 94 high quality apartments to be completed in 2020. Do you know that 1 in 5 San Francisco residents is a senior (65 and older)? Many are worried that they will not be able to continue living in San Francisco – there just isn’t enough housing for low-income seniors.

casa adelante rendering
Casa Adelante - 1296 Shotwell rendering

norman dad in army
Pictured left to right: Lorena Melgarejo, Executive Director, Faith in Action; Olinda Orellana, Community Leader and Senior Advocate, Faith in Action; Kevin Kilbane, Vice President, Raymond James Tax Credit Funds, Inc.; Rev. Norman Fong, Executive Director, Chinatown Community Development Center; Karoleen Feng, Director of Community Real Estate, Mission Economic Development Agency; Supervisor Hillary Ronen, District 9; Fiona Hsu, Community Development Finance, Silicon Valley Bank; and Kate Hartley, Director, Mayor's Office of Housing and Community Development. Photo by Alain McLaughlin.

norman fong luis granados
Rev. Norman Fong, Executive Director, Chinatown Community Development Center; and Luis Granados, Chief Executive Officer, Mission Economic Development Agency. Photo by Alain McLaughlin.

As we know, affordable housing is critical in the Mission, Chinatown and all over San Francisco and the Bay Area. I really appreciate Chinatown and the Mission coming together not only to build more housing, but to also appreciate one another’s community history. We have much in common as an immigrant community, but also as people of color who continues to face racism in our country.

Aztec Dance, Danza Azteca Xitlalli-Xoloti (Casa Adelante- 1296 Groundbreaking Ceremony). Photo by Alain McLaughlin.

kate hartley and hillary ronen and norman fong
Supervisor Hillary Ronen, District 9; Kate Hartley, Director, Mayor's Office of Housing and Community Development; and Rev. Norman Fong, Executive Director, Chinatown Community Development Center. Photo by Alain McLaughlin.

time cover welcome to america
Time magazine cover

The kids crying at the Texas Border being torn away from their parents has been in the news and people were so upset that President Trump had to reverse his policy! Time Magazine’s cover shows the little girl who was taken away from her parents facing Trump. The Congress and President Trump are still making life difficult for children and families who are seeking to establish new lives in the US. His Zero-Tolerance Immigration Policy is cruel – not only to stop illegal immigration but to cut back on legal immigration as well.

I am so glad that we are working with MEDA to create 94 affordable new homes in the Mission! At the groundbreaking ceremony, we started off with the Aztec dance with blessings to the four cardinal directions: east, south, west, and north. The Chinese has a similar tradition of honoring the four winds, corresponding to the four seasons and their connection to the Universe.

Later, speakers spoke out on what was happening at the border and linked the need of stabilized housing with the importance of Family and immigration. I thought about how in Chinatown, we sometimes misunderstand or don’t make the connections to other cultures and races in America. Small minded folks might say: “The Dreamers & undocumented immigrants is a Latino problem...” Did you know that the original “Dreamer” that brought about the “Dream Act” legislation was Asian? Her name was Tereza Lee.

Tereza Lee was 7 years old when her father told her the secret, that they were undocumented and don’t tell anyone or they would be deported from Chicago. Years later, when Lee was getting ready to graduate high school, in fear, she revealed her secret to a music teacher who was encouraging her to apply to college. The teacher ended up contacting U.S. Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois to see if there was anything his office could do to help Lee. On June 28, 2011, Senator Durbin shared Lee’s story at the first ever Senate hearing on the DREAM Act. That year though, the 911 attack occurred and the dream act was delayed as FEAR took over and immigrants became possible “terrorist”. Despite being reintroduced almost every two years since 2001, the DREAM Act has never passed.

tereza lee
Tereza Lee

angelica and granddaughter
Angelica and 3-year-old granddaughter

We have so much to learn from other communities like the Mission. A few days ago, I saw the story of Angelica and her 3-year-old granddaughter who was at the Border and the idea that people from Mexico just want a better life. After hearing her story, I understood better her journey from Central America to the border. Angelica brought her granddaughter Sophie (just 3 years old) because she had no choice. Her Husband, Son, Daughter-in-law, 3 other grandchildren had all been killed by the Mexican Drug Cartel. What would you do? I really hope that the Chinese Community and the Latino Community could become better friends and see the similarities of our history. Don’t forget, before the Gold Rush, it was the Spanish Flag hanging at Portsmouth Square. San Francisco was called “Yerba Buena” before the US took over. Chinatown CDC is committed to making more multi-cultural bridges and embracing diversity! On a national level, it’s looking kind of grim, but on a local level, we are developing real solutions. We’re building housing & building community.

Originally published in Sing Tao Daily on June 24, 2018

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