By Rev. Norman Fong

September 18, 2017

Did you know we have super heroes in Chinatown too? Now I'm not talking about comic book heroes like Superman or Wonder Woman, but real people who lived in San Francisco's Chinatown but have done things to "save people & our world".

Growing up in San Francisco Chinatown and going to public schools, I didn't learn anything about Chinese heroes, but as I got older (remember there wasn’t Asian American Studies ‘till late ‘60’s), I learned that Chinatown actually has so many heroes and heroines in history and even today.

Do you know of the Chinatown businessman who saved San Francisco Chinatown after the 1906 earthquake? It was Look Tin Eli who organized the Chinatown business community to rebuild Chinatown right away before the city could evict us into Hunter's Point... Using Chinese architecture to create a "China looking" tourist destination actually saved the community as one of the first neighborhood rebuilt after the horrible 1906 earthquake and fire that destroyed 70% of San Francisco.

Everyone knows Bruce Lee was born in SF Chinese Hospital but can you name the first Chinese American woman that became Chief of Police who grew up here? She's our community's beloved Heather Fong. Her picture is hanging in my father's home village in Chung Shan right now! I have learned that there are many Chinatown heroes who have stood up for Chinatown and right now we are celebrating 30 years of the Community Tenants Association (CTA) who have fought so hard to save affordable housing. You can go to 41 Ross in SF Chinatown to take a selfie picture with our CTA heroes like Mr. Leung, the current President of CTA who successfully fought off an Ellis Act eviction in his building. Mrs. Bao Yan Chan of CTA has her picture outside CCDC’s Program Office at 663 Clay Street. She was a super hero too! Thanks to her, we got to save the Notre Dame Senior Housing (on Broadway & Van Ness) and it was the largest “Expiring Use” project in San Francisco!

There are so many Chinese Politicians now from Mayors to Supervisors but this is relatively new history. Super thanks should go to all the Chinatown Civil Rights leaders who paved the way by fighting the Chinese Exclusion Act 1882 to getting the Chinese access into schools, citizenship, hospitals… Have you been to the Chinese American Citizens Alliance (CACA) on Stockton & Jackson which was one of the first civil rights organization? Have you gone to visit the Chinese Historical Society of America (featuring the History of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882-1943?) on Clay Street?

On September 11 , we all should remember & honor Betty Ann Ong who became a National Hero as The Flight Attendant who was the first to notify America that Flight 11 was being hijacked. She is a “Super Heroine”. Did you know she was a SF Chinatown kid too. I went to school at Jean Parker with her older sister. I remember all the kids who grew up here peeking into their family’s beef jerky shop because all three sisters were so popular! FINALLY, after years of advocacy, we have a beautiful building that everyone should visit called the Betty Ann Ong Chinese Recreation Center on Washington & Mason Streets. Please bring your families to visit the building and playground. It’s right across the street from the famous “Cable Car Barn” where you can see the cables that pull all the cable cars. Let us all pay tribute to Chinatown’s National Heroine & appreciate all the heroes that came out of Chinatown. Be proud!

betty ann ong
Betty Ann Ong

rec center
Betty Ann Ong Chinese Recreation Center

Originally published in Sing Tao Daily on September 17, 2017

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