NeighborWorks America supports Chinatown

by Rev. Norman Fong

June 3, 2019

norman fong

This week (June 1-8) is national NeighborWorks Week! The housing group is made up of 240 housing organizations from around the country and is funded by Congress. Chinatown CDC was the first housing group chosen from San Francisco to join their national organization! They support our organization and help fund many of our housing projects.

Every June (since 1983), NeighborWorks funds different kinds of events to showcase local groups that are a part of NeighborWorks America. Today, they are sending a representative to participate in our Chinatown “Desserts” contest. We wanted to do something different which celebrates our culture, our food and our seniors, families and youth through an intergenerational Dessert Competition.

neighborworks week banner
NeighborWorks Week

Dessert is a symbol of happiness, community, and togetherness and it has always been an important aspect of culture for Chinese Americans in the United States. The sweetness does not only come from the sweetness of dessert itself but has its roots in the sense of community where everyone is sharing dessert together. With the mission to build stronger community, NeighborWorks America is partnering with Chinatown Community Development Center to promote intergenerational bonding between seniors, SRO families, and youth through a Dessert Competition on June 2, 2019 at Woh Hei Yuen. (This event is not open to the whole community as there isn’t enough room).

intergenerational dessert competition chinatown cdc neighborworks week
Agar Jelly Cake

intergenerational dessert competition chinatown cdc neighborworks week
Zhongshan Sweet Mochi & Salty Mochi

intergenerational dessert competition chinatown cdc neighborworks week
Banana Bread

intergenerational dessert competition chinatown cdc neighborworks week
Coconut Milk Taro Sago

Alex Sasayama will be the judge from NeighborWorks along with many community leaders including myself. I can’t wait to taste these home-made desserts and NeighborWorks will be presenting an award to the winner(s). Each contestant must also share a story about their dessert. It’s going to be so fun. I love these types of events which promote community and build unity between strangers or neighbors. Bringing together people who live in Chinatown of different age groups is also exciting. We need to celebrate unity in Chinatown more and especially getting our young people to get engaged more in the caring and building up with Chinatown.

alex sasayama neighborworks america
Alex Sasayama, NeighborWorks America

Chinatown’s work in preserving the oldest Chinatown in America has been recognized, not only by NeighborWorks America but also the National American Planning Association. They recognize how hard it is to protect a neighborhood and Chinatown is actually a role model for the country! Many Chinatowns across the country have lost their resident populations but we have done a pretty good job of keeping Chinatown alive and thriving. Of course, when we look at all the vacancies and rising rents, it continues to be a huge challenge for us today. I know Mayor Ed Lee would have been proud of how Chinatown CDC remodeled the Pings (formerly public housing) for the next generation. How can you keep Chinatown alive if there isn’t affordable family housing like the Pings in our neighborhood? Residents still only have to pay about one third of their income to live there.

We need to celebrate what we can accomplish together with unity. I have been very worried lately about the recent controversy over the naming the Chinatown Subway Station. I understand that some people have different opinions but I always hope that those differences will not hurt our community unity.

Everybody think: “Big Picture.” Think about what’s best for Chinatown? A fragmented Chinatown could never have built the Central Subway. I can’t wait to see it finished. My home church is right next to the Chinatown station and it’s so noisy. I remember calling the Central Subway Project Manager on Sunday (while I was preaching) to stop all the noise. I’m proud of my church who has been extremely patient because we believe it will help Chinatown in the “Big Picture.” This subway will benefit everyone from kids, students, workers, families and seniors who depend on public transportation and will also make it easier for tourists to come to Chinatown. Not only that, this Central Subway is an important symbol of Chinatown’s Unity with the entire city and Bay Area. We are connected!

With NeighborWorks America, I got to visit Washington, D.C. every year. Their headquarters are there. I remember visiting the Speaker Pelosi and Senator Feinstein with Mrs. Bao Yan Chan and other Chinatown Community Tenants Association leaders to advocate for the Central Subway to Chinatown. Thank you NeighborWorks for empowering our community from Housing to transportation to desserts! Stay Sweet everyone!

Originally published in Sing Tao Daily on June 2, 2019

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