North Beach Shows Love to Chinatown

by Rev. Norman Fong

September 23, 2019

norman fong

I was so happy when the owners of the famous Caffe Trieste called me to say: “We have a classic Baby Grand Piano to donate to Chinatown”. The piano has been in their family and in the Caffe for many decades. I told them we could put it into our new Ping Yuen Community Center so kids and teenagers, and even seniors could learn to play and maybe later, who knows, we can have music concerts there in the future.

As a teenager and later on as a staff person working and living at Donaldina Cameron House, I remember playing the piano there (usually when no one was around or late at night). I really didn’t know how to play the piano but slowly I began with just playing two chords and playing notes to whatever sounded right – they call it improvising. I even made up songs and I felt so peaceful.

piano donated ida fady zoubi caffe trieste

piano donated ida fady zoubi caffe trieste

In high school, five of us came together to start a band which we called Jest Jammin’ and guess what – we’ve been playing together now for 51 years. We play for so many community events and parties for our friends. We’ve played for not only the Chinese New Year Street Fair, Moon Festival, Chinatown Music Festivals… and so many more over the years. Earlier this month, we all remembered our 9/11 Chinatown Heroine – Betty Ong. Our band played for the grand opening of the Betty Ong Chinese Recreation Center. We even played for the Celebrate Immigrants Day at Portsmouth Square to rally everyone to get the government to stop picking on immigrants.

Music has been a wonderful part of my life and the band’s and I am so happy and hopeful that since we have a new piano at the Ping Yuen – maybe some new musicians and bands can come out of Chinatown like in the 1960’s and ‘70s when we had maybe 40 different bands that came out of the community. Playing music and with a band or a choir teaches people to listen to each other and work together. It’s better than just Karaoke because you don’t just sing by yourself – it takes real teamwork. I hope that your kids will sign up at their schools for band or orchestra classes. I also learned to play woodwind instruments at Galileo High School back in the 1960’s. In fact, the saxophone I play right now is one that I bought from Galileo. It’s an old one that was made the year I was born – Ha! Ha!

jest jammin
Jest Jammin'

neighborhood unity mural jeremy fish
Neighborhood Unity

THANK YOU NORTH BEACH & IDA & FADY FROM THE CAFFE TRIESTE for donating your historic piano that your Uncle used to play at singalongs there. Thank you also for our partnership and love and respect for each other’s community! Right next to Caffe Trieste is a giant Billboard sign which shows Chinatown and North Beach together as friends symbolized by a giant hand shake.

Originally published in Sing Tao Daily on September 22, 2019

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