By: Bernice Chan
It is vital that immigrants' stories are heard. Today, majority of the residents in Chinatown are the elderly. They've seen Chinatown from the beginning, when there weren't nearly as many Asians. They remember the high gang activity and crime rates. Over the decades, Chinatown has completely changed, with entirely new issues. These immigrants are the ones who are being affected by gentrification. They are the ones who have the languge barriers and have never learned English in this ethnic enclave. Their stories need to be heard because once they're gone, there is no story. If their stories aren't told, it'll be as if they never lived.
In terms of advocacy, it's important to have voices behind the issues we are fighting for. Without faces and stories of those being affected, there is a lost of connection between those advocating and the general public. Hearing stories evokes sympathy and discussion, with those similarly affected wanting to also take a stand and raise their voice.
However when asked about how immigrant stories have affected my life, I tried to think of which story I knew that I could use in answering this question. The problem is that there hasn't been one. No impact comes to mind. This is precisely the reason why more stories need to be told. And on a larger scale. I know my mother's story but it hasn't really impacted me other than a recurring realization of how lucky I am.
It's so easy to just hang out in Chinatown with my friends and be completely ignorant of the stories behind the worker at the bakery, for instance. I also feel like many people, which I may be part of, think they know the immigrant story- there seems to be this all encompassing one with the idea that an immigrant came from China for better working opportunities and educational ones for his/ her children. I think we need to emphasize the specifics. There isn't one story that describes every immigrant coming here. There may be themes they share, for instance, falling victim to the negative impacts of new industries and businesses that have sprung up in Chinatown. (This reminds me of last session where one of the mentors brought up that the new popular businesses in Chinatown, for instance, bubble tea, or the new condominiums and hotels being built, aren't catered towards the residents of the community).
Answering these questions about the importance of conducting interviews and oral histories reminds me why i joined Shared Stories.
Also a wandering/unrelated thought I had on my commute from CPA: the subways need more signs to suggest that people give up their seats for the elderly. Every time the large crowd of Asians gets on at Grand Street, I see the old chinese woman scanning the car and eyeing the seats. I notice some move to a strategic location: towards the middle of the 2 doors to have more of a chance to sit down. Meanwhile, a teenager is playing Temple Run on his phone, completely unaware of, or used to disregarding, common courtesy. If there were signs that caught people's eye next to the bulletin advertisements, more people would realize they should be being more respectful towards the elderly.
*Please think about these questions and add your comments to this blog post.
To view what we did during this session, click here.