Open City: Blogging Urban Change
Artist Feature: Shared Stories- A Youth Project of the Chinese Progressive Association
By Peggy Lee

 

In August, I had the privilege of meeting participants from Shared Stories, a program sponsored by the Chinese Progressive Association (CPA) that educates and encourages youth to document immigration stories. In our time together, we talked about the power of the spoken word, our experiences as first and second generation in the US, and the perceptions of the immigrant from different perspectives- media, at school, work. The workshop was closed with two writing prompts that encouraged participants to re-assess a memory, situation, or feeling that was associated with pride or anger in relation to their identities.

Please read some of the amazing writings by Shared Stories participants that resulted from the workshop:

Ming:

hahaha,
what did you just say?
How can you not know Cantonese
if you live in Hong Kong.

Silence.
how come you are unable to speak English fluently?
Silence.
I am just tired of these people who make fun of my accent.
Now,
I know how mean I was,
and always try to fix my accent.


Meng Zhen:

Nostalgia

Nov. 22th  2009

It’s a special day

There were My famillies, and our tears,

Then, the airplane was taking me away

I have to said “goodbye” to the land under my feet

Finishing 12-hours flight

We were landing

I saw the lights of the city under me was shining my eyes

I told myself “It is NY.”

I want to escaping from everything after that

Everything is so different

different people, different language, culture, the way of thinking

I used to asked my mom ” why we have to move to here?”

” oh, honey, we have to do it for a better living.” she always smiled and answered so.

A better living?

I didn’t think so

” I do not live better now.”

“you will, it just the matter of time.” she always smiled and answered so


Suzanne:

From the arts of words I chose,

To demonstrate how I feel,

I’m willing to write it all down.

Well, this is how I feel about racism

Here it goes:

Listen,

I might have eyes that are smaller than yours,

But it doesn’t mean Anything,

With these pair of eyes, I can see all around this world.

It’s also a perfect 20/20 you see.

What about you?

You talked behind my back,

It’s cuz you’re jealous, right?

Smarter, better than you?

Oh please…

You say I speak “Ching Chong”,

But do you really know what it means and is there really a meaning?

You might be stronger and bigger,

But we got the brains you see,

We could invent weapons, armors, and shields, you know.

Don’t try to act tough,

Cuz you ain’t anything or anybody to nobody.

Don’t lie to yourself either,

You wanna be cool but really,

You know you’re just some fool.

I didn’t mean you’re dumb,

It’s just the way you are that makes you look this way.

All you always talk about are the A’s we have,

But the truth is, you can too.

Because it isn’t just because we’re Asians,

This is from the time that we spare.

I am not that mean,

I am just telling the truth,

If you’re in,

Well, everything will can be Gucci,

And there will be less problems to this world!


Yinghui:

I have a dream

I have a dream.
When I was a kid, I wondered how my family live in the America.
I wander how people look like in the USA.
Are they white?
Are they black?
Are they looking like me—yellow?

I have a dream.
When I knew I needed to leave my country
I wonder America is good for me.
I wonder there is a new and good life waiting for me.

I have a dream.
I wonder people could help me with my speaking
not curious about how I pronounce a word.

I have a dream.
I wish I could speak in perfect English one day.
Then my parents will trust me that I could help them.

I have a dream.
I wonder is a kind of machine
that it could translate all languages for people.
Then we could communicate to different countries’ people

I have a dream.
I wonder nobody will make fun at my accent.
I wonder there is not discriminate between people.
I wonder people live in the world are a bid family.

I wonder…
I have a dream.


Jasmine:

My mom always wanted me to come to the United States because of the diversity of the country. I can learn a new language and meet with people who come from different ethnic backgrounds. All of these advantages and experiences will help me in my career path.

I jumped at the opportunity to come to the United States, not just because people call it the land of opportunity and freedom, it is because I can’t imagine how life would be in the other side of the hemisphere.

Life in America is difficult.  The languages, the signs, the foods, the people and even the music are unfamiliar to me.  Dialogs run all over the place and question marks are left all over my head.  This was a new starting point for me and my mom.

It took my mom three months to get a job because she didn’t know English.  She needed to take classes at the Chinese Man Power Association in order to get a license.  Her job is taking care of elderly people.  She got paid minimum wage.  People were mean to her because she was new at her job.  I always heard my mom complain that people gave her attitude and demanded her to do unusual things such as: wash clothes by using cold water in the winter, carry a bunch of groceries up and down the floors, and recook the foods if the taste was not what they wanted.

She couldn’t argue with these people because she could lose her job if she said or did something wrong.  The officers could kick her out and may not contact her when they had new jobs.  In addition, people sometimes yelled and made fun of my mom because she spoke broken English and they felt like Chinese people are taking over all of their jobs.

I felt resentful and disappointed when I realized the ways people treated my mom. It is so unfair and I believe that Chinese people make a lot of contributions on building this country, such as the American continental railroad, the laundramats and the restaurants. At my mom’s age, she is supposed to be retired in China, but she decided to sacrifice herself and take care of the elderly people, so that I can have a good education and a good environment to learn English.

*

Please click here if you’re interested in learning more about Shared Stories and the Chinese Progressive Association. Shared Stories is a great youth program, especially for ESL youth who are hoping to expand their English writing and comprehension in creative ways. The program also hosts fun trips like a museum tour led by Corky Lee. Thanks again to Mae Lee, Bernice Ng, and Linda Shum for inviting me to Shared Stories and leading such an important community program.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

About Open City
Open City: Blogging Urban Change is an interdisciplinary neighborhood blog and community project coordinated by the Asian American Writers’ Workshop. Five commissioned writers, called Organizing Fellows, are working with community organizations and neighborhood folks in Manhattan’s Chinatown/Lower East Side (LES), Flushing, Queens, and Sunset Park, Brooklyn to collect oral histories and interviews, offer commentary about gentrification, neighborhood change, and produce new creative work around these themes. Read more.
Search Open City:
Featured Profile
CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities was formed in 1986 (formerly known as the Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence) as a response to an increase in anti-Asian hate crimes both in New York City and around the country (which included violence by police officers against Asians).
They have two offices – one in Manhattan’s Chinatown (which houses the Chinatown Tenants Union, and the new Asian Youth in Action organizing project) and the Youth Leadership Project office in the Bronx – and have members from all over the city. Over the years, CAAAV’s main campaigns have focused on community-based organizing work rooted in Asian immigrant and refugee communities. Although their advocacy and organizing work is focused mainly in Manhattan’s Chinatown and the northwest Bronx, CAAAV’s work also touches upon larger issues (such as affordable housing, war, and immigration) shaping communities all over the world: “Our work is primarily centered around issues facing New Yorkers, but always with a global analysis.”
CAAAV’s mission is to organize and build the power of working-class Asian immigrants, refugees, and youth to change concrete conditions and participate in a broader social justice movement. In the past, CAAAV’s work included organizing South Asian taxi drivers, Korean women workers, and Filipina domestic workers. Several of these organizing projects have gone on to become their own organizations, such as the New York Taxi Workers Alliance and Domestic Workers United. CAAAV’s current work focus on three different program areas: Read more.

See all Featured Profiles.
Community Announcements
Manhattan CB3 Land Use, Zoning, Public & Private Housing Committee
Monday, May 2 at 6:30 pm -- Rutgers Community Center, Gymnasium - 200 Madison Street (btwn Rutgers & Pike Sts)

Brooklyn CB7, Land Use/Landmarks Committee Regular meeting
Continued discussion on potential 8th Avenue rezoning

Manhattan CB3 Economic Development Committee Tuesday, May 3 at 6:30pm -- Community Board 3 Office - 59 East 4th Street (btwn 2nd Ave & Bowery)

Read more.

See all announcements.