Open City: Blogging Urban Change

MOCA and AAWW- Event on May 7

Photo: Celina Su


The Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) and the Asian American Writers’ Workshop (AAWW) are pleased to announce a creative partnership between MOCA’s Archeology of Change and AAWW’s Open City projects. The collaboration will engage the public through documentary oral history, public forums, social media, and the arts to generate on-the-ground perspectives on gentrification and neighborhood change in New York Chinatown—one of America’s oldest and largest urban Chinese communities.

According to MOCA Curator and Director of Exhibitions Cynthia Lee, “Despite its historical place as one of the city’s earliest sites of ethnic mixing and transformative New York culture, Chinatown is often consumed and stereotyped as a perpetually foreign and exotic place. We are hopeful that this joint project between MOCA and AAWW will spark constructive dialogue among Chinatown’s diverse stakeholders, New Yorkers, and the general public; and inspire new ideas and possibilities for our community’s future.”


Photo: Sahar Muradi

MOCA’s engagement with writer Lena Sze and community activist/public artist Tomie Arai yielded 28 oral histories with Chinatown residents, business owners, and workers. The conversations which began in 2007, will continue as a series of public forums tackling issues revealed through the interviews. Community members, policy experts, artists, and leaders in the field will be invited to give the local a larger societal, environmental and political context. The project will culminate in the artist’s vision of Chinatown Re-Map—an online, interactive portal to “places that matter” in Chinatown. Mapped sites will be presented through the lens of neighborhood stakeholders through mixed-media formats such as podcast videos, historical images, and soundscapes; and will serve as an ongoing digital map that can be updated through the museum’s continual engagement with multiple constituents and generations of Chinatown stakeholders, and potentially through partnerships with local, regional and national institutions.

AAWW launches OPEN CITY: Blogging Urban Change, an interdisciplinary community-based arts project featuring the production of an Asian immigrant/Asian American neighborhoods blog.  Through interactive sound, video, and multi-media postings and ongoing creative commentary offered by our Organizing Fellows and other Open City staff and volunteers, this dynamic blog will act as a creative hub and information portal about these pressing issues in Manhattan’s Chinatown/LES neighborhood as well as multi-ethnic Asian neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens.

Where is Chinatown? Narrative Remappings
Open City is hosting an event at MOCA on Saturday May 7Please contact us in advance if you or someone you know is interested in being interviewed (limited space).

Ever wonder what your favorite Asian American writer thinks about Chinatown?  Want to share your story of the neighborhood or capture your grandma’s memories?  Come to a reading and community oral history open house we’re hosting at the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) and tell us who you are, why Chinatown (any Chinatown!) matters, and how you’re a part of it.  Featuring: Henry Chang, Cristiana Baik and R.A. Villanueva, Ed Lin, Zohra Saed, and Kelly Tsai.

Where is Chinatown? Narrative Remappings
AAWW event at MOCA, 215 Centre Street, NY, NY 10013
Sat May 7, 11-5pm
Reading from 11-12:30.  Admission: $7, Seniors and Students (w/ ID): $4, Children under 12 in groups less than 8: free
AAWW and/or MOCA Members: Free.

Oral history open house from 12:30-5.  Free and open to the public, but sign up ahead of schedule for your interview slot and bilingual interviewer, if needed.  Details below.


Tell us your Chinatown story.

Did you grow up playing ball with Asian, Black, and Latino kids

at Columbus or Sara Roosevelt Park?

Are you a shopkeeper or resident who’s witnessed the dramatic demographic changes along East Broadway and on the Lower East Side?

Do you work in one of the stalls on Canal Street?

Do you use the extensive Chinatown bus system to commute?

Are you a third-generation from the suburbs or other newbie who now calls Chinatown home?

Are you a former garment worker who still calls Chinatown home?
Asian American Writers’ Workshop (AAWW) in conjunction with the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) will host an oral history open house from 12:30-5pm on Saturday May 7th @ MOCA, 215 Centre Street, NY NY 10013.  Fellows and volunteers from Open City, our local blog about the three major Chinatowns in New York City, will be there to collect and record your tale.

Sharing your story will only take half an hour!

Translators for Mandarin, Cantonese, Spanish, Hindi/Urdu, and Dari/Farsi available, but email us in advance to coordinate and schedule an interview slot (with a translator).

Drop-in storytellers also welcome but space is limited!  Stories about any and all Chinatowns encouraged!  For more or to schedule an interview, contact Lena at















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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.
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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.

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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.