Boston, July 7, 2017, — Chinatowns across the country face the threat of gentrification despite their historical and current importance as cultural and political sanctuaries for the Asian American community. Boston’s Chinatown is no exception, with its borders seeing rapid erosion in recent years. In its 30 years of community building, the Asian Community Development Corporation (ACDC) has been integral to the movement of preserving Boston’s Chinatown, with creative placemaking as part of its core mission since 2013.
As part of these placemaking efforts, ACDC will host its inaugural ThinkChinatown Opening Ceremony on July 15, Saturday, 11:30 AM at 15-25 Harrison Ave. This is the unveiling of a community mural Tied Together by a Thousand Threads that is the culmination of resident and youth efforts since January 2016. The event will bring Chinatown residents together with a celebratory lion dance to mark the mural unveiling.
ThinkChinatown is the brainchild of two ACDC youth who aspired to create a neighborhood “suggestions box” that invites residents to take ownership of their space and innovate solutions to community issues. Residents with transformative ideas can partner with ACDC, who provides the technical support and funding to implement the projects.
Yvonne Ng, long-time Chinatown resident, was selected as this year’s ThinkChinatown Co-fellow. The project proposal was to revitalize Phillips Square by creating a community mural that would draw foot traffic into the area and remind passersby that this is Chinatown, and these streets belong to residents. Jennie Chang, a Boston-area high school student, served as the project manager, coordinating the team of staff, the artist and youth.
The site is a classic symbol of the effects of gentrification on Chinatown’s community. Located at the historic site of Phillips Square – the location of the 1903 Immigration Raid – what once used to be a vibrant part of Chinatown is now host to a Verizon building for telecommunications storage, vacant buildings, and a parking lot. The encroachment of corporate offices and luxury developments leads to the erosion of Chinatown’s borders.
The mural will serve to re-assert Chinatown’s boundaries and is based on Ng’s multi-generational experiences in Chinatown. The images are both personal and universal – of Ng’s mother growing up in the era of the Combat Zone and garment factories as well as her toddler son’s experiences of dim sum and festivals. A documentary featuring residents and their experiences of growing up in Chinatown will also be released after the opening.