Treats for Chinatown — Chinese Youth Initiative Brings Library Resources on Halloween

Boston, Oct. 31, 2014, the Chinese Progressive Association’s Chinese Youth Initiative Program held a “Trick or Treat for the Chinatown Library” event outside of the Josiah Quincy School at the corner of Washington and Oak Streets in Boston’s Chinatown this afternoon.

Eight youth spoke to about 100 community members and passersby about the need for permanent library services to be brought back to Chinatown and the current efforts they are engaged in to bring these services back. Almost half of the people that the youth spoke with signed the youth program’s Chinatown Library/Cultural Center Petition that calls for the allocation of community benefits from the development of 345 Harrison Avenue to go towards the build out of a library/cultural center in Chinatown.

In the spirit of Halloween, the youth passed out candy and books to dozens of children who stopped by. In addition to books, coloring and drawing activities were available to show some of the resources a permanent library/cultural center would provide for the community.

Lincy Shen, a youth involved with the Chinese Youth Initiative, spoke about the importance of a library in Chinatown. “Every community should have a library. Why Chinatown, a community in the middle of Boston, a city full of libraries, does not have a library puzzles me. Chinatown needs a library; if there is no library now, how much longer will Chinatown have to wait – another 50 years?” said Lincy Shen.

Chinatown’s public library branch was razed in 1956 during urban renewal and the community has campaigned for library services to return since then. Chinese Youth Initiative has been engaged in efforts to bring library services back to the community since 2001. A library would be a critical resource for stabilizing the Chinatown community especially now as the community faces displacement and the pressure of luxury development. Temporary library spaces were seen with the Storefront Library for three months in 2009 and the Oak Terrace Reading Room for about one year in 2012, both of which were frequented often by residents and visitors.

Last week, an art installation by Andrea Zampitella and Monica Mitchell, “Open Libraries – Open Minds,” provided the community with free library services, specifically books. Chinese Youth Initiative worked with the artists to staff this installation when it was available at the Chinatown Gate. The name of the exhibit was inspired by the chant, “Closed Libraries – Closed Minds,” from when community members protested the closing of the original Chinatown library branch. “Open Libraries – Open Minds” was part of RVisions for Chinatown, a one week series of temporary art interventions in Boston’s Chinatown from October 19th-25th, organized by the Wong/Yee Gallery, Chinese Progressive Association, and Asian American Resource Workshop, that highlighted how public parcels or vacant properties can be used for community use and raised awareness about issues such as the need for more affordable housing and library services in Chinatown.

In the summer of 2013, the Chinese Youth Initiative secured a signed pledge from current Mayor Martin Walsh that he would work with the community to establish permanent library services in Chinatown. The Chinese Youth Initiative looks forward to continuing to work with the city government and city officials on establishing these services.