Throughout history, various projects have threatened the health and livelihoods of Chinatown residents. Boston Chinatown, like many Chinatowns across the nation, is able to survive in large part due to the activists and allies who have resisted these forces and won. In partnership with the Chinatown neighborhood preservation group Asian Community Development Corporation, we are proposing a community-driven library project to highlight these stories of resilience and drive community stewardship of the Chinatown neighborhood.
We will invite the public to pop-up library built into a traveling food cart, serving stories instead of food. For decades, Chinatown has been the only neighborhood in Boston without a permanent public library - our cart will bring the library to the public, inviting visitors to sit together, get lost in art, and engage each other in shared conversation. We will fill the library with bite-sized books created during a series of workshops in personal storytelling, zine-making, and oral history with Chinatown youth. In addition to serving stories, we will also give away “story takeout boxes”: resources for residents and visitors alike to learn how to conduct and publish oral histories themselves.
We love oral history projects in Chinatown, but we often find them deep in the internet, out of sight and out of mind. It is not enough for memory just to be preserved - it must be made accessible, engaging, and relevant. Building on our experience uplifting and self-publishing Asian Pacific Islander narratives through the MOON EATERS collective, our project will serve stories in books that are beautiful and interesting - to make the stories delicious and, in doing so, more impactful. We believe that bringing these stories out of the margins and into the public is essential to resisting the ‘strategic forgetting’ that happens upon gentrifying lands and amplifies the power of residents in shaping the future of Chinatown.
Funded by Boston, MA (February 2020)