Asian American Community Portraits

Asian American Community Portraits is a series of nine stories which seeks to increase visibility and understanding of the diverse Asian American communities in the Philadelphia region and their strengths, challenges and histories. Now more than ever, we must ensure Asian voices have a platform to speak out against the issues impacting our communities.

This series is developed by New Mainstream Press in partnership with the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation and in consultation with Sojourner Consulting, with generous funding support from the Independence Media.

Articles are published across Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean and English language news and social media platforms

Story 1 | The past of refugees in Southeast Asia, the inspiration for Afghans to settle in Philadelphia

Author: Eleni Finkelstein ( 李蓓 ) | 翻译:李蓓

January 22, 2022 — Le-Quyen Vu is the Executive Director of the Indochinese American Council. She is also a refugee from Vietnam who arrived in Philadelphia in 1983 after fleeing Saigon in April 1975. Her husband’s family worked for the US Embassy and were among the few who escaped on U.S. helicopters, gripping tightly to it as it lifted off the ground. The scene can be compared to visuals seen on the news in August 2021 as the U.S. flew their final planes out of Kabul while Afghans clung to aircraft landing gear, some falling to their deaths, desperate to escape the Taliban’s return to power… Read More (Chinese) (Korean) (Vietnamese)

Story 2 | Lessons in Cultural Appreciation and Diversity Not Enough to Stop Anti-Asian Hate in Philly Schools

Author: Eleni Finkelstein ( 李蓓 ) | 中文编辑:李蓓 吕广伦(实习)

February 26, 2022 — Sara, a Central High School student, says anti-Asian bullying is nothing new to her. From a young age Sara would receive verbal microaggressions from her friends and peers about the shape of her eyes and the food her Chinese parents would pack her for lunch, which was vastly different from the hoagies and chicken patties her friends would get from the cafeteria. At the time, these comments were written off as gentle teasing or genuine curiosity. It didn’t occur to her until years later that these experiences were her first experiences of anti-Asian racism. With the rise of anti-Asian bias incidents…Read More (Chinese) (Korean) (Vietnamese)

Story 3 | In the post-epidemic era, struggling Asian-American small businesses urgently need to revive

Author: Eleni Finkelstein ( 李蓓 ) | 中文编辑:李蓓 吕广伦(实习)

March 3, 2022 — Closing down her small Chinatown restaurant, T.T Skewer, was not an easy decision for owner Sunny. With little business due to the pandemic and soaring costs on meat like lamb and chicken, like many others, Sunny struggled to keep up with the changing climate of being a small business owner in Philadelphia throughout the shifting health mandates, COVID-19 caseload surges, and false starts of 2020 and beginning of 2021.

Staff shortages also contributed to the shutdown of her beloved business, even after recruiting people from different backgrounds where skewers are not a traditional dish… Read More(Chinese) (Korean) (Vietnamese)

Story 4 | With the renovation of Roosevelt Park imminent, will the Southeast Asian market, which has existed for 35 years, disappear?

Author: Eleni Finkelstein ( 李蓓 ) | 中文编辑:李蓓 / Alan Lu (实习)

Saijai Sabayjit grew up in Bangkok, Thailand watching her mom cook up to 20 different curry dishes a day. Saijai’s love of cooking expanded from family tutorials to her own restaurant in Thailand, and she is now in the works of opening a food truck which will serve authentic Thai flavors in Philadelphia. Until it opens, on weekends from April to November, you can find Saijai’s Thai Food with her grill and wok bowl at the Southeast Asian Market at FDR Park.

As one of the only Thai vendors at the market, Sanjai enjoys sharing her meals and Thai iced tea with a diverse demographic of customers who come by her booth. She cheerfully acknowledges that for now, the work is not highly profitable, but it is satisfying…Read More  (Chinese) (Korean) (Vietnamese)

Story 5 | How hard is it to look at the identity of the Asian-American community during Asia Pacific Heritage Month?

Author: Eleni Finkelstein ( 李蓓 ) | 中文编辑:李蓓

The inside of Montgomery County Community College was loud on April 30th, as the The Korean-American Association of Greater Philadelphia (KAAGP) kicked off May’s Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month with their Korea in Philly festival. Korean elders sporting traditional dress proceeded around the building in a drum line, showing their passion and talent for the music, and eventually ending in the lobby where they were greeted with endless applause. The festival was the organization’s first in-person celebration for AAPI Heritage Month and doubled as a commemoration of KAAGP’s 50th anniversary…. Read More  (Chinese) (Korean) (Vietnamese)

Story 6 | Amid the wave of anti-Asian hate, when will The history of Asian-Pacific Americans be included in Pennsylvania textbooks?

Author: Eleni Finkelstein ( 李蓓 ) | 中文编辑:李 蓓

“It’s time for a change in American history. It’s time we should include [more] people so less people are getting hurt.”

Yu Chen was a student in the Duncannon school district in Central Pennsylvania from 5th to 12th grade. An immigrant from China, Chen’s parents intentionally relocated to an area with a low population of Asian Americans so that Chen and his sister could learn English while being exposed to American culture. With the town’s population totaling only about 1,400 residents, only 0.62% of the population identify as Asian. Chen recalls feeling ostracized growing up, serving as an easy target by peers and teachers for racist comments and microaggressions directed at his heritage, such as remarks about his “squinty eyes,” knowledge of math, fashion choices, and more…Read More  (Chinese) (Korean) (Vietnamese)

Story 7 | The highly contagious Omicron BA.5 is coming, and are Philadelphia Asians still assured of the COVID-19 vaccine?

Author: Eleni Finkelstein ( 李蓓 ) 和 Bei Li | 中文编辑:李 蓓

Jane, the mother of three, is eager to get her children vaccinated amidst the recent announcement by the CDC that children under 5 are now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. Jane’s oldest, 6, is already vaccinated. So is she and her husband. Her two youngest children, 9 months and 3 years, will be visiting their pediatrician soon for the vaccination.  In June, the CDC approved COVID vaccines for children aged 6 months to 4. Many Philadelphia parents learned the news, but unlike Jane, not everyone is ready to vaccinate their very young children… Read More  (Chinese) (Korean) (Vietnamese)

Stay tuned for upcoming articles!