PCDC Goes to Canada and Plays Mahjong

On June 18 to 19, I joined a conference of North American Chinatowns in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. I, along with other representatives from Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, as well as Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Seattle were invited to speak. I spoke about community economic development strategies in Philadelphia Chinatown.
The conference was hosted by the Chinese Benevolent Association (which is traditionally composed of community elders), and I was particularly inspired by the joyful, grassroots energy that local young adults have brought to the table. Pop-up and urban guerilla-style events can celebrate and remake rich cultural traditions, activate underutilized space, promote sustainable practices, and create intergenerational, intercultural and family-based interaction.

One such organization in Vancouver, founded by young adult artists, has a social change mission based on increasing participation and awareness of Chinese-Canadian cultural heritage. Another group of young adults in Vancouver’s Chinatown organizes regular mahjong socials which have become social community centers.

As I reflect upon Chinatown, Philadelphia, I am aware of our great potential for this kind of grassroots effort. Our community identity is inextricable with the Asian immigrant culture and history of activism. Folk arts and crafts, cultural celebrations, and place-based movements are initiated by our community members and create community-wide impact. One of the most important things for organizations like PCDC to keep in mind is how it can shine a light on and lift up those efforts to create a broader, permanent impact and build a stronger community.

~Sarah Yeung, Director of Planning & Senior Project Manager