Support Your Chinatown, Wherever It May Be

updated Aug 28, 2020
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Credit: Grace Young

Here in New York City, my beloved Chinatown is in trouble. And like Chinatowns throughout the country, this historic, ethnic community needs help from us all. Since the coronavirus pandemic hit back in January, Chinese businesses have been suffering. Most restaurants and stores closed in March and some have still not reopened. Some may never. On August 5, Business Insider reported that between February and this past April, in response to the growing pandemic and resultant sino-phobia, “233,000 Asian American small businesses” closed nationwide.

In March, I went to Chinatown with videographer Dan Ahn to interview a number of restaurant and business owners facing possible closure. Their heartbreaking stories comprise my ongoing video series Coronavirus: Chinatown Stories, created in partnership with Poster House museum in New York. As I continue to document this evolving situation, it becomes clear that Chinatown restaurants are finding it almost impossible to survive exclusively on takeout.

Credit: Grace Young

During the summer months, many of them have addressed the problem by setting up outdoor dining spaces where visitors can enjoy a served meal. I was thrilled to learn that Po Wing Hong, my favorite supermarket and a great resource for Asian food products, is about to launch an online store — a boon for customers near and far. Until then you can also call in an order.

Yes, Chinatown streets are gradually recapturing their characteristic vitality, but we must return to patronizing its mom-and-pop stores selling everything from rice bowls to fine tea, and, once it is safe to do so, eating at its famed restaurants. Chinatown is a crucial part of my personal history. I depend on it for the freshest vegetables, tropical fruits, herbs, and culinary delicacies, like dried scallops, not to mention mango ice cream and bubble tea. Join me and support your Chinatown, wherever it may be. The time is now!