Conversations w/ Asian American Writers' Workshop

Added on by Annie Ling.

So often, we don't take enough time to discuss our process or share openly what we've learned through all the ups and downs. Few weeks ago, I was "cornered" by some friendly folks from Asian American Writers' Workshop (AAWW).
Ashok Kondabolu of Das Racist visited me on my home turf and we had a good long conversation about photography, justice, Chinatown, roots, and fires. Read the interview on The Margins.

Coincidently, Kyla Cheung from Open City Magazine published a cohesive article online about my work with tenement dwellers and Chinese immigrant workers, bringing to light past histories, the present, and the uncertain future of my friends at 81 Bowery.

81 Bowery has been the subject of coverage by the Village Voice, the New York Times and CNN. The segment aired by CNN this past March on living conditions there led a concerned viewer from Arizona to call the FDNY, which then issued a vacate order citing “fire egress” and “sprinkler issues.” Ten minutes of interviews and footage left the approximately fifty residents of 81 Bowery scrambling to find a bed with friends, relatives, the Red Cross, or the Housing Preservation and Development (HPD). Most were Chinese immigrant workers, some undocumented.
— http://opencitymag.com/81-bowery-tenement/

The New York Times have been a great supporter of my personal work in Chinatown, featuring 81 Bowery in 2011 and most recently, in March on the New York Times LENS blog. On March 7th, long-time tenants of 81 Bowery were ordered to vacate the premises due to safety violations.   

It is with greatest disappointment that my friends at 81 Bowery are still in limbo, unable to return to their homes on the Bowery, with no promise of change or improvements made on living conditions in the near future. Meanwhile, I'd run into some of the former 81 Bowery residents hanging around Chinatown, and he/she would offer a warm hello followed by a question: "Do you know when I can go home?" I would shake my head and tell them that I do not have an answer, but that their advocates at CAAAV are working diligently on their behalf.

Sharing another one's story is a privilege that must be handled delicately. As storytellers, we must be vulnerable as well – to express our motivations and engage in conversations to better understand who we are and where we stand, especially if we find ourselves in the position of being a voice for those in need of a voice. 

Chin Tu Yu in cubicle #6 at 81 Bowery packed a few possessions in the final minutes before vacating the building the evening of March 7th. Tu Yu Chin just arrived in US one month ago to join her husband who she hasn't seen in eight years. Chin currently works long hours at a laundromat in Chinatown. ©Annie Ling

Chin Tu Yu in cubicle #6 at 81 Bowery packed a few possessions in the final minutes before vacating the building the evening of March 7th. Tu Yu Chin just arrived in US one month ago to join her husband who she hasn't seen in eight years. Chin currently works long hours at a laundromat in Chinatown. ©Annie Ling