A Blade of Grass Films


Cultural Identity: Chinatown Art Brigade

A cultural collective in New York City’s Chinatown uses a variety of creative tactics to fight displacement and gentrification and celebrate the residents and cultural contributions of the neighborhood.

AIRED: September 28, 2020 | 0:04:36


Arai: When I think about Chinatown,

it's not just an ethnic enclave of Chinese,

but it's actually, to me, a metaphor for the global city.

It's a neighborhood of immigrants.

It's a neighborhood that has deep, deep historical roots.

And they're really the beginnings

of the American narrative.

Kong: I don't think at the time

when they took over this gallery as a pop-up

that they even thought about

how it would change the landscape of this stretch alone.

And now we have a luxury tower next door.

[ Indistinct conversations ]


Arai: We want, I think, to draw attention

to the meaning of this neighborhood

and what will happen to New York,

you know, if it disappears, if it's erased.


Yu: The Chinatown Art Brigade is a cultural collective

that's made up of artists, cultural workers,

activist, residents, and tenants of Chinatown

who are committed to social justice

and activism in Chinatown.

We were just talking about different, like,

stickering campaigns that would be cool.

And we could do it in English

and it could be "gentrification in progress"

or it could be "stop gentrification,"

and we could decide.

Arai: In terms of the makeup of the workshop,

It's been great that it's not just artists

that are a part of the collective,

but people who really just want to do something.

[ Speaking native language ]

So when I first came, my first reaction

when I saw that the living space is so small,

I cried. I first came to CAB

because my landlord wanted to kick us out.

He wanted us to be out in 30 days.

So thankfully, there was a union of tenants that would help us.

Kong: After that group walk, I think a lot of folks

really felt something special about it, felt really connected.

During our first stop, after the mini presentation

that was given by one of the residents,

folks just automatically started writing messages

on the ground in chalk.

It was great because it wasn't a tour

that was given by one or two people,

but it was a tour that everybody had a role in.

Yu: So we projected across the street from a building

where tenants were organizing against a landlord

who is using predatory tactics to displace them.

And so we projected their stories in Chinese

and in English.

[ Chanting in native language ]


[ Chanting in native language ]


[ Chanting in native language ]


Kong: So we chose the projection locations through discussion,

but also based on where there would be a high amount

of foot traffic

and vehicular traffic.

Man: Yes, he's got it.


[ Crowd singing in native language ]



Kong: So the people's pad is something

that the illuminator created,

and it is basically a way for folks to write messages

that would be live projected onto a surface.

Arai: It's intentionally inviting people

to take part in looking at the neighborhood,

adding to it,

and seeing how it can be re-visioned.

So if we can sort of establish ourselves

as this platform

for people to voice how they see the world

and their community in it,

I think that would be the best impact that we can make.




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