As with other Chinese diasporic communities across the globe, Manhattan's Chinatown has historically been dominated by men and male-run institutions. On Saturday December 10th, join us as four women, early pioneers in Chinatown's business community, labor organizing and the arts and those continuing the struggle, come together in The W.O.W Project’s first public panel since the presidential election.
Conceived as part history lesson and community strategy session, we envision this evening as a safe space and a space for reflection, regrouping and mobilization by those confounded by recent political developments. This panel is part of a larger series of conversations about Chinatown in the hopes of nurturing and sustaining community. Panelists will share their experiences working at various historical junctures and the lessons and strategies gleaned from those contentious times that may be helpful to us today. The panel includes Ching Yeh Chen co-founder and owner of Pearl River Mart, May Ying Chen union organizer who has devoted a career of more than 25 years to the garment workers’ union: Local 23-25 Workers United/SEIU, Cynthia Lee former VP of Exhibitions, Programs & Collections at the Museum of Chinese in America, who led the development of MOCA’s new core exhibition, “With a Single Step: Stories in the Making of America,” and Sophia Ng Executive Vice-President at Po Wing Hong Food Market. The discussion will be moderated by cultural worker Lena Sze.
Lena Sze is a cultural worker and writer from Manhattan's Chinatown. Her experience in arts organizing comes from time at the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, Asian American Writers' Workshop, the Museum of Chinese in America, the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, among other organizations. She received her PhD in American Studies from NYU and her MFA in poetry from Brooklyn College; and has published her poetry and academic work, including an article about post 9/11 attempts to revive Chinatown's garment industry.
Ching Yeh Chen was born In mainland China and raised in Taiwan. She came to the US as a graduate student and eventually worked as a newspaper editor until 1980 when she joined her husband at Pearl River. Ching Yeh has lived in New York City since 1977.
May Ying Chen devoted a career of more than 25 years to the garment workers’ union, Local 23-25 Workers United/SEIU. In this work, she coordinated union contract bargaining and benefits, voter registration and political action campaigns, union education programs, and fights for immigrant workers’ rights, women’s issues, and worker education. The issues of Asian Pacific Americans, especially workers and women, have been a life-long passion. President Obama appointed her to serve as a Commissioner to the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAPPI) from 2012-2014. Now retired and a long-time Chinatown resident, May continues to be an active volunteer and board member of the NYS Immigrant Action Fund, Union Health Center, and the NY Chapter of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA).
Cynthia Lee, formerly VP of Exhibitions, Programs & Collections at the Museum of Chinese in America, led the development of MOCA’s new core exhibition, “With a Single Step: Stories in the Making of America.” After twelve years at MOCA, Cynthia began her career as an independent interpretive planner of museum exhibitions and public history projects. She was an Associate Producer for the documentary film The Search for General Tso, and the Assistant Curator of “Chinese American: Exclusion/Inclusion,” the largest exhibition to date about Chinese American history, which opened at the New-York Historical Society and was recently installed permanently at the Chinese Historical Society of America in San Francisco. Cynthia continues to draw from her experiences of community-based cultural work as she collaborates with organizations such as the National Museum of Jordan in Amman, the N-YHS Women’s History Center, and the Desert Discovery Center Scottsdale in Arizona.
Sophia Ng Tsao is Executive Vice-President Po Wing Hong Food Market located in Manhattan's Chinatown. Established nearly at 40 years ago by parents Patrick and Nancy Ng, Po Wing Hong is a well-known purveyor of quality traditional Chinese health products. Additionally, also oversees the family's conglomerate of businesses in restaurant supply, distribution and spa. Sophia is on Board of Directors at the Charles B. Wang Community Health Center.
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