Los Angeles’s original Chinatown dates to the mid-1800s, when California had just recently become a part of the United States. Many had just fled China, where there was rampant famine and homelessness, but when they arrived in California they were faced with deep racism and violence. The Los Angeles Chinatown we know today is quite different from the Old Chinatown, which was cleared out when Union Station was built in 1939. But even the new Chinatown has radically changed, as it has experienced waves of gentrification, especially since the late 1990s when art galleries started populating Chung King Road.
On Thursday, May 28, you’ll have the chance to learn about this history and much more (including how Chinatown became a hotbed of the 1970s and ’80s punk music scene) in an online event titled “We Love LA Chinatown,” hosted by OCA-Greater Los Angeles (OCA-GLA) and Nü House. The program is in celebration of Asian and Pacific Islander American Heritage Month, which feels especially important to honor in a time of increased racism against people of Asian descent.
At the heart of “We Love LA Chinatown” will be a special preview screening of Michelle Sui‘s yet-to-be-released film Street Angel, which follows a woman as she wanders the streets of LA’s Chinatown, singing a refugee song from a 1937 Chinese film also named Street Angel. We see her interact with the elderly immigrant residents of the neighborhood, who recognize her song. As the film’s press release states, the story “captures a moment in time as the neighborhood changes, creating a way for us to remember the joy, ingenuity, and voices of the people who live behind the facade.”
The screening will be followed by a panel discussion with Sui, as well as Eugene Moy, of the Chinese Historical Society of Southern California, and Lydia Lin, co-owner of Steep LA Tea Room. Moy will discuss the history of development in Chinatown and current efforts underway to preserve the neighborhood, whereas Lin will share the perspective of starting a new business in Chinatown and how to face COVID-19 ahead. George Yin, a board member of OCA-GLA, will be moderating what promises to be an illuminating conversation.
When: Thursday, May 28, 7–8:30pm (PDT)