Galleries, luxury condos, displacement, rezoning, affordable housing, neighborhood preservation. These are a few keywords in the active and ongoing conversation about gentrification, development, and urban change more broadly. But what is the role of writing in the face of this kind of urban change? Two activists, scholar Peter Kwong of Hunter College/CUNY and artist Fay Chiang, will thread personal accounts of their lives as scholars and artists in Chinatown/Loisada with broader analyses of neighborhoods in flux. Their discussion will launch the Workshop’s community-based writers fellowship, “OPEN CITY: Blogging Urban Change,” where fellows collect oral history from residents of Chinatown/LES, Sunset Park, and Flushing. Partnering with the Museum of Chinese in America (MoCA) and its Archeology of Change Project, Open City is an innovative spin on the neighborhood blog, one that incorporates oral history, video/audio content, and new interdisciplinary writing.
Chiang’s recently released book of selected poems, 7 Continents, 9 Lives, spans 20 years of poetry as a Queens native and a Lower East Side activist, revealing the multiple lives of the city, ranging from widows to a man’s final steps into an AIDS hospice. Kwong’s classic study The New Chinatown, was heralded as a “splendid antidote to the consistent misrepresentation of Chinese-American life in the press and in scholarly writings” by David Montgomery of Yale University.
Peter Kwong is Professor of Asian American Studies and Urban Affairs and Planning at Hunter College, as well as Professor of Sociology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. His latest books areChinese America: The Untold Story of America’s Oldest New Community andChinese Americans: An Immigrant Experience, co-authored with his wife, Chinese historian Dusanka Miscevic. A frequent contributor to The Nation, Kwong was a co-producer of Academy Award-nominated Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province for HBO and was named “one of the 100 Most Influential Asian Americans of the Decade” by A Magazine.
Fay Chiang has been a poet, visual artist, community and cultural activist in NYC Chinatown and the Lower East Side for the past 39 years. Former executive director of the Basement Workshop (the first Asian American nonprofit multidisciplinary cultural organization in NYC and the east coast), she joined Project Reach in 2000. She is author of two volumes of poetry, In The City of Contradictions, and Miwa’s Song. 7 Continents, 9 Lives, a collection of selected and new poetry, was recently released in February 2010 by Bowery Press.
@The Asian American Writers’ Workshop
110-112 West 27th Street, 6th Floor
Between 6th and 7th Avenues
Free and open to the public
Programs funded, in part, by the New York City Council for the Humanities.