How I became “The accidental voice of Chinatown”
Since January 2020, my beloved Chinatown here in New York has been under siege. Due to the ongoing pandemic, a multitude of restaurants and businesses have closed permanently, while others struggle to remain open. Most eateries and shops that have survived have still not returned to pre-COVID business, and this is not sustainable. Over the last two years, as I watched this tragedy unfold, I realized Chinatown (actually Chinatowns everywhere) was in dire need of someone to speak for this treasured ethnic community wavering on the brink of extinction. It needed an advocate, a dedicated voice to rally the press and public to this crisis. I became one of those voices, along with many others who have since responded to the need.
Yes, it seems I’ve become “the accidental voice of Chinatown,” as New York magazine’s Grub Street blog christened me at the beginning of 2021. Thankfully, a broad range of national media and food-related organizations (see below) have heard the call to save Chinatown and Chinese mom-and-pop restaurants all across the country: Smithsonian, Vogue, Food & Wine, Huffington Post, and Today.com. have run interviews and stories about my work as have Splendid Table, Thrillist, and Serious Eats Special Sauce podcast. Every mention helps because right now the one thing that’s needed is to get word out that our steady patronage is vital to the survival of Chinatowns and AAPI businesses across the country.
I invite you to join me, going forward, in supporting any and all efforts to save Chinatowns and AAPI mom and pop businesses. After the success of our #SaveChineseRestaurants campaign, I am partnering once again with the James Beard Foundation and Poster House museum on a #LoveAAPI Instagram campaign. With the continued violence against Asian American Pacific Islander communities nationwide we need to expand our efforts. Businesses are suffering because people are afraid to come to work, shop, or dine at restaurants for fear of attack. The NYPD announced that hate crime incidents against Asians have spiked 356% since last year. This past summer, community leaders in Oakland’s Chinatown asked Governor Newsom to declare a state of emergency because of the dramatic increase in hate crimes. Without our support, we could lose historic Chinatowns and other AAPI enclaves around the country. To participate in our #LoveAAPI Instagram campaign post a short video or photo of your favorite AAPI owned restaurant or mom and pop store and say why you love this business. Please use the hashtag #LoveAAPI and encourage your followers to do the same. This campaign is ongoing and I urge everyone who loves Chinatowns, Koreatowns, Japantown, Little Saigon and AAPI mom-and-pop businesses as I do, to add their posts. The best way to fight hate is to show love for the AAPI community.
At the start of 2021, I launched my own Support Chinatown Fund, in partnership with the grass-roots organization Welcome to Chinatown. We raised over $40,000 which meant we were able to provide more than 4,000 hot meals for low-income, food-insecure, and at-risk senior residents in NYC! The meals were purchased from Chinatown legacy restaurants and distributed by community partners that serve neighbors in need. In April, I partnered with Asian Americans For Equality for the Safe With Sound campaign to raise money for personal security alarms. We raised over $24,000 and were able to distribute over 7,000 personal security alarms to seniors and workers in Chinatown! Heartfelt thanks for supporting both of these important campaigns.
I will keep you posted on my work and I ask you to please keep showing up, especially now as Chinatowns and AAPI enclaves around the country continue to face the challenges of anti-Asian hate crimes. For those of us who love Chinatowns, Koreatowns, Japantowns, Little Saigons wherever they may be, this is our time to step up.
Here are some articles in case you want to read more about the work that I’m doing.
- Culinary Expert Grace Young Is Documenting the Toll of the Pandemic and anti-Asian Hate on NYC’s Chinatown (Smithsonian Magazine)
- The New York Times recommends Coronavirus: Chinatown Stories (NYT)
- Grace Young is on a Mission to Save America’s Historic Chinatowns (Vogue)
- Grace Young: Most People Have No Idea of How Much Chinatowns Are Hurting (HuffPost)
- Special Sauce podcast Ed Levine Interviews Grace (Serious Eats)
- Saving Chinatown with Grace Young (Splendid Table)
- Grace Continues to Advocate for the Chinatown Community (Thrillist)
- The Accidental Voice for Chinatown (Grub Street)
- Why Grace is fighting to Save Chinese restaurants (Today.com)
- KCRW discusses Coronavirus: Chinatown Stories
- Campaign Is a Love Letter to Chinese Restaurants (Food&Wine)
- Grace Discusses NYC’s Chinatown on 1 Year Anniversary of COVID (TheWorld)
- Boston’s Chinatown Struggles to Survive (Boston Globe)
- 3 Chinatown Businesses Impacted by COVID (BuzzFeedNews)
- Grace in Chinatown for Lunar New Year (CBS NewYork)
- James Beard #SaveChineseRestaurants Initiative
- Chinatown Stories Featured in Smithsonian Food History Weekend (National Museum of American History)
- Grace on ABC Localish (abc)
- Grace on The BBC (Interview begins 24:10)
- 5 Women Doing Strong and Lasting Work to Improve Our World (theKitchn)