Sunday, March 20, 2016

Henry Yee passed away this afternoon

I just got an e-mail from Lydia Lowe informing me of this and there is an "in memory" of Henry Yee too. But  a lot of people might not know that I know Henry Yee pretty well. So before I post all that, let me talk about how I know Henry Yee. His voice is very , well was very distinct. And it is a voice that I heard way back when I was in Kwong Kow giving speeches. It was always there, like it or not. But I didn't know him that well back then. I got to know him from the Kung Fu Federation, which Woo Ching White Crane was a part of. Sometimes he needed someone to change a curtain or reach something high or post up flyers so Sifu would send some students to help him with that.. and since I was there so long and was the youngest for so long, I've been a gopher for Henry Yee for a long ass time. Moving a heavy sewing machine, or refrigerators that were broken and being used as shelves, or hanging out with the Pau Paus playing Mah Jong and having a bowl of rice with Ham Yu. (I love Ham yu and somehow those old ladies made it really good even though it's just cooked while the rice is being steamed. In fact, I think I haven't had Ham yu in over a decade. Probably for the best. My Paternal  grandmother who I never met, died of stomach cancer from too much Ham yu, but I digress.

I sort of knew Henry Yee's Grandaughter from KKCS. Also every lion dance back in my teenage years it was Chan Bak Fahn and Yee ji JIk. Chan and Yee. They were a team. I will say that since Chan Bak  Fahn passed, I felt like things went out of balance. They were better together somehow.

Now tat I am doing a lot of the same stuff they were doing, I mean I'm trying to spread out Kung Fu, and organize and get involved with politics too, but I'm doing it my own way, and for my own reasons. Some of it is just to test the waters and come up with good plot devices for my novels. No that's a lie, inside I do really want to make a difference but I know how naive that sounds, so I go with the first thing I said.

But a lot of stuff I criticized Yee for... shoot now I am doing the same thing I realize, but with Facebook and all that. Just the other day when I was talking to Michael Wong, he mentioned that since Henry Yee got sick, nobody posts stuff up any more, it's not the same.

I'm not saying that Henry Yee is my idol or anything like that. In fact, since our relationship was sort of odd of me doing what he told me even though I didn't want to and wasn't getting paid for it, I will admit, that sometimes he annoyed me. But look at this, now I'm that annoying guy going "Vote for Diana Hwang!" isn't that weird?

 Some other more happy memories? I remember we were watching the 108 Heroes, the Water Margin, a series which still inspires me. Henry Yee sat down with us and said he used to know all their names and their specialty. He had memorized them all.

That was sort of the only non "Business" conversation I ever had with him. By the time I really knew him, he was already getting senile. My Si Hing said that when they first knew him his mind wouldn't wander. I interviewed him a bit about his life and his activism. He cared.

For me... I am so cynical that even though I care, I won't invest my entire emotional self into Chinatown. In fact, I think it was that caring so much that sort of made him uncool. Responsible adults tat care sort of can't be cool. It's teenagers who don't give a care that are seen as cool. So as a teenager I looked at the 20 somethings and thought they were cool, but here I had to follow around Henry Yee posting up flyers or moving stuff from his apartment or whatever.

Somehow everyone got old including me, and I'm no longer cool. But I try to be. I'm going to do what he did but the difference is in the end, even if Chinatown is utterly taken away and vanishes I won't cry over it. Part of that, you could say is my whiteness or the fact that I don't live in Tai Tung anymore, or whatever. But I'll fight his fight not because it is the right thing to do or because I care.. but more because I feel like it and let's see what happens.  A subtle difference. Nuance really.
I guess I'm trying to tell myself that I'm not posting up flyers for Henry Yee like I did 15 years ago... I'm just posting stuff for myself.

I haven't really thought much about his passing yet. He was really old. Someone older than me from the neighborhood said, "Wow he was old when I was a little girl."
So it's not like this is sudden. We would all be lucky to live as long as he did.

But maybe I should have interviewed him again. I know he wanted to talk to me more about this blog... especially after he got his organization taken away from him (and then given back to him) and now that I write this I heard some people saying "Oh he used to run a gambling house."

No the Federation had a bunch of old ladies playing Mah Jong and eating rice and reiting some bad ass secret poetry to each other. But that's not a gambling house. I know what a gambling house looks liek (at least my three year old memory of one) because my Dad would bring me in there.)

Was he old. yes. Did all that BS and sneaky stuff with  the paperwork being switched around (and people actually believe and say over and over that they were right in doing that? No. It's cool if that's what you do with me. It's a lawyers game You use the law to your advantage. But don't pretend it's right. You can pretend that the ends are right, or that sometimes you have to play dirty, but don't pretend it's right, or if you're hero is the one who pulled the fast ones, you can justifyu the dirty trick, but you have to admit it's a dirty trick. Don't pretend that Hoy Kew isn't the real Hoy Kew. Someone can steal our domain name (In fact the Domain name to Chinatown Blog was taken that's why this is Boston Chinatown Blog. But that doesn't mean  that the Chinatown Blog, which has gibberish in Japanese is the "Real" Chinatown blog. Hey they did that to make money. no problem. I don't get mad. Their are sharks out there. But if you like sharks don't pretend that when they bite people that their trying to heal you or save your soul. Man I went on this rant for a long time and the point is, yeah that stressed out Henry Yee and even though he was probably dying already anyway, it probably didn't help. And all the other such actions that are done with malicious intent are not helpful either. That's all. Now have I created stress with this blog? Yeah I have. Sorry. Actually know I'm not sorry I just apologize and there was no malicious intent. But Yeah I've caused trouble and stressed people out close to me.

Come to think of it, a few year's back I stressed out Henry Yee too because I wanted to make another Kung Fu Federation event.  Just to show that you can do that without spending too much money and make it more fun...through Facebook etc. He freaked out about it thinking I was breaking off and splitting away or something. But to that point, who cares? There is a ton of Kung Fu Federations  out there right now.  Big deal. But in the end I didn't set up the event because there wasn't much interest, What ended up happening was the New Year's event was moved to August as an August Moon event. I guess that will be the event where it really sinks in that Henry Yee is gone because he would hog the mic. Some will probably say that it is an improvement.. but that doesn't mean on some level that we won't miss him. It's like an older relative that nags you... which I actually never had experienced with my own blood. My own family does not nag me at all, because they died young or I see them so rarely it just wouldn't make sense to be done. So it's kind of like Henry Yee is that nagging older relative of mine.

 I will stop by Wing Fool and offer the white gold and the incense. Again because like I said before, So often I cannot  make it to the funeral's of my own blood But Grace will be home and Wing Fook is down the street. So I make it to the ones I can make it too and hope that others make it to my blood kin who are in a similar situation where my blood was like their family and though Henry Yee was not blood he was like the old grand uncle twice removed or whatever. The world is cyclical. Sai Gai hai yuen. Some Chinese lady told me that when my mom died and I was getting pushed out of the projects (she was trying to help me.)

And now the tribute that someone else wrote. See the attachment as well.

Mr. Henry Yee passed away yesterday afternoon.  

The family will hold a wake at the Wing Fook Funeral Home, 13 Gerard Street, on Monday 3/28, 5:00 – 8:00 pm.  The funeral service will be held on Tuesday 3/29, at 10 am with burial at 11 am.


A Tribute to Henry She-Ang Yee

For 17 years, Henry Yee was truly the driving force of the Chinatown Resident Association. His unrelenting passion and commitment to the community's future made him as familiar with the corridors of City Hall as he was with the apartment buildings and restaurants of Chinatown.  

Following his involvement in the 18-month campaign to stop the thrice-proposed hospital parking garage on Parcel C, Mr. Yee and other activists recognized that Chinatown lacked what many other neighborhoods had—a neighborhood council elected of, by, and for Chinatown residents that would particularly stand up for their interests. He helped to found the Chinatown Resident Association in 1999.

Like the mailman, whether sun or rain, sleet or snow, you could always find Mr. Yee trudging the path to the State House to lobby for the bilingual ballot, to City Hall to register concerns about luxury development, or marching through East Boston and Chelsea on May Day to stand up for all immigrant workers' rights, regardless of ethnicity or immigration status.

       Mr. Yee was a core leader in the campaign to reclaim Parcel 24 for affordable housing, and to draft Chinatown Master Plans 2000 and 2010.  He was an unrelenting advocate for affordable housing focused on the needs of Chinatown's low income families, for a Chinatown library, and for community control of development.  Last year, Mr. Yee played a founding role in launching the Chinatown Community Land Trust for this purpose.

       Following elderly residents' complaints of voting irregularities at the polls, Mr. Yee fought for the Chinese and Vietnamese bilingual ballot, and then for its renewal, for eleven years until the law was permanently renewed in 2014. During this period, Chinatown became one of Boston's consistently higher turnout neighborhoods.

Even those who disagreed with Mr. Yee recognize the tremendous impact he and the Chinatown Resident Association have had on the community. In the face of massive luxury development and powerful market forces, Boston Chinatown's ability to survive and maintain a foothold in the heart of downtown is due to the tremendous commitment and achievements of Chinatown's residents, and most especially Mr. Henry Yee.  

May he rest in peace.
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