Jessica Tang and the "Greater Chinatown Community"

Everyone knows I've been kind of checked out since I will soon be moving to New Jersey. But I picked up a newspaper with the headline being something like, "Jessica Tang to be new leader of the BTU" and the Globe is saying not only is she the first Chinese American but the first person of color and the first woman in decades. She is also part of the LGBTQ community.

Boston is changing

And this post is not a call to action to throw your support behind her in an upcoming election so much as it is to let the community know about someone who can be a resource for us... because she is running unopposed. She's got it already.

Also, in terms of the Chinatown community, she has been involved since her college years at Harvard. Which taught me something. For cheap lion dance snubbing from Harvard, you can't forget about the Jessica Tang's who come into Boston and immediately get involved and stand up for the Community working with the CPA and people like Lydia Lowe, Karen Chen, and Giles Li.

"I've known Giles like forever," Jessica laughed, "Or at least we've worked together for the last 10 years."

Giles, who commented on one of my Facebook announcements that I would be moving to New Jersey with a "???????" made me realize that I have become somewhat important enough in Chinatown to be missed if I leave.

But Jessica validated the belief that  Chinatown is more of a base for a broader cultural community than just a brick and mortar neighborhood. When she came here for Harvard, it doesn't matter that she didn't grow up here, she saw it as her community too and started getting involved to protest gentrification right away.

Now this blog has many perspectives on that particular issue, but the point is, while talking to Lydia Lowe about tapping into that broader power base of people who grow up in Chinatown, become successful and then move out, people like Jessica show that they just need a space to get involved, and if you build it they will come.

"Chinatown is a place where we can celebrate and be with our community and support each other." 

Bostonians may move out to Colorado or California but they get involved in the broader Chinese and Asian communities there, whether it is in activism lion dance or dragon boat or whatever.

Because Chinatown is more than just a gate a restaurant and a community center. It is a way for immigrants and abc's to stay in touch with their community.

As Jessica said in our interview "Chinatown is a place where we can celebrate and be with our community and support each other."

In other words, working together as a community, Chinatown as an idea is a sleeping Dragon whose potential for political, social, and economic power has yet to be awakened.

I asked Jessica to explain what her role as president of the Boston Teacher's Union would be, or even what the role of the union was in the first place. I brazenly through my ignorance on the table because frankly, it's not even like I don't pay attention. My kids are in BPS (for the remainder of the year) and I went to BPS through the 4th grade. I knew that the BTU had a lot of strikes... I learned of all the obstacles I had in trying to make my school more culturally Chinese by trying to volunteer my Kung Fu and Lion Dance. I mean it's not like I wasn't allowed, but here I was offering something for free and trying to organize a way to make our local school something more than just a school and I have to jump through hoops. So I stopped.

Talking with other parents I didn't get the feeling like the BTU was this wonderful thing.

But Jessica said that is part of the reason why she was running. To change the image and to educate.

Chinatown as an idea is a sleeping Dragon whose potential for political, social, and economic power has yet to be awakened.  

"Unions are the reason why we have the weekends off, or why you can't get fired for having children." Jessica told me, "and you don't really learn about Unions in school necessarily. I mean I'm not from a union family..."

But this isn't that Asians aren't involved in unions, but rarely are they leaders on this coast. On the west coast there are more Asian Union leaders and honestly, many friends were surprised while traveling to the West Coast to see that many Asians had these union type jobs that on the East coast would be done by other ethnic groups or races. You can literally SEE a difference.

"I may be the only Asian American Union leader in the State" Jessica mentioned to me, speaking of Massachusetts. And she is the leader of a union that is in charge of all of our children's education, something which Chinese families in particular tend to value very highly.

Stereo typically, and this I guess is more true in the past, while Chinese value education highly, many immigrant families don't feel that they have a voice in the system, especially if they don't speak the language. They force their kids to do well. But they don't necessarily want t make waves.

Of course CPA is an exception to this, but for all the stories about success of Asians in the school system, let's not forget about what busing meant to new immigrants at Charlestown High, or some of the events in the 90's at Boston Latin or the older generations at Brighton High where large groups of Asians showed up in support or to watch a school fight. Remember that before the large influx of wealthy Chinese students almost every large gathering of Asians was reported as gang related in Boston's newspapers.

When really it was a result of how race and cultural issues were being handled by the school and the administrators. How they were being hired by the teachers.

If you had support from teachers, you wouldn't feel that you would have to go to a "gang" And I will not say "Join" a gang because often some of these support groups whose members were all Asian or AZN were created from scratch, again as a result of the school system lack of concern for their safety.

And these "Gangsters" if one would believe the Herald's or the Globe's reporting in the 90's are largely in the Finance and Tech industries, successful white collar Bostonians, whose kids may or may not be in BPS, whose buying power and intellect really help the city run.... but whose contributions and concerns are still largely glossed over. Whose families are also still at least a notch more conservative in terms of LGBTQ issues and whose children might need some support from outside of their family.

So is it significant that in 2017 the Boston Teacher's Union President is now going to be Jessica Tang, a Chinese American woman who is also part of the LGBTQ community?

Yeah actually it's a pretty big deal.