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On Thursday April 27th 2006, after more than five years in the works, A Chinatown Banquet, a key component of The Chinatown Heritage Project was unveiled. The Chinatown Heritage Project is an ongoing effort to capture and preserve the unique history of Boston’s Chinatown community. Through this unique project that combines community activism, civic engagement, public art and education, a deeper awareness and understanding of the contributions of Asian Americans to the culture of Boston is gained.

The Chinatown Banquet is a video with more than 3 hours of oral histories of given by over 70 members of the Chinatown community. Lead artists Mike Blockstein, and Jeremy Liu, the Director of the Asian Community Development Corporation, worked with numerous artists, youth and members of the Chinatown Community to produce this public art project. The video is designed to introduce many of the historical sites in Chinatown; many of the locations mentioned in the video are included in the self-guided walking tour of the Chinatown Heritage Trail.

At the unveiling, visitors were greeted by a festive Chinese Lion Dance complete with music and firecrackers. In his remarks during the ceremony Jeremy Liu stated “A Chinatown Banquet and the Chinatown Heritage Project grew out of a community’s sense of identity in the face of change…our identity, our culture are a tremendous assets for: protecting Chinatown – the neighborhood, strengthening connections within Chinatown – the community, and making space – in the public perception, public policy...”

Other dignitaries at the event included Sam Yoon, who was recently elected as Boston’s first Asian American City Councilor, and a representative from State Senator Diane Wilkerson’s office read an official state proclamation commending the project.

The video is on permanent public display in the front window of the United Commercial Bank at 68 Harrison Avenue. The Heritage Trail will soon be expanded to include cell phone audio and podcasting components. The Chinatown Heritage Project also includes the Chinatown Youth Radio Project, which broadcast weekly on Tufts University’s radio station 91.5 WMFO. Later this spring youth led- guided tours will also be offered.

The Chinatown Heritage Project has numerous partners and an impressive list of sponsors and funders, including the Asian Community Development Corporation (ACDC), The Chinese Historical Society of New England, The Peabody Essex Museum and The United Commercial Bank. Funding for the project came from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, New England Foundation for the Arts: Fund for the Arts, The Boston Foundation: Arts & Culture Fund, Boston Foundation for Architecture, Boston Cultural Agenda Fund, Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, Verizon, The Vervane Foundation, Puffin Foundation, Boston Youth Fund, and dozens of other individual contributors

To learn more about this ambitious and exciting project visit their website and the ACDC website.

To sign up for a guided walking tour of the project you can call 617-507-7927 and leave a message.

All images are courtesy of the author.


About Author

James Manning is a Boston based independent curator, artist, and film producer. He is a regular contributor to Big Red & Shiny.

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