On a Saturday afternoon, a group of 20-some youth gathered at the Chinatown Gate in downtown Boston. They began unloading black foldout chairs from the back of a Budget van, propping up a square, white tent, and assembling a temporary movie projection system. They are members of Asian Voices of Organized Youth for Community Empowerment (A-VOYCE), a leadership program for youth at the Asian Community Development Corporation (ACDC) that brings together young leaders to affect positive change in Chinatown. The youth prepared for the 12th annual Films at the Gate, screening films directed by or starring Asian Americans, from August 25 to 27.
Films at the Gate is an annual event by ACDC, a nonprofit community developer that serves the Asian American community in Boston. Each year, Films at the Gate brings together Bostonians from within and without Chinatown to celebrate Asian American heritage and community by showing Asian American films and live martial arts performances. This year’s lineup included documentary film “My Life in China” by director Kenneth Eng and performances by Wah Lum Kung Fu and Tai Chi Academy, Daoist Gate Wudang Arts and the Bow Sim Mark Tai Chi Arts Association. The event also featured a special appearance by Klyster Yen, father of acclaimed martial artist and “Ip Man” star Donnie Yen. Yen’s mother is Bow Sim Mark.
In addition to celebrating Boston’s Asian American community, Films at the Gate also seeks to highlight important challenges faced by the Chinatown community. This year, the focus was on displacement of residents from Chinatown. In recent years, many in the Chinatown community have been struggling to stay in their homes due to rising rents and new developments. Despite ACDC’s best efforts to preserve and provide more than 400 affordable homes in the area since 1987, the Asian population in Chinatown fell from 70 percent in the early 1990s to 46 percent in 2010. To educate attendees, members of A-VOYCE set up a “film roll” display of testimonies by Chinatown residents on what Chinatown means to them.
The event was permeated with the spirit of youth. Young children chased around a panda mascot dressed in an Anti Social Social Club flannel; high school students played jump rope with their friends; music from Asian American film company Wong Fu Productions and Korean R&B artist DEAN pounded in the background. While the serious issues of displacement in Chinatown mandate greater attention and action by the people and political representatives of Boston, it was invigorating to see youth so invested in their community.
This post is also available in: Chinese