THE WORLD AMIDST COVID-19
04. 09. 20
WRITING & ILLUSTRATION | JEN LOUIE
PHOTOS | ALEX BAE & JEN LOUIE
The day before we left New York City to take refuge in Washington D.C. we visited Chinatown in hopes of picking up groceries and take out to support our favorite local businesses. Under the dystopian cloud of COVID-19, the streets of Chinatown were empty. There were no street vendors, no fruit stands, no tourists clogging the sidewalk, and no chefs on a smoke break. We walked down Mott Street and came across signs door after door handwritten in English and Chinese, “Closed until 3/30 or further notice”. Knowing now, it'll be much longer.
Long before state government officials issued a closure on all non-essential businesses and asked all New Yorkers to remain at home, Chinatown experienced a significant loss of business. People stopped coming, not in fear of going outside, but in fear of interacting with the densest population of Asian Americans in the city. This fear continues to perpetuate as President Trump unapologetically replaces fact with false discriminatory labels. Trump labels the novel coronavirus as the “Chinese virus” on live television, social media, and to the press. The impact of such xenophobic language has resulted in an increase of hate crimes against Asian Americans, including an assault on the NYC subway and stabbings at a grocery store in Texas. His words endanger not only Chinese Americans but many other Asian Americans - igniting fear and division in a time of mass suffering and loss.
Although Trump’s shameful remarks are unsurprising, the despicable actions by “everyday Americans” reminds us of the hatred and discrimination embedded deep within this nation regardless of COVID-19. Injustice amidst a pandemic feels particularly stinging, not only because of how personal it feels as a Chinese American but because it affirms a harsh reality. One that tells us - even during a global pandemic filled with unprecedented grief and loss resembling 9/11 and times of war, the pain of injustice, broken systems, and hatred remain.
Somewhere along this dark rabbit hole came a brighter train of thought; about how mind-blowingly unique this time is. The entire global population shares the same biggest concern, we are forced to practice social distancing and navigate new rules from our local grocery stores to Federal travel bans. All of us are adjusting to a temporary "new normal". With every gut-wrenching headline and text from my mom about a new family member falling ill comes a line about “being in this together”. The undercurrent of our quarantined lives is an invitation to practice humanity and solidarity like never before - something our individualistic society is usually quite shit at until we boil it down to life or death.
There has been an oddly sincere outpour of support, comradery, and positivity online; virtual happy hours, live streams from our favorite artists, small business allyship, creative opportunities, and shared resources. There is strong evidence for how we’ve taken the opportunity to fight and find happiness together.
Beyond the immediate need to flatten the curve and alleviate suffering lies the equally consequential and ethical question of what it means to take action for the common good. As we expose what is broken during this time of crisis, will we seize the opportunity to stand for a future that is more just, equitable, humane, and empathetic? Will we continue to lend a hand to the elderly? Fight to protect immigrant workers? Alleviate student loans? Treasure the strength mother nature gives us? Pass policy that defends the middle class? Tip the Uber Eats delivery biker? Fight for universal health care? Demand businesses value all stakeholders? Support freelance artists? Say I love you more than we do?
When we sit down to eat dim sum at Hop Shing and hug our friends again, I hope we feel different. I hope when the weight of grief allows for deeper breathing, we choose to act in community, in love, and in empathy to fight for a more just future. •
We have been inspired by the thousands of shared resources and outreach lending support during this difficult time and want to continue this virtuous cycle. In an effort to support the community, cultivate creativity, and act with intention, we have put together a shortlist of resources with a focus on what's close to home:
Our Lower Manhattan community
We'd love to expand this list, so please DM or email us if you have a resource you'd like us to add!
This massive list covers major cities and regions in America, including NYC, and touches on nearly every aspect you might be worried about during this time.
ACCESS BOOOOOOOM Slack
Explore these helpful links for artists and join the BOOOOOOOM Slack to connect with other creatives from around the world.
Our friends at youth arts nonprofit, Wide Rainbow, have put together a great list of resources including: community care and activism, children, teens, and families, health and wellness, jobs, grants, and financial aid, and arts and culture.
Some of our favorites:
EXPLORE: Museums at Home
Our House, by Hustle, is a 24/7 digital television network aiming to bring paid gigs back to creators by streaming art from around the world. Submit a 30 or 60 minute pre-recorded segment and await a response. Approved segments are paid $100/hour, no submission fee.
SUBMIT Mail Art to PrintedMatter
“Send us your art in mail-form! We’ll be selecting one mail art piece per day to feature as an Instagram Story. Once we return to our normal operations, we’ll make a selection of submissions to be featured in a publication. All submissions will be saved in Printed Matter’s institutional archive.”
Sign up for a completely free workshop that can be completed from where you are - indoors or outdoors - whichever best meets the participant's community safety guidelines. This is a new interactive platform to help youth process the difficulties of this time while fostering a sense of creativity and connectivity to others.
SUBMIT Bitter Melon Poems
This online archive of diary entries from Asian American artists, writers, and zinemakers is publishing everything that gets submitted!
A community-curated list of takeout and delivery in Chinatown and Neighboring Areas and a list of supermarkets in Chinatown. Though subject to change, Chinatown Partnership’s is doing their best to update daily.
FOLLOW Felicia Liang @thefliang for insight on Chinatown businesses
Artist Felicia Liang found a beautiful way to depict which businesses in Chinatown and surrounding LES neighborhoods are open for takeout / delivery and which are closed during this time. We found these visuals super helpful, especially for store names in other languages.
Gold Rush is an accelerator for the most promising and culturally compelling Asian founders and CEOs. Applications open now for Asian-founded and Asian-owned health and wellness companies. Selected Founders applications will be eligible for Gold House partnerships, mainstream press promotion, and invaluable resources from industry leaders.
Food culture agency, Care of Chan, continues to find creative ways to support the restaurant industry through their Save Restaurant initiative - a curated selection of merchandise to purchase from those in the food industry. All sales and proceeds go directly to the restaurant.
Three very amazing organizations - Something Special Studios, Wide Rainbow, and Green Top Farms - are partnering to raise money to prepare fresh, nutritious meals for those in need. Meals are donated to residents in undeserved NYC neighborhoods, starting with their partners at New York Common Pantry in Harlem. Consider donating or gifting a WFH pack to your NY friends or family in need (Use this $10 coupon link!): .
In partnership with Robin Hood, ROAR is raising donations for a new NYC restaurant employee relief fund intended to support half a million restaurant and bar service workers who are currently not able to earn a living. If you are not able to donate, please consider signing this petition
The official website of the City of New York offers a number of programs and resources from finances, to food, to families.
Safe Horizons mission is to support, prevent violence, and promote justice for victims of crime and abuse, their families and communities. This is a good list of resources to share with anyone you think might be in an unsafe position ranging from child care, to domestic violence, to rape and sexual assault, to homelessness.
For small businesses, including non-profits, in NYC seeking financial support after seeing a reduction in revenue becuase of COVID-19 there is an NYC Employee Retentino Grant Program, a NYC Small Business Continuity Loan Fund, and small business
WE'RE OPEN FOR CREATIVE REVIEW
We’d love to support you. If you’re up to creative endeavors during this time of quarantine, we’d love to support you by offering our review on the following:
Video and Photo
Brand Design (Identity, Guidelines, Assets)
Content Strategy & Creation
Tone, Voice, Messaging
Resume & Cover Letters
This is for anyone! You could be working on a personal zine, starting a clothing brand, or playing around on InDesign. We’d be humbled and inspired to see what you’re up to. Email or DM us with an introduction, objective (what are you looking for from us), and content to review.