By Assunta Ng
Northwest Asian Weekly
I love the new year because it is not only a time to have new goals and be forward-looking, it’s also a time of reflection and appreciation of the gifts we’ve received. My best of 2019 list interestingly does not always feature events that made the front page of the Northwest Asian Weekly, yet it still highlights the progress, strengths, and beauty of our community. These are things worth sharing.
A really empowering day
May 3, 2019 was a special day for the Asian and Pacific Islander (API) community. Presidential candidate Andrew Yang visited Seattle, encountering a rally of over 1,000 at Gas Works Park, a small group meeting in Bellevue, and a fundraising banquet of 500 people. The Asian Weekly was the only media covering all three events. It was one of the most inspiring days for me as an Asian American, to witness one of our own running for the highest office in the United States.
At the beginning, Yang’s campaign wasn’t really oriented toward Asian Americans. Instead, it was the reverse. Like many Asians, Wayne Lau, a Seattle community leader, flocked to him. Of the 17 presidential candidates, Lau only donated to Yang. He is inspiring — a non-politician with an unconventional message. And yet, as a son of immigrants, his background is similar to ours. Yang was raised to go after the American Dream, and he is raising the profile of Asian Americans to another level. We need more Andrew Yangs in our Asian community, to run for office, speak for us, break stereotypes — and to be willing to serve in public service.
Chinese seniors — an emerging force
Numbers can project strength. The voice of Chinese immigrant seniors in the International District (ID) is louder than ever. They are now a powerhouse. With close to 1,000 senior residents, their votes matter in Chinatown-International District elections. Activists, businesses, and organizations courted their presence at protests, campaigns, and rallies.
Seniors played a key role in lobbying Seattle City Hall to support the police contracts and food coupons for the elderly. They also spoke out at International Special Review District board meetings.
We salute the seniors for their involvement and boldness!
Kin On, still going
In contrast to the sad news about the closing of Keiro NW, a skilled nursing home founded by Japanese Americans, Chinese nursing home Kin On Community Health Care is financially sound and operating well. Its newly opened assisted living quarters was completed last year. It will also be celebrating its 35th anniversary on March 14 at the Hyatt on Lake Washington.
Thank you to all the Kin On founders such as the late Ark Chin, Ben Woo, Ed Wong, and Executive Director Fred Yee, and long-time dedicated volunteers such as Anne Wing. The list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Sam Wan, Kin On’s executive director for more than three decades of leadership.
He was a rock for Kin On — providing the nursing home with stability, vision, and a financial foundation.
The most beautiful “Pig”
In 2019, the Year of the Pig, Chinatown welcomed Pike Place Market’s pig in the community for a makeover. With the magic hand of artist Zuolie Deng, an ordinary fiberglass pig was transformed into a beautiful Chinese pig with lots of colors, cultural symbols, and a new identity. Her English name is now Golden Pearl. Her Chinese name is Ju Ju. Ju means pig and pearl (two different Chinese characters pronounced the same). She stayed in the ID, on and off, for many months.
The golden pig is now back home at Pike Place. She was high on the rooftop of the market surrounded by Christmas trees and lights last December.
The best speech
I have the privilege of attending more than 40 community events each year.
I saw some awesome speakers. I’m picking Toshiko Hasegawa’s keynote speech at the annual InterIm dinner to feature here as the best because she is the youngest of the speakers I’ve seen. Hasegawa is the executive director of the Washington State Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs and the youngest cabinet member of Gov. Jay Inslee.
Hasegawa’s thoughtful presentation covered many grounds. At the age of 31, she didn’t just address the older generation, but also the younger crowd in the audience. Her delivery was flawless and eloquent. She earned a standing ovation. I have seen her grow from a young girl to a confident and capable leader. Her father, Sen. Bob Hasegawa, is more than proud of Toshiko.
Best travel to Asia
2019 was an exciting year for Asian airlines flying non-stop to Seattle, including Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, and Japan Airlines (JAL). Why they decided to begin flying Seattle the same year was more than just a coincidence. A JAL executive said the airlines “likes to go where the competition is.”
The airlines’ move not only energized Seattle and Asia tourism, they save travelers a lot of time when going to Asia. I still remember how Cathay Pacific’s executives hosted a pleasant lunch for a small group of media at a downtown condo with an 180-degree view of Puget Sound. The conversation was lively and informative.
JAL’s inaugural flight at the SeaTac Airport was celebrated with much fanfare. Its passengers loved the souvenirs.
A most memorable photo
Seniors in Action founder Nora Chan and former Uwajimaya chairman Tomio Moriguchi were rivals in 1998 due to her objection of the closing of South Lane Street, which is now a part of Uwajimaya.
In December 2019, I saw them pose for a photo together for the very first time. What brought them together is their belief that market-rate housing plays a significant role in the vibrancy and livelihood of Chinatown-International District.
The most touching moments at fundraising events
The Denise Louie Early Childhood Center held its annual fundraising dinner in October at Sodo Park. It was a smaller crowd of 230 guests (compared to the big gala of the ACRS or the Wing Luke Museum dinners, which are more than twice as big).
Yet, the total amount raised was an impressive number: $190,000.
I was also touched at Chinese Information and Service Center (CISC)’s fundraising dinner, held at the Bellevue Westin Hotel. Normally, clients of nonprofit agencies can’t afford to donate no matter how much they would like to give back. Over the years, I have witnessed some immigrants who have finally become successful move out of the ID to the suburbs and never even visited the ID again. None of them realized that they reached the American Dream faster because of job opportunities, low-rent housing and lower cost of living in the neighborhood, and free education for their kids.
Amy Lee was different though. Amy is a former CISC client, who was not only present at the event — she donated $25,000 to the agency. What an example!
The best surprise
What makes a great event?
Surprises! But, how do you plant them effectively in annual events with a similar format, year after year?
Goodwill’s annual dinner featured Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best as one of the models for its “Glittering Fashion Show,” and it was a smash hit. Most guests had never seen her in a dress. Most females in non-traditional jobs experience gender discrimination frequently. To project an image of professionalism and being one of the guys, Best has to be in uniform — just pants — no dress or skirt. It was refreshing to see her transformation, looking so graceful in an evening gown.
The best behind-the-scenes worker
Lily Juang celebrated her retirement from the Taipei Economic and Cultural Affairs Office (TECO) in December at China Harbor Restaurant. Juang was a secretary for 35 years. Her title didn’t do her justice. She had served TECO and the community well. One travel agency said Juang had introduced the agency business opportunities. Another said Juang has connected many organizations of diverse backgrounds together for cultural exchanges.
The best food
To ensure all his dignitaries show up, Wayne Lau, executive director of Rainier Valley Community Development Fund, emailed a 20-item menu of his agency’s annual meeting to his guests prior to the event. I just couldn’t resist food. Obviously, I am a foodie.
The other delicious reception was organized by the Asian Pacific Directors Coalition honoring City officials. It was truly mixed, with all kinds of Asian foods, including sushi.
The most creative desserts
The Executive Development Institute (EDI) presented one of the most exquisite dessert auctions this year. Need I say more? Just glance at my photos. EDI trains diverse leaders to meet challenges professionally and personally.
And the hosts were thoughtful. Every guest had an individually-wrapped tasty cookie on their plate. I am one of those guests who are not always thrilled to go to $150–$200 dinners where you still have to pay for dessert! (It’s not about the money, it’s about turning donors off.)
The best party
Geekwire co-founder and chair Jonathan Sposato hosts a party every year at his Queen Anne home. It was my kind of party — featuring a who’s who guest list, an interesting presentation of yummy food, tech and diverse professions, multiethnic and cultural guests, a 360-degree view of the Sound — and interesting conversation.
Sposato is of Asian descent. He and his wife were gracious and generous hosts to allow guests to roam around their gorgeous home.
The most relevant silent auction items
The Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI) had its fundraising gala in November. What caught my eyes were its silent auction items: bird houses.
The “tiny houses” symbolize the tiny houses LIHI builds in Seattle. Those bird houses were the most relevant auction items to what the agency’s mission is. They not only sold quickly, but were fun to look at and inspired bidders to think about their environment and nature.
Free bus to go from downtown to Chinatown to waterfront
Thanks to Nora Chan, founder of Seniors in Action, you can now ride buses for free from Chinatown (next to the Chinese Historic Gate) to Pioneer Square, the waterfront, and more.
The proudest audience
In 2019, world-renowned pianist Lang Lang not only got married in Europe to a Korean-German pianist, he also performed in Seattle on Oct. 9. About 40 percent of the audience were Asians. There were over 2,300 attendees.
When he entered the stage, fans just roared with applause. His charisma is rare among classical musicians. His mesmerizing performance thrilled the audience.
Let’s welcome not only 2020, but a new decade with hope, peace, joy, laughter, and fun.
Assunta can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.