By Sarah E. Baker
On March 8, I felt panicked. The stories in my news feed were overwhelming: AAPIs and businesses facing discrimination because of COVID-19, restaurant sales in the Chinatown-International District (ID) plummeting, people being outright avoided in public. Racism is alive and well, my friends.
As an organizer, I wanted to do SOMETHING, but what?
When I’m at work, I don’t have the ability to go to the ID to physically support a business, but I can send other people there. So I took to social media. I started posting about the different small Black, Indigenous, and people of color-owned businesses that I like, in the hopes that my friends would feel inspired to check them out, or maybe go to their own favorite places to give them financial support. Later that day, my friend (and fellow board member of the Seattle Chapter of Japanese American Citizens League) Bill Tashima messaged me about starting a Facebook page to support businesses in the ID, similar to what I and some other folks had started doing. We looped in our amazing friend and avid community supporter, Mary Ann Midoro Goto, and the page went public later that evening.
Our description: “Support the ID – Communities Unite” is an informal grassroots effort to help support our community businesses and restaurants during the current coronavirus trauma. We urge friends, co-workers, and families to patronize the ID (Chinatown, Nihonmachi, Filipino Town, and Little Saigon). Small family businesses are the heart and backbone of the ID.
We wanted to provide a space for people to share resources and their love of the ID, and to be totally honest, the response has been a little overwhelming. At 500 people, we were so excited that folks were on board and wanted to share about their favorite spots. To date, we have been gaining an average of 1,000 people a day! That number is absolutely staggering. The overwhelming love and support that the community has shown for businesses in the ID and beyond has been unprecedented. On a daily basis, Bill, Mary Ann, and I are blown away by what we have seen in this group. People have shown up for the community in a way that was never asked for or expected.
As things with COVID-19 develop, we have had to change our tact, from “get out there and support small businesses” to “stay in as much as possible and support small businesses!” We are at a critical juncture with the virus right now where social distancing is vitally important. But there are still ways to continue the kindness and generosity. Keep buying gift cards, order to-go, order for delivery. If you aren’t sure what would be most helpful for a business that is closing for an unknown period, give them a call and ask them directly what they need.
In a time when people are feeling scared and hopeless, this is the type of action that is going to remind us of why community is so important. This resilience is what will keep us going. Hope is not lost, because we are the hope. We have to be strong for each other.
I want to say thank you to everyone who has contributed. Whether you bought food, shared a story, or simply showed up to show you care, it all counts.
Keep the community together. Know that what we have done and continue to do has made a difference.