I am writing with great excitement to nominate Assunta Ng for the Suzanne Ahn Civic Engagement and Social Justice Award. Assunta is the founder and publisher of two ethnic weekly newspapers: the Seattle Chinese Post and Northwest Asian Weekly. When I was a child growing up in L.A., my parents had a weekly ritual. On Sundays, we would all pile into the car for a 40-minute ride to the nearest Asian supermarket. My mother would buy all the groceries she couldn’t find at Safeway. And my father would pick up a Chinese language newspaper and read it at home. I didn’t read Chinese, so I was never able to read a single article in his newspapers, which is why I was thrilled to discover Northwest Asian Weekly when I moved to Seattle in 1999. For the first time in my life, I could read an English weekly newspaper about the Asian community.
Assunta founded both the English-language Northwest Asian Weekly and the Chinese-language Seattle Chinese Post 41 years ago. She ceased print publication in January 2023 after the print business could no longer be sustained. Assunta came to Seattle from Hong Kong to attend the University of Washington and stayed in Seattle to teach public school in a neighborhood with many Asian immigrants. She saw them struggling to make their way so she created a newsletter for them. She said she started the publications to empower immigrants and Asian Americans. Thanks to Assunta, I had my own weekly ritual in Seattle. When I went to Chinatown-ID to pick up my groceries, I also picked up a Northwest Asian Weekly. NW Asian Weekly was where I turned to read about Asian American community organizers who would go on to serve in public office. It’s where I learned about the history of Chinatown, Little Saigon and Japantown, and the leaders of the past. Her coverage made me aware of the crime in those neighborhoods and the lack of police resources.
But my readership matters little compared to others she reached: the Seattle mayor, city council, county council, county prosecutor, school boards, candidates running for public office. I heard city council members cite stories from NW Asian Weekly when I was the city hall reporter at The Seattle Times. I watched Seattle Times reporters follow stories that her newsroom broke. She gave a voice to people whose stories would never have been told, whose struggles would never have been verified, whose successes would never have been validated. I feel this personally – she covered the news of my election as AAJA National President in 2008 and the news of my hire at The New York Times. I moved to NYC three years ago. I now live in a city where the Asian American population vastly outnumbers the community that I left behind in Seattle. And yet, when I go to Chinatown to buy groceries, there’s still one thing I can’t find: a newspaper like the one Assunta created.