By Andrew Hamlin
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
The Care For Your Community, Care For Your Health event began on the morning of Oct. 28, at the Chinatown International District Community Center, with a crowd of seniors eager to take advantage of the event’s voting and health care opportunities.
In pursuit of the advertised ballot casting for the November election, along with voter registration and COVID-19 vaccine appointments, they moved upstairs, to the second-floor gym. Folks jostled, helped each along, and greeted old friends. One man with a golf club, not seen again, asked after the event’s organizer, Amy Chen Lozano.
In the gym, an electronic thump, repeating at irregular intervals, signaled the public address system was on. Lozano thanked the organization partners which helped put the event together, notably OCA Greater Seattle, which furnished the free t-shirts designed by Yu Yiang.
Lozano, interviewed a few days prior over email, got involved in the Asian community during childhood, when Cheryl Chow recruited her for the Seattle Chinese Community Girls Drill Team. She also played basketball with the Seattle Chinese Athletics Association. It was only a short step to becoming a community organizer.
“When the Seattle Police Department (SPD) pushed the BLM protestors into our neighborhood during the pandemic, it really struck a chord in me,” she said. “We didn’t know what the damage would be. We only knew this was a community who was hurting so deeply and the hurt was so raw. For the SPD and local government agencies to route them through a living neighborhood with businesses and residents, rather than risk damage to empty downtown office buildings, it was a slap in the face. It didn’t matter that our neighborhood has been here for over a hundred years, that Chinatowns are uniquely American and home to so many.
“The next morning, my kids and I went to Chinatown with brooms, garbage bags, and gloves,” she added. “Every corner we turned, it was another breath of relief. Relief that it was only extra trash, or a little broken glass.”
Back at the Community Center, the seniors settled down to the set-out tables and began opening ballots. Much discussion and debate, in Chinese, followed along. A volunteer, Selina Chow, read out the candidate statements in Cantonese. A ballot box made the rounds. So did bags of dim sum, brought in from Golden Daisy.
Asked about her inspiration for the event, Lozano was quick to mention Nora Chan, founder of Chinatown’s Seniors In Action advocacy group.
“Auntie Nora is a civic leader and just an amazing lady. She normally organizes events for the seniors, such as voting. However, her health deteriorated this past year. This election is particularly important because we are electing our city and county representatives. I wanted to make sure that the voices in our district was heard. Auntie Nora was thrilled that someone was willing to carry on this event.”
“The vaccination part came up in casual conversation,” Lozano explained. “I check in on [Chan] regularly, and she asked me to see if anyone was doing anything to make sure the seniors were getting vaccinated. The next morning, I reached out to ICHS (International Health Community Services) and they were thrilled to partner.”
The Community Center volunteered the space. Partners in the event included ICHS, Seniors In Action, OCA (Organization of Chinese Americans) Greater Seattle, and Transit Equity for All. Sponsors included ACRS (Asian Counseling and Referral Service), CISC (Chinese Information and Service Center), and the Eastside Voters Alliance.
The big Community Center crowd wound down after an hour or so. Volunteers, thirty or so of them, took up the tables and chairs—although a broken elevator complicated putting them away properly.
They posed for a huge group photo. Two or three of them started singing karaoke, which the remaining volunteers, taking a break in the remaining chairs, cheered on vigorously.
At 2 p.m., quitting time, with most of the gym’s furnishing carted off, two seniors lingered at a table. A lady in a colorful knit hat and a man in a more muted one. They kept working over their ballots.
Everyone gave them their space, quietly acknowledging that voting is a serious matter.
Andrew can be reached at email@example.com.