In early 2016, the local Chinese community came together in response to the selective prosecution of NYPD Officer Peter Liang. After the rally on Feb 20, we all felt the need to maintain solidarity, regardless of the part of town we lived in or the backgrounds and professions we had. One thing we realized was that despite our individual differences, we shared the same identity of being Chinese American. And we came to understand that we needed to collaborate with other majority communities in order to voice our concerns to the elected officials and to better preserve our culture and heritage as one unified community.
We all noticed the gradual decline of Chinatown’s role as a cultural center in recent years. Not long ago, Chinatown was the go-to place for an immersive Chinese experience. But more and more culturally relevant properties were being put on the market. We wanted to help. To start, we organized a series of Portland Chinatown Saturday Performance events on Davis Festival Street. We received overwhelming support from all Chinese performing groups as well as ones from other communities. The performances received positive feedback and were successful on all accounts.
In the meantime, we knew it was necessary to persist some level of Chinese ownership of the properties in order to be able to get involved in community activities such as land use, architecture design and zoning change. With the booming real estate market, the property price was at an all time high. It was almost impossible to find an individual Chinese investor to take over the properties which often had delayed maintenance issues.
Given these circumstances, we came up with the idea of forming a buying group which consisted of a dozen Chinese community members. We pooled the money together to purchase properties from Chinese owners like May and Shig Oka. We believed this solution not only made our endeavor more financially feasible but also deprioritizes the usage of these buildings as rental properties. We would therefore be able to utilize the properties for the benefit of the community and to preserve and enrich the culture and heritage of Chinese Americans.