Last Monday (5/3/10) I attended the first Participatory Chinatown Community Meeting in Chinatown at the Consolidated Chinatown Benevolent Association (CCBA). Having seen this project in development since last summer, I was excited to see the reactions of the community and the completion of the game.
A-VOYCE youth, MeiHua Li, Karen Cai, and several interns dedicated their summer of 2009 to help start the Participatory Chinatown Project! They ran around Chinatown taking pictures and then plastering their photos on Google Sketchup. Some of the buildings you see in the game are actually taken by youth!
The day before the big meeting I was texting an A-VOYCE alumnae, telling her about the Participatory Chinatown Community Meeting. She told me, “I hope a lot of people and youth show up.” I had the same hopes. When the evening came, I was greatly pleased to see the turnout of the participants and the audience! Youth, trained by our youth coordinator, Shawn Ta were extra helpful, scurrying about to help players when they were stuck in a building or had trouble finding the “leave comment button.”
My experience seeing all the active listeners and the diverse mixture of the crowd provided me with a warm feeling of accomplishment. Although, I have not worked on this project directly with the people involved, I felt that all their efforts had paid off. I learned so much about the community and Chinatown’s ten-year plan through this game. Using it as a tool for future meetings will give the attendee a deeper insight to Chinatown.
I surely felt that when I was Victor Sanchez, a high school student looking for a part time job in Chinatown. He was my in-game character, or my avatar in Participatory Chinatown. Everything I did, except for leaving comments in the game, had to be in his perspective. Therefore, when I had to choose my job (which was my goal), I had to make sure the position had to fit a high school student, looking for a part-time job, with minimal experience, and who spoke English. Although I received the second highest score in my table (around 648, to be more specific) I did not receive any of my choices in jobs! I was shocked because I thought I would have surely snagged the CVS job since I did obtain all the information of the job AND it fit my criteria. However, because of the competition and perhaps the weather, my chances were lowered. Nevertheless, part one of the game demonstrated the difficulty in obtaining a job in Chinatown.
The second part (I admit it, I got lost in the map) dealt with Chinatown’s Ten Year, Master Plan. In our group, or table, we had to pick from several options which factors we want to see developed in the next ten years of Chinatown. If I remember, I picked green space, identity, and art space. From these choices, I received the housing plan, which develops the yet-to-be developed area of Chinatown (Shawmut Street, Washington Street, and Harrison Avenue) into a more housing directed path. The majority of our table received the mixed-housing/use plan, and because we are of a democratic system, the whole group was placed in that situation.
I got rather lost while I ran around the yellow, gray, and blue faced buildings without any names. Since I was not very familiar with this area of Chinatown, I was not surprised when I didn’t recognize a street. I did answer a lot of the question marks that were floating around the map!
When I heard that my boss, who also works in Quincy’s City Hall, came to the Wednesday’s Participatory Chinatown meeting, I was ecstatic! Participatory Chinatown had reached even farther than the Chinatown borders. It was attracting an audience in Quincy!
It makes me proud to see Chinatown is involved in the planning. I am also proud of the youth who became the interpreters. It is exciting to see Chinatown springing forward, not hesitating to have their ideas be presented, and being a large part of the Boston developing plan.
Participatory Chinatown reached the news! Karen Cai was even quoted in the articles. Check them out!
-Tai Tung Village Youth