Tracey Wong. Photo courtesy of Tracey Wong.

The other day, I drove to my favorite neighborhood in the whole world, the Chinatown-International District (CID), to order some boba to-go, and it felt like I was in a different place. There were hella parking spots, the streets were empty, and it was quiet. Typically, I’d have to make my rounds to find a parking spot — I’d see elders playing ping pong or walking with their hands behind their backs, teeny-boppers kickin it with their boba in hand, and lines at every restaurant. 

It’s been like this since we first heard news of the Novel Coronavirus in Wuhan, China late last year, but as this pandemic continues to worsen, we are feeling more and more of, not only an economic hit, but an increasing amount of xenophobia and racism towards the Asian American-Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. 

Before Washington state went into a lockdown, the hate crimes and xenophobic stigma towards the AAPI community had been increasing here (as well as internationally). There’s been vandalism and break-ins happening to CID small businesses, physical assault and harassment towards community members, and avoidance in going near our neighborhood due to the xenophobic stigma. I was walking down the street one day before our lockdown and was targeted and spat at. 

It’s been absolutely tough to see and hear about my community’s businesses struggling, to hear and be treated like an outsider in what I call my second home. During this tough and confusing time, I want to so badly empower the AAPI community more than ever, and I want to empower you all to know that we can all be in solidarity with one another. 

Here are some ways we can support the AAPI community during this time (in no particular order, except for the first one, which is most important): 

  1. Care for yourself first 

This is so so important. We all need to take care of ourselves first. We need to practice all the precautions advised to minimize the spread of COVID-19 (social distancing, washing our hands, etc.) to be in solidarity with folx most effected — while also making sure we are caring for our own mental, physical, spiritual health first — while also making sure we can survive our often dehumanizing capitalistic system. 

I see caring for ourselves as grounding ourselves — because sometimes when we spring forward to pour so much into our communities, we can feel drained and not have enough energy to take care of ourselves and our own personal lives. This can turn into burnout or even resentment. 

Take care of yourself first. Period! 

(And remember that social distancing is a form of love for others!) 

  1. Support the small and local businesses 

I want to acknowledge that almost all businesses worldwide (except for businesses like Zoom and Amazon) have been negatively impacted by COVID-19. However, it’s been a particularly hard hit in the CID because of the xenophobic stigma towards our communities. After this pandemic, I worry that there will be more empty businesses in the CID and more white people coming in and trying to start up new businesses while using “Asian aesthetics” to fit in. 

Something we can do is to be intentional about where we spend our money. Go to Lam Seafood or another local Asian-owned grocery store, order takeout from C-ID restaurants, and go buy some CBD from Trichome. 

  1. Donate If you are able to, donate when you can! I have been re-evaluating my privilege and have been offering donation-based Waacking classes and am passing the donations through to loved ones who may need it more than I do. 

There are many organizations where you can donate or offer resources (mutual aid, relief funds, etc), and even donating to loved ones you know that may be affected could help exponentially. 

  1. Use your platform to bring awareness, speak up, and be open to learning 

The internet is a place that gives us access to so many resources and allows us to have the opportunity to do our own research and share what we know and believe in. We have access to information, entertainment, and networking platforms. Social media is a great place to share funny memes and successes, but it is also a great place to bring awareness on issues and share ways we can all pull up and do the work collectively. 

You could share about local CID businesses and encourage folx to order take out, to encourage folx to buy some boba to-go from your local mom and pop shop. 

I’ve been thinking a lot about the elders, low-income families, and other non-food businesses that aren’t considered “essential” that have been shut down during COVID-19. How can we help? 

(I don’t have the answers to everything, but am so down to hear y’all out in learning more!) 

  1. Check in with loved ones 

What a strange time we are living in. There is so much change happening and learning how to adapt can be tough especially when this situation that we are in can really impact folx financially, mentally, spiritually, and in many other ways. 

Check in with loved ones. Give ‘em a call, message them, email them — contact them in whatever way we can to show that we are thinking of them. It could really mean a lot! 

  1. Support your community space holders and leaders 

It takes a toll, constantly having to hold space and when you put so much energy into giving, it can often lead to burn out. Who holds space for the spaceholders and community leaders? Check in and show some love! Sometimes, it can mean the world for someone to acknowledge and see someone’s work and the labor that they do. Sometimes, it can keep someone going if they receive some Venmo lovin’ or receive a sweet message. 

  1. Get creative with your offerings 

If you do have the capacity, making offerings to folx as they could use some access to resources and knowledge more than us. I had a friend offer to ship me some cloth masks that she had access to and that meant so much that she offered that to me! Even offering a playlist of music that a friend could move to or sending a local business owner any grants opportunities you see or know of makes a difference. 

I’ve seen folx get super creative with offerings to be able to share their gifts with the world — free webinars to learn new skills, healing somatic virtual gatherings, dance classes, throwing community shows, and dance battles. The list goes on! There is so much we can get creative with, and you never know how much your offering could positively impact someone. 

  1. Talk with your community 

There’s no one person that has all the answers. I definitely don’t have all the answers. Staying connected with your community virtually and having conversations in best practices we can engage in to help is better than one mind carrying the weight. 

Having conversations and being able to hear different points of views, to be open to learning more. It can take a lot of energy, but being able to have honest conversations in which we listen to one another and find ways together to work towards a goal is worth it! 

We also can’t expect the affected communities to carry all of the labor! It means the world when folx from other communities assemble and are in solidarity with those that need the most support. (Big shout out to Africatown Seattle located in the Central District who came through and helped fix up the broken windows in the CID and creating art out of it. You can follow them @africatownsea.

There is so much happening in the world right now and honestly, our world may be very different when we come out of this pandemic. However, if we are able to continue to carve out space to find healing and love for ourselves, our communities, and to continue to stay connected in whatever forms that we can, we will come out of this even stronger and united. I cannot wait to be able to see my ah ma and parents without having to worry. 

For now, as the Earth heals, so will we. 

Tracey Wong is a 2019-2021 Rainier Valley Corps Community Impact Fellow. She can be reached at [email protected]

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