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Winnie Chen, 16, is reflected in the glass at the AT&T Wireless store where she works, at the Kam Man marketplace in Quincy.

 

 

Day 4 - MIAN STORY

LOOKING TO THE FUTURE

Civic-minded citizens plan to use print, television
to expand reach to Asian residents

DEBEE TLUMACKI photos/The Patriot Ledger
Members of the Young Sang Presbyterian Church in Quincy gather at Adams Field for an outing with church members.

By KAREN ESCHBACHER
The Patriot Ledger

QUINCY

At Quincy’s annual St. Patrick’s Day roast this year, city councilors Joe Newton and Greg Hanley pulled out a prop purporting to be a copy of a local weekly newspaper from the future.

Here’s the catch: It was all in Chinese.

The crowd at the event laughed, on cue. But the idea may not be that far-fetched.

Sitting at a conference table in his office, Kao T. Li glances at a copy of Boston’s Sampan newspaper, with stories in Chinese and English. He says Quincy residents who do not speak English should have a place to go if they want to learn about local services available to them, and maybe even some city news.

Li, the first-ever director of Quincy Asian Resources Inc., is hoping to launch a quarterly newsletter by the end of the year to fill the void. He plans to make it a “mini version of the Sampan.”

“I think the newsletter would start out by focusing on QARI’s activities and the activities of our members,” said Li, whose nonprofit organization is aimed at advocating for Asian-Americans and enhancing services. “Our goal is to educate the Asian community on what is happening.”

A newsletter is just one way Li and other civic and government leaders plan to expand outreach to Quincy’s ever-growing Asian-American community. Other plans in the works include regularly scheduled cable TV programming in Asian languages, continued voter registration drives, and a good neighbor handbook to introduce new residents to the city.

 
The Kam Man marketplace in Quincy buzzes with activity. The Asian supermarket and mall, on Quincy Avenue, has been open for just a few months but is drawing throngs of shoppers.

Such services would add to a range of programs that have popped up in the city during the past two decades. They are a way to meet the needs of the thousands of Asian-American residents who now call Quincy home and to convince the growing community to participate in the city’s social, business and political life.

There are already indications the Asian-American community’s roots here continue to grow deeper. Slightly more than 2,500 Asian-Americans - or nearly a quarter of those old enough - are registered to vote.

Jimmy Liang, a Chinese-American who finished fifth in the 2001 election for councilor at large, is once again trying to snag a city council seat in the November election. If he wins, he will be Quincy’s first Asian-American elected official.

David Zou, a Quincy resident for 20 years and a board member of Quincy Asian Resources, said community involvement will “definitely” increase, but he doesn’t expect it to happen overnight.
A man collects shopping carts at the Kam Man supermarket.

“It will take a while because Asian people are hard-working and they don’t want to get involved in politics and civics,” he said.

Lola Tom, a Quincy resident involved in social services in Chinatown and Quincy, said groups like the Atlantic Neighborhood Center and Wollaston Lutheran Church help make Asian-Americans feel part of the larger community by ensuring that needs like day care and translation can be met locally.

But Tom said more must be done. While English classes are available in Quincy, she said residents have to go to Chinatown for long-term language programs. She cited naturalization services as another void.

“I think people feel comfortable calling Quincy organizations to ask, ‘Where can I go for this or that?’ A lot of times maybe you’re still referred back to Chinatown because the resources are more established there,” Tom said.

Li said Quincy Asian Resources wants to offer more services once it gains a solid financial footing. For now, he said one key to getting Asian-Americans involved is keeping them informed.

He envisions a day when residents will be able to tune their television to a local cable access station on a certain day, at a certain time, and be able to find Asian-language programming. To that end, he’s working with resident Job Chan.
Lau Gun Yee of Quincy shops at the Kam Man supermarket.

Chan, who is originally from Hong Kong, runs Studio Plus, a small group that has tried for several years to provide occasional Asian-language programming for Quincy Access Television, the community-run cable channel devoted exclusively to city events. The frequency of the programming, however, has varied. With the help of Li and QATV, the goal is to make it more regular.

In the past, Studio Plus has interviewed people from various fields, including insurance agents and medical professionals. The group has produced shows about voting and table tennis, and once taped a cooking program inside a local restaurant.

“You know TV is a very powerful media channel. They can get a lot of information from the TV,” said Chan, who has lived in Quincy for about 10 years. “Also, it is well received by the Asian community. It is very exciting, people talking about TV production.”

Ed Keohane’s medium of choice is print.
A woman crosses the street on Hancock Street in North Quincy.

The owner of Keohane Funeral Service in the city’s Wollaston section is heading up Quincy Pride, an organization that hopes to rekindle a sense of neighborhood spirit throughout the city. The group plans to print a good neighbor handbook that will list available resources and discuss the importance of getting involved by meeting neighbors, voting and attending civic activities. It also will urge residents to do neighborly things, such as helping to shovel snow for seniors.

The booklet, to be sent to every resident and business in the city possibly as soon as September, also will try to address cultural clashes that have festered in the city, outlining behaviors that are viewed as “unacceptable.” One issue to be tackled involves trash picking, a problem seen as on the rise and - fairly or unfairly - often attributed to Asian-American residents.

Keohane said the booklet is not simply aimed at Asian-American residents, but all newcomers, from immigrants to young professionals who live in Quincy but do not get involved in the larger community. It also will serve as a reminder to longtime residents about the importance of community, he said.

Being printed in two languages will ensure the message reaches all groups, he said.

“Because a person doesn't speak English doesn't mean they can’t be a good member of the community,” Keohane said. “It’s going to take longer. I think we had the same thing when Italian immigrants came to the United States.”

Karen Eschbacher may be reached at keschbacher@ledger.com.

 

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