Who We Are

Chinatown Art Brigade (CAB) is an intergenerational, womxn-led collective driven by the fundamental belief that our cultural, material, and aesthetic modes of production have the power to advance social change. CAB is comprised of Asian American and Asian diasporic identifying visual artists, media makers, writers, educators, and organizers with deep roots in Manhattan's Chinatown. Together we make work that centers art and culture as a way to support community-led campaigns around issues of gentrification and displacement.  

Since 9/11, Chinatown has seen the loss of more than 600 garment factories and over 15,000 housing units for low income families. Over 20% of its Chinese population has been forced to relocate with a 30% rise in luxury housing and a swiftly growing white population that threatens to replace the cultural identity of the neighborhood.  Small businesses, restaurants and spaces that have served the community for decades are being rampantly replaced by hotels and galleries. As New York City becomes increasingly unaffordable for long time residents, we ask who are the major players in this wholesale transformation of the city’s poor and working class neighborhoods?  

The mass displacement we are witnessing is the result of ‘predatory equity’—the practice of large scale corporate investment in buildings with low-income and rent-stabilized apartments, towards the goal of renovating and flipping them for market rate rents. Landlords achieve this by pushing rent-stabilized tenants out of their homes through MCIs, harassment, buyouts, and deliberate negligence. It is this practice that has driven the movement to build tenant power and fight for lasting protections, especially in communities of color that are hardest hit by real estate speculation and discriminatory housing policies. At the core of CAB's work is our partnership with the Chinatown Tenants Union (CTU), a program of CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities. Founded in 2005, CTU creates space and leadership training for residents to come together with a unified voice to fight for greater tenant protections. This includes rallying campaigns against unjust evictions and direct support for more equitable, community envisioned rezonings. These on-the-ground strategies are what guides our work and what planted the seeds for the original Here to Stay project. Incepted in 2015 by CAAAV and co-founders Tomie Arai, ManSee Kong, and Betty Yu, the Here to Stay project was designed to bolster support for the Chinatown Working Group Plan and CTU's base building process. It also marked the formation of the CAB collective. 

We continue to use large-scale light projection, in partnership with the Illuminator, as a highly visible platform for local residents. The projection events amplify messages written in love, anger, hope, and concern for our neighborhood spaces and allow us to reimagine what our shared futures could be in these built environments. Over the past 3 years our work has also included workshops, placekeeping walks, exhibitions, panels, town halls, and direct actions. As a collective, we are engaged in work that is intentionally situated in community spaces; work that raises questions, links stories together and asks why these stories matter. But we recognize that gentrification and displacement are not just Chinatown issues. Historic neighborhoods across the country and the world are at risk, from Johannesburg to Havana, from Boyle Heights in Los Angeles to San Francisco’s Mission District, to Treme in New Orleans, to Harlem and the Bronx.  Today, more than ever, we see the urgency in connecting our separate struggles.

 

*We'd like to note that there is no conversation to be had about gentrification and displacement without acknowledging that we are settlers on occupied Lenni-Lenape land.

Tomie Arai   , co-founder   is a public artist who collaborates with writers, architects, historians, curators, and local communities to create work that explores the rich cultural diversity of the Americas. She has designed permanent public works of art for the NYC PerCent for Art Program, The San Francisco Arts Commission, the MTA Arts for Transit Program, the NYC Board of Education and the US General Services Administration Art in Architecture Program.

Tomie Arai, co-founder

is a public artist who collaborates with writers, architects, historians, curators, and local communities to create work that explores the rich cultural diversity of the Americas. She has designed permanent public works of art for the NYC PerCent for Art Program, The San Francisco Arts Commission, the MTA Arts for Transit Program, the NYC Board of Education and the US General Services Administration Art in Architecture Program.

ManSee Kong   , co-founder   creates videos inspired by grassroots organizing campaigns and social movements. Her documentary work-in-progress ‘What Happened To Danny’ follows a family and community’s fight for justice in the racist hazing death of 19 year-old U.S. Army Pvt. Danny Chen by supervisors in Afghanistan. She is a cofounding member of  Gòngmíng Collective for Language Justice , and holds an MFA in writing and directing for film from NYU.

ManSee Kong, co-founder

creates videos inspired by grassroots organizing campaigns and social movements. Her documentary work-in-progress ‘What Happened To Danny’ follows a family and community’s fight for justice in the racist hazing death of 19 year-old U.S. Army Pvt. Danny Chen by supervisors in Afghanistan. She is a cofounding member of Gòngmíng Collective for Language Justice, and holds an MFA in writing and directing for film from NYU.

Betty Yu   , co-founder   is a multimedia artist, filmmaker, educator and activist from Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Her documentary “Resilience” about her garment worker mother fighting sweatshop conditions, and its complementary multi-media installation, “The Garment Worker”, has been shown at national and international film festivals including the Margaret Mead Film Festival and Tribeca Film Institute’s Interactive. Betty was a 2012 Public Artist-in-Resident at the Laundromat Project and the 2016 recipient of the SOAPBOX Artist Award. She is also the recipient of the 2017 Aronson Journalism for Social Justice Documentary Award for her film, "Three Tours".

Betty Yu, co-founder

is a multimedia artist, filmmaker, educator and activist from Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Her documentary “Resilience” about her garment worker mother fighting sweatshop conditions, and its complementary multi-media installation, “The Garment Worker”, has been shown at national and international film festivals including the Margaret Mead Film Festival and Tribeca Film Institute’s Interactive. Betty was a 2012 Public Artist-in-Resident at the Laundromat Project and the 2016 recipient of the SOAPBOX Artist Award. She is also the recipient of the 2017 Aronson Journalism for Social Justice Documentary Award for her film, "Three Tours".

 
Liz Moy   is an artist and activist born and raised in Chinatown, New York. She holds a BFA in Studio Art from NYU and is interested in how modes of cultural production can be used as tools of mass displacement, or alternatively, as grassroots defenses against cultural cleansing projects. She is also passionate about critical geography and prison abolition.

Liz Moy

is an artist and activist born and raised in Chinatown, New York. She holds a BFA in Studio Art from NYU and is interested in how modes of cultural production can be used as tools of mass displacement, or alternatively, as grassroots defenses against cultural cleansing projects. She is also passionate about critical geography and prison abolition.

Anna Ozbek   is a filmmaker, multimedia journalist, educator, projectionist, and activist based in New York City. She is currently working on a project that explores the relationship between cultural memory and revolutionary activism through the lives of a group of Marxist student organizers in late 1970s Turkey. Her video work has appeared on CNN, Global Post, National Geographic, and Democracy Now!. She holds a BA from the University of Washington and is currently completing her MFA at Hunter College.

Anna Ozbek

is a filmmaker, multimedia journalist, educator, projectionist, and activist based in New York City. She is currently working on a project that explores the relationship between cultural memory and revolutionary activism through the lives of a group of Marxist student organizers in late 1970s Turkey. Her video work has appeared on CNN, Global Post, National Geographic, and Democracy Now!. She holds a BA from the University of Washington and is currently completing her MFA at Hunter College.

Diane Wong   is a independent ethnographer and doctoral candidate at Cornell University, where she writes on race, gender and the gentrification of Chinatowns. As a scholar activist and educator, her research stems from a place of revolutionary praxis and love for community. As a first generation Chinese American woman born and raised in Flushing, Queens, her research is intimately tied to Chinese diaspora and the urban immigrant experience. Her current research documents intergenerational resistance to gentrification in New York City, San Francisco, and Boston Chinatown.

Diane Wong

is a independent ethnographer and doctoral candidate at Cornell University, where she writes on race, gender and the gentrification of Chinatowns. As a scholar activist and educator, her research stems from a place of revolutionary praxis and love for community. As a first generation Chinese American woman born and raised in Flushing, Queens, her research is intimately tied to Chinese diaspora and the urban immigrant experience. Her current research documents intergenerational resistance to gentrification in New York City, San Francisco, and Boston Chinatown.

illustrations by Liz Moy

with collaborating artists:

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