By Randall Yip, AsAmNews Executive Editor
Actress and writer Jenny Yang graduated from Swarthmore College, just 20 miles outside Philadelphia Chinatown. She has fond memories of her time in that community.
“Philly Chinatown was my safe haven, you know, in a city where it felt very Black and White and it really felt like being Asian was not understood. Being able to come from Los Angeles, go to school in Philadelphia and go into Philly Chinatown was like, a place to give me the comfort food and the comfort experience to keep me going,” she told AsAmNews during a Zoom interview.
She credits the community’s Asian Art Initiative for nurturing her as a young poet and eventually taking her down the path of pursuing comedy or a creative career.
That’s why she plans to devote a small portion of her performance in Philadelphia Thursday night, August 3, to educate her audience about the battle to save Chinatown from encroachment by the proposed Philadelphia 76er Arena.
Community organizers have also been invited to table the event at Underground Arts.
“People go to a comedy show to laugh first, right? So if I educate them about Philadelphia Chinatown, then that will be a nice bonus,” she said.
She calls the planned arena “heartbreaking.” Community members fear increased traffic congestion from the arena that would border Chinatown, along with the spike in rents the Arena would cause would drive both small businesses and visitors away from the community.
Yang is also a member of the Screen Actors Guild and the Writers Guild of America, two unions currently on strike in Hollywood. The strikes have paralyzed production for the upcoming fall TV season and such upcoming big movie blockbusters as Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning, Wicked Part One and Deadpool 3.
She sees a connection between the strike and the battle to save Philadelphia Chinatown.
“The forces that we’re fighting within entertainment are honestly the very forces that Philadelphia Chinatown is fighting, which are mega-billion dollar corporations, who are trying to extract as much profit off the backs of the little guys as possible,” she said. “It’s not for Brad Pitt, you know. It’s not for all the people who are already rich, like the Rock. It’s for the people who are just trying to make a middle-class living or who are just trying to get by, which is a majority of the writers and a majority of the actors.”
She feels fortunate that she’s been able to pivot the rest of her schedule for live performances as long as the strike goes on.
You can check out her full tour schedule and ticket information at JennyYangTV.com.
“The same forces of multi-billionaires trying to extract profit off the tiniest folks is the same in Philadelphia, Chinatown. They want to make money off of real estate, and they don’t care that they’re going to be displacing a historically and culturally important neighborhood, and a neighborhood that allows for a measure of affordable housing for our elders. It’s just upsetting to me, that we are at this juncture where these fights are so huge against these really powerful people.”
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