September 11 Digital Archive

Henry Ye


Henry Ye



Media Type


Chinatown Interview: Interviewee

Henry Ye

Chinatown Interview: Interviewer

Lan Trinh

Chinatown Interview: Date


Chinatown Interview: Language


Chinatown Interview: Occupation

New Life Center

Chinatown Interview: Interview (en)

Q: Today is March 11, 2004, I am sitting here with Henry Ye of True Light Church on Worth Street in Chinatown. Let’s begin by having you tell us a little bit about where you are from.

Ye: Well, I was born in China, Canton, and then I went to South America for six years, and then I end up here in New York.

Q: Wow, okay, [laughs] that’s very fast. Okay, we have to, we have to back up. You were born in, in Canton. Can I ask you how old you are?

Ye: Well, at that time I was thirteen, when I moved out of China.

Q: And this is in what year?

Ye: Um, 1982.

Q: ’82. Why did your family decide to leave China?

Ye: Well, my family, um, actually, more, my sister’s family already is in Central America, so we just migrated there to join them. And China, of course, have less of opportunity I guess in terms of better economic situation and you have less, um, choice, of life.

Q: Do you remember much of your childhood in China?

Ye: Ah, yeah, a little bit, I think, um, what I can really remember is that I came from a very poor family, and peasant family, and there was always lack of food, and lack of money, and I think that South America probably have a better opportunity because I see my sister doing well, so we decided to all go to Central America.

Q: And how, ah, your sister was already living---

Ye: Yes.

Q:---where in Central America?

Ye: Panama.

Q: Okay, so she legally sponsored you to Panama?

Ye: Yeah, yeah. My brothers, and all my sister and brother are already out of China.

Q: And you went with your parents?

Ye: My parents actually they stay behind for a little bit, and then my mom also went to Central America.

Q: Well, so how did you feel as a thirteen-year-old? Did you want to leave China?

Ye: Well, thirteen years old, as you say, you know, it’s not that I have a choice. I just feel like going to somewhere else, it’s like a trip. You don’t really know how far is that trip until you get there. So, for me at that time I don’t really have, um, any feeling, this is my brother going, so I just follow him, and it’s just like going shopping. You don’t know what will happen, but I know that I will probably have to go for a long time, you know.

Q: And did you have any impression of, of what Panama was like?

Ye: Not really. They just say that that place don’t have winter, the four seasons the same, hot, you know.

Q: And did you speak any Spanish at this time, before you went?

Ye: Um, not, not really.

Q: And how was that, getting there, and not speaking the language at all, did you have a difficult time adjusting?

Ye: Yeah, actually it was pretty, pretty hard. Because at that time, when I was in China, I was in school. But then, when I get to Panama, of course I don’t speak Spanish, I only speak Chinese, and this make it kind of hard for me to go to school because, in that area they don’t really have a bilingual program, like us, here. So it kind of hard for me to fit in, and I tried to attend school, but I couldn’t catch up, so I withdraw, and I, stay out of school for two years, just learning Spanish with, ah, neighbors, you know.

Q: So how long did it take you to feel, to become comfortable in Spanish that you can communicate with people?

Ye: Well, after a year and a half, I feel much better, and because I still young, at that time I’m thirteen, so learning Spanish is not that hard, um, that age. So a year and a half later I feel pretty comfortable talking to native Panamanian, who was born there. And after that I feel comfortable and now I decide to go back to school.

Q: And you didn’t want to go back to China?

Ye: No, because my whole family is there already. It’s not I have something to return to. And, I feel, after a year and half, I feel pretty comfortable living in that new environment, so I have decided to stay.

Q: And is there a Chinese community in Panama, you can, um, you have Chinese friends there, are there Chinese stores, food---

Ye: Ah, yeah, they have a Chinatown actually in Panama City. It’s very small, very, it’s only like two streets, but they have Chinese restaurants, and Chinese store. In terms of friends, I think I have more Panamanian friends than Chinese friends, because all the Chinese, unless you live in Chinatown, it’s all spread out all over the place, so you don’t, you don’t really have much chance to communicate with other Chinese except when there’s a big holiday celebration and you come together as a Chinese community, in one of the Chinese association, but other than that, just have your schoolmate and classmate. But most of them are Panamanian, you know, born in Panama.

Q: And you didn’t feel outcast? It was comfortable, I mean, after you learned to speak the language you, you feel comfortable living there?

Ye: Yeah, I, I really feel good. Actually the school that I went, um, the junior high school that I went, actually there is only one Chinese, which is me. And they treat me pretty well, and most, most of the classmate and schoolmates treat me well, and they see someone very different, but they, they also very adaptive, and they also welcome me into their circle I would say. So, I felt good living there and having, you know, them as friends.

Q: And then, how long did you stay in Panama?

Ye: Well, I stayed there for, like, six year. Yeah. I attend school and then work, you know, for approximately six year.

Q: And then how did you---you came to America after that?

Ye: Yes. And then I came to America to continue my education. I felt that in Panama it’s, it’s so, I have all my family there, but, ah, I try and look for something more than that, and Panama is a small country, and opportunities there are limited. I would say, um, so I wanted to, higher education, you know, and I wanted to go to college, so I came here to attend college, and try to learn something else.

Q: Where was that? Where was the university that you went to?

Ye: I went to City College, CUNY. You know, City University of New York.

Q: Why did you choose that school? Why did you choose New York City?

Ye: Well, I think New York City is more diverse, in certain term of population, in term of language, and I, I love ah different, learn different kind of languages, so I think New York will provide me the opportunity to meet others, non-Hispanic speaking, Spanish-speaking, or non-Chinese-speaking classmate or student, so that’s why I chose New York.

Q: And did you learn any English in Panama at this time?

Ye: Not really. Actually, I have studied some English, but not like you can have a basic conversation. You probably know some words, English words, but because that environment did not provide the opportunity to practice, and so it is kind of hard to say I, I know English. I probably know some words, but not really English.

Q: So you’re nineteen years old, and you came to New York City speaking Chinese and Spanish and very, very little English, and you started university on your own.

Ye: Yes.

Q: That difficult?

Ye: Yeah, it is very difficult. Actually when I came and I went to enroll in college right away, it happened that college in this kind of, because of English level, it’s kind of very far behind, and I felt that if I go to college in that moment it probably going to waste a lot of money, um, because you’re foreign student, and you have to pay double---you have to waste a lot of money to just learn ESL (English as a Second Language) in college. So I decided to go to a high school first, and to learn some English, and so I ended up in high school again, not just learning English, but I took other subjects, and I graduated from high school in two year. And after that, and I went to college. So I have two year preparation before I go.

Q: Did you feel strange, as a nineteen-year-old in high school? Although you look young, I think you look young for your age.

Ye: Yeah. Well, it’s kind of strange, yeah. But, the high school I went is the Lower East Side Preparatory High School, they only take student seventeen and up, and with junior high or high school graduate diploma, and so they can help you to adjust in this community environment, so it kind of make it easier on me. A lot of those students I know is from different part of the world, and their age is probably seventeen, eighteen. It’s not much younger than me, so I, I feel um, comfortable being part of that school.

Q: Did you have any dreams of coming to America? What, what did you want to be?

Ye: Well, you know, in nineteen years I don’t really have much dream except that you want to, um, get yourself little bit more knowledge, get yourself some more higher education. And I don’t really know at that time where I will be ten year later or what I will end up doing ten year later, but all I know that I need to go to college and finish college and so that I can have more opportunity. But what kind of opportunity, I don’t know.

Q: Your parents [coughs] excuse me, your parents ever give you suggestions, or any pressure to become anything in particular?

Ye: Not really. My parent themselves are uneducated people. In China, my mom never attended school. She is illiterate. And my father, I think he only attended up to second grade. So they themselves don’t have the opportunity to attend school, and that’s something that also help me to understand how education is, can help, when I say it’s important. They don’t really give me any pressure that you have to be lawyer or doctor or anything like that, but just that, if you want to study, you go study, and as long as they don’t stop me, then that’s support already.

Q: So who did you live with in New York City, you come here by yourself.

Ye: Yeah, I, I come here and I have friends. I live with my, my friends, and I stay here and I, I, go to school, and it’s not like I have a base here, because as you know, students come here all by themselves.

Q: Did you live in Chinatown?

Ye: Yeah, actually when I came here I lived in Chinatown. Yeah, I lived in Christie Street, Christie and Grand Street.

Q: So this is, what year are we talking about, by the time you arrived?

Ye: I guess 1989, yeah. It’s a long time ago.

Q: Yeah, so Chinatown was a very different place then. Were you, were you scared coming here? What, what, did you think about Chinatown?

YE: Well, in that time, here, in Chinatown very different compared right now. In that time, actually now, in the late ‘80s, and early ‘90s, there a lot of gangs in Chinatown, and you have seen a lot of young people stand on the corner as a group, and pretty, pretty scary at that time. And I do feel that Chinatown is like a cemetery in that moment because there is so much killing and robbery, and the young people seem they don’t have motivation to go to school and do better, and I just feel that they have no future.

So cemetery is the word I keep inside in my mind at that time, that Chinatown don’t really have much hope, if they don’t change.

Q: But as a young man here alone, that’s often how a lot of young men join gangs because they’re very alone and they don’t have a family, and they don’t have support. How come you were not attracted to join a gang?

YE: Well, actually, I, I thought about it, actually when I was in Panama, I was, was not a straight-A student as well, I kind of live in the very poor, ah, neighborhood, and so it’s very complicated, and there are a lot of gangs that live in that neighborhood, but then when I come to America my aim, my goal is to have better education and better equip myself. But I think that the best thing is that before I came, I become a Christian. This has a lot to do with your question. So when I came to America I already came with that Christian faith, and that’s---I read Bible, it teach you, you know, how to be good, no killing, no harming other people, you have to help people, and so I also go to church in Chinatown.

And I think it make a difference, because the church community kind of tell me what is good. And, but of course, all my classmate, or schoolmate in the community tell me what is bad. So I, I have a choice. So this way I know what is good and I know what is bad, and I was able to choose between good and bad, and so I choose good, rather than join a gang.

Q: Is your family Christian also?

YE: Ah, no, actually, my parents, sister and brother, they’re not Christian. But some of my niece or nephew, after I become Christian, I share the gospel with them so they become Christian.

Q: At the time you grew up in China, religion is not really, ah, you can’t practice it in public so much, so did you get a lot of your views on Christianity during your time in Panama?

YE: Actually, yeah, in China, I don’t really know much about religion, because as I said, only thirteen years old, and all my parents do is to worship their ancestor with incenses and from time to time---But when I went to Panama, is, this is free country, since the religion is Catholic-based, religious country, and I see my neighbors go to church, and like, every Sunday, and I start having curiosity in the beginning and say, why they go to church and dress out all nice and go to church, and ---So I start kind of questioning them, what is the benefit going to church? And so they kind of explain to me, that, um, well, one, one thing that they said was that you can marry in the church, and with a nice gown and dress up.

So that’s the whole idea that started as a whole. One day if I want to get married in the church, I have to be in the church. So that’s how I started going to the church, with my neighbors, with that mentality, hopefully marry in the church one day. Um, not very particular how a religion is focused or anything like that. After I’d gone for a couple of year, and I realized church is more than that. That they tell you how to behave as a moral character, and more moral person, and that really have a lot impact on me.

Q: So you’re saying by the time you came here, because of your religious faith, you came here with much more of a, um, a grounding in yourself, and that you, you were motivated to study and to do good, and that steered you out of trouble. You didn’t want to join a gang, by the time you got to---

Ye: Yeah, I, I, definitely say that that is true. I know that as far as my friend, that they leave school, and they drop out, and they don’t want to continue, because there’s no mental support from their parents or from their family. But to me, I don’t have support from my parent or my family as well, but I do have support from the church, um, we call them brother and sister and they encourage me, and when I am down, when I needed help, they kind of encourage me and help me out.

And I think it’s, it’s my faith that can help me keep going, because really it’s study two year English and you go to college, it’s very, very difficult in terms of that you have to, really check every word in the Chinese and English dictionary. So, say if a native American student spend two hours studying, I probably have to spend six hours studying because of my language and limitation.

But because of my faith, and because of Christianity and believing in God, I always pray, and every time I have exam, I pray, and whenever I encounter difficulties, I pray, and pray God to help me, and that really help me a lot. And when I have struggle, and encounter some difficult situation in life, and I also depend on God to help me. So that really is, is that energy behind my life, and that help me to keep going and keep moving on.

Q: And what did you study at CUNY ?

Ye: I studied psychology, ‘cause I want to know a little bit more about myself. I find myself like a mystery. Sometime I don’t really understand why you think that way, or, why you make that kind of decision. So I really want to discover a little bit about me, and so, what---it’s why I am who I am, and wanted to learn a little bit about me.

That’s how it started, but after I study for awhile and I kind of realize actually psychology not can, not only can help me, but can help other people too, and so that’s why I stick with the subject and graduated with that major.

Q: And after four years at CUNY, what was your first job?

Ye: Actually, a little bit before I graduated, I applied for a job in Chinatown YMCA, just to work as case planner in the preventive program, which is to help family who got in trouble with ACS , Administration for Children’s Service, and the Center for Children’s Services, or a family that have a problem with the family courts, or families that are at risk, or their kid had dropped out, or their kid is in borderline, they try to join the gang or stay in school.

So that is kind of something that I, I interested in, because I was there a couple of years ago, and now, seeing other kid, not going to school, wandering on the street. And I just want to help them, and help them to understand life has more than just have fun on the street. You can do something more than that. And helping the family to stick together, work together. So I started that, as, as a um, preventative case planner in Chinatown YMCA.

Q: I know that you didn’t come to New York as an immigrant, but in many ways you are an immigrant in America, but yet you don’t seem very typical because most immigrants come here and they, they work hard, they study hard and they want to make lots of money. Why, what do you think is in you that you want to be a social worker, as you said, at very young, also, to want to give back so early.

Ye: Yeah, I think it’s a very good question. You’re right. A lot of immigrant come here and then just want to study something that will make money, like finance or computer science, or electrical engineering. I think it’s very normal because they came from a very restricted, poor environment. But myself, also I came from that kind of environment, poor, restricted, and when I come to America I just wanted to learn more and educate myself more.

But at the same time, behind my, my mind, I also want to be rich. I wanted to be making money too. But because going to church, and I see that people in the church help others freely, unconditionally, without any conditions. That, because they help you it’s n to because you will pay them, they help you because you need it. And they feel good about helping others, and also what the Bible teach you. It’s rather, it’s better giving than receiving. And so that also have something to do with my religion background, and that really taught me that money is not everything, but helping people and make people happy, yourself will be happy as well. And some, something money cannot buy, which is happiness.

So I, I kind of realized that helping people and not really making a lot of money, but my heart and my life I feel rewarded, or awarded, because seeing a family broken, and now it’s the repaired and all together again, and I think that is more, more than money can buy. And that’s why I, I feel good just to do what I do.

Q: And your family supports you, in doing this? They never give you pressure to send us lots of money? Send home lots of money? Take us out of China?

Ye: No, actually my family never gave me any pressure, because they all already out of China. I have brother in Panama, brother, brother and sister in Panama, I have brother in Spain, and I have a sister in Florida. They’re all over the place. They’re all out of China. Beside my father, my father don’t want to go out. He like his old hometown. But still I think it’s good for him, he know his neighbors and everything, and we respect that, we respect his decision, so really I have no pressure, they ask me for money or anything like that, because I’m the youngest, so they don’t really expect me too much. You get it? I think that’s a, a good deal. You could have older brother, older sister, and they all helping the parents, supporting the parents, and I’m sort of like burden-free, you know?

Q: So your first job out of school was at the YMCA in Chinatown, where you worked mainly with young people you said?

Ye: Primarily it was with family that have children, that like I say have, either have problem with the ACS, because of cultural differences and language barrier, they discipline their child and trigger the school or counselor to call Administration for Children’s Service, because they think that there’s a risk of child abuse and child neglect, and so that’s (how) we’re involved, and most of our case come from ACS, referred by ACS, and the criteria is that you, you have to have children in your home, and we work with them, because that’s what preventive mean, to work with family, family that have young children.

Q: Well, give us an example of a case, ‘cause I, as a Chinese growing up in America I know that there is a lot of, sometimes misunderstandings between the way Americans interpret what is abuse in the Chinese families. So give us something that you saw a lot that perhaps the way Chinese parents discipline their kids, but American teachers may think the kids are being abused at home.

Ye: Well, I, I think one example is in China, I also came from China, and I also come from, I was brought up by parent, and I know in China, when your parent beat you, is because they love you. They correct you because they care about you. That’s the Chinese immigrant’s mentality and philosophy. And there’s just no such law that you hit your child and you are punished and someone will call the police or call the ACS. In China there’s no such, they don’t have that system yet in that time. It mean that your children is under your authority, and that your responsibility, if you don’t discipline them, and in the future they become a bad person in society, then the fault is in the parent, so that’s why the parent will hit them or discipline them. And when you say, hit that mean physical punishment, like that, they probably hit them with a bamboo stick, and try to correct them, and try to help them to, to avoid doing, continue doing bad things.

For example, like, there’s a family that come to America, and one of the child does not want to go to school, because they think school is too hard, too difficult, and they don’t speak the language, and they constantly make fun of him. And so he decide not to go to school. So the father, knowing that child not going to school is very young, he is only thirteen years old, if not going to school have no future here in America. You don’t speak their language, you don’t speak English, you’re not going to school, and that’s against the law as well. So of course this law part they might not understand, but they do understand that they want and hope the child can go to school and learn English and have a better life, rather than work hard like them in factory or in the restaurant, and they want the child to do something better than that.

But that child not going to school, for the father will discipline the child in the sense that he sort of hit the child, smack the child, and so of course the child, report it, because his father’s---because he’s talking a friend, the friend tell the teacher, and the teacher call ACS, so ACS come and they want to remove the child, but then that’s how we intervene and try to provide service to this family and try to understand what had happened. And so, because we provide the language, translation to the ACS worker, and we got a lot of ACS worker don’t really speak Chinese. And we talk about like five, six years ago, and still uncommon for Asian to get into ACS to work.

So, and we help them to understand the culture differences, and the father want to help the child, but then the law says you hit your child, it’s wrong, and that’s why we want to remove your child, and so that’s how end up in the ACS system, because someone reported the incident to the ACS. Which I think is, you know, each country have their own law, and each have, have their own rule. Um, the country that they’re living, right here in U.S., have the law to protect the children, of course they have the right to do what they have to do, but in terms of the parent, they don’t really understand the law, so what’s missing, is the education component to the parent. So that’s where we step in to educate, like what we call parenting skill, or (?) parenting skill training. Try to educate parent, what, the way that they deal with their children in China is not going to work in America, and if you use the same style, strategy, a way to discipline your child, and here in America you will get into trouble with the law.

And that’s how this family start understanding and what that meant, so they need, they have corrected the action, and they say that understand, we care about our child, we love our son, but physical discipline our child is against the law, and so they don’t want to do it again. And they want us to provide service to the family, talk to the parent, talk to the kid, and try to educate both side about where they come from, and it’s in the parent expectation and the kid’s struggle. So because the communication, they not going through, so parent do not really understand the child have so much pressure and have so much trouble, and the school tried to communicate, tried to understand. When the parent, just see the child not going to school is wrong. So it’s a matter of communication, and that’s one of the example cases.

Classic, because a lot of family even now a days, still have that problem. You see, this year thousands of new immigrant come into this community, but there’s no education going on every day, and so people need to be educated to solve this problem.

Q: Do you think there’s a big difference in, say, an immigrant family comes to a place like Chinatown, as opposed to more outside in a suburb, where there’s not a big Chinese community? Is it easier for them to assimilate into American life, coming to a place like Chinatown first?

Ye: Well, from my experience, I think Chinatown sort of is the first stepping stone, it, it mean it will be easier for them to adjust, because the community speak the language, and when they go to do shopping, they could shop the food that they want, and find the Chinese food, and also in terms of transportation, it’s limited, instead in Chinatown, you can just walk, in walking distance. And so they can adjust a little bit better.

In terms of kid who going to school, they have, let’s say bilingual or ESL (English as a Second Language) classes, that will help the kid to catch up even though they don’t speak English when they come in, and that will help them to learn faster in a sense. But there’s also one problem living in, let’s say, a community like New York City, in Chinatown, is that housing is an issue. There are limited housing. More and more people come, but the building pretty much stay the same, and so, where do people go, just pack into different family. So in terms of like, one apartment, you have one family of four members, now, because your aunt migrated and have no other place to live, then you just pack into that family, and so now you have, let’s say, eight members living in two bedroom apartment, it’s an overcrowded situation. So that’s the only disadvantage.

But going to out of state, they say, you know, Chinese go out of state because they see New York City is the state, and what is outside New York City is out of state. And as you know the word “China,” China is the center of the country, or central country. Everything else outside of China is foreign, it, you know, foreign country. So at the same time, our experience that, if an immigrant come to the U.S. and right away they, say move to a suburb, they will have a much harder time to adjust, first as you know some of the suburb like New Jersey or Connecticut, you want to go to supermarket, buy, buy grocery, if you don’t live next to a supermarket, you have to drive.

So a lot of immigrants they don’t have driver’s license, they don’t even speak the English to go and test, take a test and get a driver’s license. And driving a car is sometime challenging for just a peasant from China, not even know probably how to ride a bicycle and then now you ask them to drive a car. And for kids, trying to get them in school, there is let’s say, majority of them, let’s say, let’s say, Caucasian, I mean, Caucasian, and also this is a difficulty because not every school have the ESL program or bilingual program, and so, and if they migrate here and then jump into school, I think it’s kind of hard, and then myself, I come, I went to Panama, I jump into school, and then guess what, I have to withdraw, and stay out for a year and a half, try to learn the language and then I go to school. It’s a similar experience. A lot of those family that I know is that they leave their kid behind in New York City, they go to work in out of state because of job scarcity, limited job, so they left the kid behind, with family, or sometime friends, and they go out to work and support the family.

But why they don’t take their children with them, when I ask them, because it’s hard for the children to go to school there, because the system, the school system where they have. And so it’s very, very difficult. It challenging for the family. Especially in Chinatown. The family, immigrant family that come here, they face many, many different kind of challenges.

Q: So from what you see, say, the percentage of immigrants that come to Chinatown, how many of them really stay here long term, or is it once they get the language and work skills, do they move out?

Ye: Well, from, like I say, from what I have seen for the past ten or fifteen year in Chinatown, ‘cause I’ve been here a long time, almost fifteen years. And they have a lot of change in Chinatown, in terms of, let’s said, fifteen years ago, if you, you know Chinatown, pretty much Chinatown is occupied by the Toisanese and Cantonese, you go to the vegetable stand, stand to buy vegetable, you have to speak Cantonese. If you don’t speak Cantonese, you have a hard time to buy a vegetable, because they don’t understand you, and then you don’t understand them.

But ten years later, things have changed. The whole community dynamic in Chinatown have changed. If people understand the structure of Chinatown. Pretty much, there’s a group, a fast-growing group, which is the Fujianese community. They come in very, very quickly, and they occupy half of Chinatown from let’s say east of Bowery, and let’s say south of Houston, and let’s say north of Catherine. All that section, and primarily the Fujianese come in, and a lot of the Toisanese or Cantonese, they kind of move out because of housing price are getting higher and higher because demand get higher, the housing price get higher.

So a lot of people who are here a little bit longer, they need to move out, either move to Connecticut, or New Jersey, or Brooklyn, some are in Queens, and at this time there’s some people start moving to Staten Island. You need, this is like I say, this is first stepping stone for immigrants. When I was in high school, this was, fifteen years ago, a Chinese teacher already say, if you can make it, you probably not living in Chinatown at this time. Meaning that if you have the English skill, you have driver license, you have some money, and you probably move out to the suburb of Connecticut or New Jersey, or some other, like Brooklyn, Flushing. You don’t have to stick in Chinatown, because with the same amount of money, paying rent, example, you can get a three-bedroom apartment for the same amount of money, and you can only get maybe, say, a one-bedroom apartment in Chinatown. So why do you want to stay in Chinatown?

Q: So then how do the new immigrants afford to live in Chinatown if you’re saying Chinatown is so expensive?

Ye: That’s the problem, because in Chinatown, the price so expensive that people cannot afford it, that’s why they have to share their apartment. It’s not that they want to, but because of the economic situation, or the price of the apartment is so expensive, one family simply cannot afford it. As an example, a two-bedroom apartment in Chinatown, easily you have to pay one thousand, five hundred or one thousand, eight hundred dollars. A two-bedroom apartment in Chinatown. A family of four, let’s say, father and mother, both are working, and children going to school. So father work in a restaurant. Mother work in a factory. You know a factory how much you can make. Sometime as you have work to do, you make like forty dollars, or sometime eighty dollars if the garment is good, easy to work with. But sometime when the garment is hard, or there is not many work to do, you probably earn twenty dollars a day, and sometimes a day you had earned ten dollars, when there is no, no job.

So it kind of hard for a family to just make enough money to pay the rent. Forget about the food and other expenses. So there is no way for them to do that, so they divide up an apartment and say, two bedrooms, and they rent out one bedroom, and share the living room, the kitchen, with another family, and so they co-share nine hundred each, example. Each family pay nine hundred dollars. So they can barely survive in a sense. So that all four member of the family has to pack into a one-bedroom apartment. There’s no privacy, you know, for that family. It’s a very, very difficult situation, and we have seen many, many family have to do that.

But if you’re single, then, of course, one bedroom apartment, let’s say two bedroom apartment, easily you can, well, they will, rent it out for eight people, ten people to share, a two-bedroom apartment, so they will have all the bunk bed all over the place. If people know Chinatown well, they know that. So they rent, not by bedroom but by bed space. So that’s how they can pay the rent.

Q: Now why, why is the Fujianese in particular, in the last ten years or so, so attracted to New York? Do they go to other places in America? Do they go to other countries, or do they leave China and New York is the top destination that they want to go to?

Ye: Well, in 1994, the State Department estimate that they have a hundred thousand Fukienese in the U.S., and New York, Chinatown is the prime location. That’s the first choice for all the Fukienese. And so, at that time, in 1994, and this is the time up to the Golden Venture incident, and that’s how the government officials start paying attention to this population. And before that, they don’t really give too much attention unless the local government official, the city or police say that this community have a lot of gain and all that.

But 1994, they estimate a hundred thousand in the U.S., and most of them are in New York City, so this is the first choice, and remember we’re saying, whatever state outside of New York City, they call them out of state. So New York is the home base for the Fukienese. As you can see, East Broadway, that ‘Yidonglo,’ that east mall of east Broadway, eighty-eight east Broadway, that’s at the root of this community, the tree of this community. So most of them when they come, first they come here and see all the job, ah, say, office, that help people look for job, and help people to, um, let’s say, go to different places, you have bus stations and everything.

Of course, ten years ago, this not there. Not many. But still, they have large association here in New York City, a lot of Fukienese association, and so this is the prime, prime location for them. When they first, when they come in, first stepping stone.

And some people do go out of New York City, because there is not, not enough jobs in New York City for them. And most of the men, the Fukienese men are restaurant worker, and most of the lady are garment worker, so a lot of the couple, if they come in as a couple, they probably have to spread out, so the father will go out or stay to work, and come home once a week or twice a week, depends how far or how close you work. If you work far away in Tennessee or Ohio, you probably come home once a month or twice a month, so it depends.

People do go out because, no job. Especially after 9-11, a lot of more people move out of New York City, because job scarcity. There’s no, no, not much work. The garment factory, a lot of them closed down, so then they packed their whole family and moved to out of state or left the children behind and the wife also joined the husband and go to work in a restaurant.

Q: I have the impression, I think a lot of people have the impression that the Fujianese community tends to be a bit of a closed community. If you are not Fujianese, if you don’t speak the dialect, it’s very hard to get in there. Is that true? And because of that, are they, would you say they are more, ah, unified, than say the Cantonese or the other Mandarin speakers in Chinatown?

Ye: Well, I think that is true. Fujianese itself is a very unique community and unique population. If you know the history of Fujian, even back to China, a thousand years ago, they themselves have their own community and the geography of Fujian is like a, like a pot or a wok, you know, big, wide, everything, with sea, access to ocean, they have river, and they have farmland. They themselves is already in the valley of the sea and the mountain. So that community is very close because they speak Fujianese and that’s a daily language that it was, beside going to school and children have to learn the national language which was Mandarin.

And the village and the home, they all speaking Fujianese. And plus Fujianese, the way they come to America also contribute to why they have to stay close. Because a lot of Fujianes, in the early ‘80s, some they of course migrate as immigrant, but many of them migrate here undocumented, in a sense without proper document come here. So there is a lot of distrust with the government, even in Fujian, when you’re from China as a country. And there’s a lot of trust issue, you know, between government and ordinary peasant family or citizen. And it’s very difficult for them when they come here, they don’t know who they should trust. Government certainly is the last place that they want to go because the experience that they have with the Chinese government.

But then, going to other non-Fujianese, they don’t speak the language. It’s kind of hard for you to go, let’s say to a vegetable stand, to buy vegetable, to a Cantonese vegetable stand to buy a vegetable, if you only speak Mandarin or Fukienese. They probably not going to sell it to you. And that’s why, some I have seen in the past, when I walk in the street, people talking Mandarin, and want to buy that vegetable, it’s oh---you go to other, other store, they will never sell to you. Because they cannot communicate. So it’s that, it’s not that they have a very close, close community. It’s just that they don’t want to, don’t have the chance to explore around, and they don’t really know what’s out there.

As an example, a lot of the Fukienese are illiterate and they’re not educated. A lot of them do not even know how to write their names. I have been working with this Fujianese population since, like I said, since I graduate from from college in 1996, and I have a lot of Fujianese client, and then later on, I moved to another agency, which is this one, a Lutheran agency. And primarily our clients are Fujianese, so I kind of know them a little more. And myself is not a Fujianese, but I am able to work with them, because I sort of understand their culture, understand their struggle, and not understanding their language base, is something is a disadvantage, but they do see you as a individual, want to help them. When they see that, they certainly open up to you.

A lot of time, I think the community they say, “Well the Fujianese is very close, therefore we can’t help them.” It’s like, “I don’t want to touch it, this problem is too big.” But if you really look hard and really look through it, there are lots of thing you can do, even though you are not Fujianese. And even the Fujianese themselves have a lot of mistrust issue, and they don’t just open up to anyone.

Q: You think they mistrust the Cantonese? The other Chinese people, not just, say, American government and law and all that, that they don’t understand, but how about just other Chinese in Chinatown?

Ye: Well, I don’t think it’s a mistrust issue in the same way with the Cantonese. Ah, in terms of government, it’s really that’s an issue, because like I say, they come from different system, a government system. But in terms of the Cantonese, I would say, it’s, it’s a, they would see as a struggle, a competition. Maybe you remember back like ten years ago, like I said, or we said, Chinatown pretty much is occupied, fifteen years ago, by the Toisanese, the Cantonese, and there are factories all over the place, and there are a lot of business, and the Cantonese come in, they work, they earn a lot of money. Each week, they can earn a couple of hundred dollar, a thousand dollars, and depending on what kind of garment they’re working with. But for the past ten or fifteen years, there are more and more Fujianese come in, and the pie is that size, one size, but then you have more and more people come and try to share the job, that job market pie, that job pie, and then in this sort of work environment have to create some tension, if you know how the factory system works, that you work faster, you can earn more money, and you can work more garment. Or you cannot work fast, then if you have to work slow, then it’s how much hour you can work.

So the Fukienese come in, they come in with a lot of, they say, they invariably they owe people money the way they came, they owe money to other people, owe it to their family, or to their relative, or to their friend, and so they definitely want to work harder. So in terms of working nine to five, they probably work eight to eight. So that has created a lot of tension between the Cantonese and the Fujianese, and often if you go to the factory you’ll hear that, “Oh, the Fukienese taking our job, oh the Fukienese is ah, making us make less money.” Because some Fukienese, and remember ten years ago from paper you will see that Fukienese women have to stay in the factory overnight to work, and they only sleep three or four hour. It’s not that they wanted to. A lot of time, because the boss required them to finish the work. And they also wanted to make more money. And so, both parties probably contributed to it---But the Cantonese, there is no way for them to stay overnight or work twelve, fourteen hour. And they’re a bit harder, because the way they came, because most of the Cantonese come as a immigrant, with status---

Q: From Hong Kong---

Ye: ---From Hong Kong, or Toisan area. But a lot of the Fujianese they come without status, and when they come in, they already owe people a couple, let’s say, twenty or thirty thousand dollars, and they have to pay it back, and make them work harder. And it makes sense.

So at that it really create a lot of conflict in the community itself still have this kind of issue.

Q: You think part of, maybe there’s a little bit of resentment towards the Fujianese community because they have brought the prices down in a certain way, by creating so much more competition, like they can probably work cheaper than say, some, you know, as you said a person from Hong Kong or Toisan years ago, and because of that they, they’ve created so much more competition in Chinatown, that, that, everything is cheaper. And then the other communities have a little bit of resentment towards the Fujianese community for doing that, like for the buses for example, it’s so cheap, and that has created a lot of wars, and rivalries in Chinatown, and a lot of those are owned by the Fujianese community, correct?

Ye: Yeah, I think resentment probably is, you know, is the word, in a sense, with others in Chinese community, between the Fujianese and, you know, the Cantonese-speaking community. It need, in terms of pricing in the factory, because, like I said, I been here fifteen years and I’ve seen all this changing, and I care about this community, and, and I go to church, I know a lots of different kind of people, and they all share about what happened in the workplace in their community. So I learned a lot about these two community, and not just seeing, but also hearing, and what the people do, and also, seven years ago, I started working with this community and kind of realized that the problem even deeper.

Resentment certainly is the key word here. Because, like I say, if a factory owner can have someone work on this hundred piece of garment, for, let’s say for forty dollars, why I have to pay the Cantonese sixty dollars? So of course they would choose, let’s say, Fujianese to work for forty dollars. So that is a issue, like I said, job, um, competition.

But, ah, let’s say the job market is competing, and the price is going down, but the housing also competing, by going up. So, and so the resentment is that, we live here, and we pay, let’s say, they, they Cantonese probably say, you know, we pay six hundred dollar rent for two-bedroom apartment, and now you Fujianese come in and now we have to pay eight hundred because the landlord is raising the rent and want to, ah, kick them out so they can rent to the Fukienese for higher price.

So that is, is certainly is an issue. But I say, you know, the Fukienese themselves do not really contribute to that, it’s not that they asking for cheaper price, but they have no other way to earn money to pay back their debt. Other than selling their labor force, that’s their only way. And I think it’s a, in terms of the owner, and they also play a role here. But like you, as an example, why does U.S. industry, or U.S. business have moved to China, moved to India, instead of keeping the business here in the U.S.? Because of costs.

In China, you can do it you know, one dollar, yen, one, one, one, yen, or one shoes, but here in the U.S., it’s like one dollar in shoes, then that make a very difference, because usually U.S. dollar and yen is, one U.S. dollar is equal eight yen, you know. So it make a difference. So it all about business. But I guess, the community also suffer because of that.

Q: So tell us about your job today. You are the director?

Ye: Yeah, Director of Immigrant Service.

Q: Here at, ah---

Ye: At New Life Center.

Q: And what, what is---tell us about New Life Center. What is the purpose of the center?

Ye: Well, ah, this Lutheran, ah, social service, New Life Center, started a year and a half ago. Like, I, I, I, say a little bit about September 11th. When September 11 happened, my main office, like only two blocks away from World Trade Center, and part of the airplane wingtips that hit the World Trade Center fall on our main office building, and so that building have to close down. And then, the administrative personnel, or staff moved to our office, and at that time we were located in Christopher Street, Greenwich Village. So they moved to our office, and then we have no choice, then we move to Brooklyn, for one year.

And we stayed there, and there’s not much happen, and we keep doing the work we’re doing, helping this Fukienese community in different way. But more and more during that year we hear from our client, hear from community leaders, hear from churches and hear from the community, that they not really getting much help, or getting as much aid from the September 11 relief, the benefit or help. Then at that time, right after September 11, there are a lot, um, thing going on, you have a mortgage rent assistance, for the people who have been impacted and living in the zone, and you have people can apply for September 11 health insurance, or get a September 11th ESL class training, and you could get like three hundred dollars back every week to help you learn English, or you’re out of job---

And that help the family to pay rent or buy grocery. That, there are money that is definitely is helping. And also when the ESL course is done, you can go for, um, another seven week of vocational training, to learn some real job skill beside government factory, or beside the low, low skill work. They can go and learn some restaurant or other skill.

But it seemed that the Fujianese community not really understand what is happening and don’t know what is out there. So when we ask, the Safe Horizon, as, if you’re familiar with the system, Safe Horizon is, is sort of the, the gate-keeper of the September 11 Fund. If you want to access the September 11 program, or fund, you have to go through Safe Horizon, the on-going recovery program workshop. So when you work with that workshop, then you’ll get a white card, and that white card have your name and your basic information. That white card you can go and apply for health insurance, regardless you’re documented or undocumented, and you also can enroll yourself into ESL training classes, the vocational training classes. But some when we asked them, how many of Fukienese after a year, after one year really went through the workshop. Surprisingly, that, from what we heard from the September 11---from the Safe Horizon established that only a few Fukienese had gone through the workshop.

And I’m,, we’re very surprised, because this community ahs been here for, for so long, and if the estimate of the State Department is right, a hundred thousand already in 1994, and each year you have another ten thousand coming in, and New York City is the primary location that they start with, that they end up with. So, if we just talking about half of the Fukienese, and, and, in New York City, so from 1994, until 2002, and you already have like eighteen thousand, and there’s a hundred and eighty thousand Fukienese, but then half of them, let’s say in and out of New York City, you have like ninety thousand, at least, ninety thousand. Let’s say not all ninety thousand live in Manhattan Chinatown area, but we’re talking about half of that again. You have forty-five thousand Fukienese in Chinatown, and this is the closer imm---


Q: So you were saying that after September 11, the Fujianese community, very, even though it’s a big community in Chinatown and one that is so close to Ground Zero, you feel that it was alarming that such a small percentage of people actually went ahead and applied for 911 relief funds.

Now, is it because, that, are the funds, or, a two-part question. Are the funds available to everybody that, um, that qualifies, regardless of your status, because you said that a lot of Fujianese came undocumented. Is that part of what kept them away, ‘cause they are afraid that if they go and apply, the government might come after them because they are here illegally. Or, because they are so isolated because of culture, because of language, or whatever reason, that they are not aware, or they don’t know how to go and apply for these things. I mean, what is the problem?

Q: Well, I think you already said, the problem is related to the two questions that you just asked. I was, I’ll address the um, first question first.

You need---a lot of Fukienese are in, in the Chinese community undocumented. But also a lot of them are documented, families are here. But not just the undocumented Fukienese are not getting the September 11th -related service or benefit out there in the community. But those documented families are not receiving either. So what---that is the question that was start asking, calling community leaders, the community itself, and also churches and people that we know. So, we kind of realized that those undocumented in need are afraid that if they apply the government will come after them.

Q: Well, is that true? I mean, is the fund---

Ye: Well, it’s not. Because, as you know, September 11th Fund is set up beside the FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Act), for MRI (?) program, you have to prove some sort of documentation. But there are a lot of program or service out there they say the September 11th Fund is contributed by, let’s say, Red Cross, Salvation Army, by general public, like us, who contribute thousand million dollars into the pool, to help the affected victim. The money is not, let’s say, government, restricted money that is related to the government. It’s for the people who need help, regardless of your status of documented or undocumented. Assuming you have, you qualify, assuming you need help, then they can help you.

But the problem is, two things. One the, the undocumented people, not being educated, what is out there and who qualify and what that will do to them if they apply or not to apply. It seems that they have no idea what is happening.

Two, the same with the documented one. The documented one they don’t really know what is available out there. And some people, they just think that this is not for them. Because, if you know the Chinese community structure, I think that is kind of related to your second question. The first one is that they don’t know. The second question is why they don’t know. Well, if you know the community structure----

Here in Chinatown we have several Chinese newspaper, and only one or two of them are simplified Chinese. And most of them are traditional Chinese character, when you see the newspaper. But if someone, let’s say, for example, from Fujian. You from a country that has been taught simplified Chinese. And now you come here and you buy a piece of paper, in traditional Chinese. It’s like, ah, let’s say native English speaker try to read a Hispanic paper. Can this person understand some of the words? Yeah, like commercial, ‘comercial,’ television, ‘television’. You can understand some of the words. But, do you think you can really understand the whole newspaper, what I’m saying. Well, no. Even the words look similar, and one or two words are the same.

Q: Is that because the two, the main papers are owned by Taiwanese and Hong Kong, and, and those two places write in traditional forms?

Ye: Yeah, there’s a lot of information, saying you can go here to apply this, you can go there to apply this, but the major, the three major paper that we have, the World Journal, Tsing Tao, and Ming Pao, you, you see it’s a traditional form of Chinese. But so, Fukienese don’t really understand what is out there. In terms of radio, you have 1480 (AM), and that’s a time when after 911, 1480 was started, twenty-four hour program. And they did a lot of promotion, people contribute a lot of money to here and there, and you can go apply benefit here and there. But it, for the Fukienese, that’s a foreign language---

Q: Because they speak in Cantonese.

Ye: Yeah, they’re talking in Cantonese, and that’s the only twenty-four Chinese radio station that we have. So you can imagine a Fukienese-speaking person, cannot read, cannot understand, cannot communicate with other Cantonese community people. How, how do they know? That’s one problem.

The other problem is that, when we went to um, meet with the FEMA and the New York Disaster Response Unit, and others, mainstream player about the need of the Fukienese community, when we mentioned about, do you know that the Fujianese community has not been served, or there is no service available to them, they kind of surprised, why is that? We have given so much money to the Chinese community-based organized to serve them. Well, it’s simply the fact that when the Chinese community-based organization, say, we will serve the Chinese community if we can get money. But when they get the money, they, yes, they need serve the Chinese population. But is it the entire Chinese population, or just portion of the Chinese population? So when we, that’s how I met, one of the staff that you mentioned, Charlie (Lai), at one of the meeting. And what we’re asking is that, the Chinese community, is the Fujianese community part of the Chinese community? Yes. Is the Fujianese community also in the zone area? Yes. But how come they’re not getting service? Well, some of those people from the Chinese community, based on what this agency, well, they’re different, because they don’t speak Cantonese.

Q: But they do speak Mandarin?

Ye: Yeah, some of them speak Mandarin. But if you look at the Chinatown community-based organization’s structure, most of those Chinese community-based organization are run by Cantonese, executive staff. Most of the staff are Cantonese speaking. The field staff might speak Mandarin, but when you asking do they speak Fukienese, oh, no, we just don’t have Fukienese-speaking.

It’s like, I’ll give you an example, and that’s, I talked to a general. I know that September 11th Fund has given a pot of money to one of the community-based organization, and now that organization has given that, a portion of that money to local Chinese-based organization. Chinese community-based organization. To hire a couple of staff to build a team and try to serve the Chinese community. So they hire new staff, and we asked how many of those staff speak Fukienese. None. How many of the staff speak Mandarin? Oh, two. And are you guys outreaching the Fujianese community? No. Why is that? Oh, because their location is a little bit far west, but the Fukienese is in the east of Chinatown.

So in the sense that, the community---I mean, I myself am Cantonese. I have nothing against the Cantonese. But, just because I am Cantonese, I can understand both language, I can understand what they say in the Chinese radio, or from others, Cantonese staff, about the Fukienese community. But the thing is that, if the money were given to them, to serve the entire Chinese community, they should do some effort to reach the entire Chinese community, not just portion of the Chinese community. They’re screwing the Fukienese.

So what happen the Fukienese that, if you have no staff who can speak the language, or are able to communicate with the language they can understand? There’s no way for them to understand. So, because of that problem, being that the Chinese-based community organization, not able to communicate with the Fukienese community, there is no intensive outreach to the Fukienese community, and now we see that there’s a gap, because one of the research studies done by Asian-American Federation, ah, a couple of years ago, they reported that it’s only, in the Fujianese community there is only 1.56 percent of the Fujianese have junior high or higher education degree. So you can imagine there’s 98.46 percent, or 98.44 percent of the Fujianese community, people in the community, have junior high or less education, so it mean that a big chunk of them are illiterate. So how can you communicate with illiterate, ah, people in the community? By word of mouth.

The way that you can understand. So we saw this is huge gap. Even after a year. A year later. September 11th , and we move from Brooklyn to this building November of 2002. That’s where we started. Because we saw the gap, and we move in, to this community, and we wanted to try to fill the gap, in the sense that, we’ve been working with the Fukienese community for seven, a couple of years, we have their trust, and we have the relationship with them already. And they don’t, and then too, for us, as a Chinese community-based organization, because we are Lutheran. This is a mainstream agency. But they know that we are helping them, and they know that we’re church, faith-based organization, and they know that we are here to help them, not to harm them.

So when we moved in, the first that we did is to create that flyer that they, we give out to the people, it’s a simplified Chinese flyers, with simplified Chinese characters, and with simple words, that even low-education immigrant can understand, so try to tell them who we are, what we intend to do, and what kind of service we can provide to them. So that’s how the word get out to the community, and then the Fukienese community start coming, a dozen of them, two dozen of them.

We propose, in one year, starting November 2002 to November of 2003, we proposed to serve one hundred families, because we only got one small grant for the Lutheran Disaster Response New York. So it’s called LDRNY. We got a small grant to start this program, and we started with two staff. Just two staff. And to help this community, and we have a Fukienese staff, primarily do outreach education. And that’s how we started, and the people come and within three month, and we already serve four hundred client in three months, and by ninth month, we have served a thousand, two hundred client. So it’s so far more what we budgeted or to planned to serve. You know, you see the need of this community is so, so big.

Q: Now you’re, the church here serves everybody, not just Fujianese.

Ye: Oh, yes. The church itself is a Cantonese-based church, and we, we, ah, proposed to serve the Fujianese community with a grant that we requested from LDRNY, because they allow the community-based organization already serving the Cantonese community, already because they speak the same language, they been serving them, that community for a long time, but the Fujianese is simply, is still covered by dust. It’s like a, September 11th dust still covered this community. The people still don’t see the need of the community, or even they see, probably they don’t really care. So that’s why, when I talking to Charlie Lai about the need of this community, he have the passion for that. I call them “underserved community,” and Charlie Lai called, actually probably “unserved community.” It’s so realistic, and how come a year later, you have thousand, ten of thousand of Cantonese already got a white card, already finished all those training program, and already got all the help and money, mortgage rental assistance---everything that they can apply, they already apply. They even applying for, you know, purifier and air conditioner, everything they can apply, they already apply. For the Fukienese they still have no clue what is happening in the community. So that’s why I call them ‘unserved community.’

Q: So it, it seems the main problem is language, here. That is, keeping the Fujianese community isolated, and it seems to me, perhaps, that they should not just be training to speak English, but maybe Cantonese. Is that, has that ever been thought of, so that the Fukienese can assimilate into Chinatown, a little bit more?

Ye: But you say, try to not teach them only English, but teach them----

Q: ---A little bit of Cantonese---

Ye: Cantonese.

Q: ----So they can survive in Chinatown better.

Ye: Right, but I ask you a question. In Chinatown itself, how many Cantonese restaurant you have, or how many Fujianese restaurant you have? If, like, you try to, they say, if entire U.S. move, population move to China, and then you tell China, say, now you should learn English, so that you can communicate with us, don’t you think we should think the other way around? The people coming to Chinatown, most of them are just worker, or business owner, but people who live in Chinatown, majority of them are Fukienese. Think about it. Why do we have to ask the Fukienese to learn Cantonese, to try to fit in, why not the Cantonese try to learn Mandarin? We’re not even asking them to learn Fukienese. Mandarin is the national language of the

Q: ---Of China---

YE: ---China, which is the official language. Everybody should know, as a citizen of, let’s say, Chinese, or if you call yourself, Chinese-American, it might be a good idea to just learn Mandarin, right, to help them. For immigrant coming in, like Fukienese, they already struggle, try to survive, and now you’re asking them to learn Cantonese to try to fit in. Now you’re asking a, monk to give you some hair. It’s very, very, difficult. So I think the community-based agency, they themselves have a mission to serve the Chinese community. When you serve, as you try to come out, whatever way you can, to help. Not to ask the people who come to you to help, ask for help, then you have to do something before we help you, let’s say if you want, like in buy your vegetable, example. If you want, if you want to buy vegetable from me, you have to learn Cantonese. If you don’t learn Cantonese, I’m not going to sell you a vegetable. I think that’s, the other way around. This is business, right? So the business owner, just say, oh, if I want to do this business, I should learn Mandarin, and so that I can have more customer.

So, I think the mentality that, I mean the question that you ask, probably allows those Cantonese community leaders probably thinking the same. Why they don’t learn, ah, Cantonese. That’s the same mentality, but that’s the problem, because the community is so huge. You talk about four, let’s say, you know, minimum instrument, you talk about forty-five thousand Fukienese, and you ask all of them to try to learn Cantonese. Don’t you think that a little bit tough? Yeah, it is tough. Instead of asking them to learn about ways as a provider to learn the language and try to serve them.

And I think that’s the issue here, with this community, and I think the resentment that we talk about before, that between this Cantonese and the Fukienese community, that is still playing a big part of that. And also the language barrier is one thing, but the Fukienese community need, what do they need is education. If so many people are illiterate, mean that the way they process information, it could be very slow, or very uneasy. So when you try to explain to them, the benefit that you apply, the September 11th benefit, is not related to government, but they still think that it’s related, then how can you help them to take the fear away? Simple, you educate them and give them some concrete information. And say, we, because we hire attorneys, immigration attorneys. And we ask immigration attorney to explain to them, instead of say, just us, we explain to them, so it take one of the level of fear away, but they have another level in term of legal. In social matter, they understand, well, this probably not going to affect me, even if I apply, and it will help me and help my family. But in legal matter, and how, how can it take that fear away, and if you come as a professional, immigration attorney, and try to explain to them the way the law works in America, then that really take the fear away.

So after they hear, from an attorney, their old fear gone, and then just come in, and to apply. So because of the way they were approached, and speaking the language that they understand, speaking the level that they can understand, and giving the, getting the right people to explain to them, the Fukienese-speaking staff, or immigration attorney, and so that people know they have nothing to risk, because they do need help, their family is decompensating, there is domestic violence, child abuse incidence is growing higher and higher and more, because the husband and wife no job, they stay at home. In the past they work, you see once a week, you don’t fight, you know, everything is good. But now, no job, you’re poor, you have limited resources, you see your child every day, that create a lot of conflict, and not everyone know how to resolve this kind of problem.

So, by helping them to get some of the help from the September 11-related system, actually relieves some of the family tension. And that we’re seeing that as the need, and that’s why we come in to provide this, try to fill the gap. And in our open house, like I say, the New Life Center open house on December 12th, and there’s hundred of community people from the community and from the city, and from the federal, labor department, and other people came, and we already said to all the public, we’re here not to compete, but we’re here to try to fill the gap, we try to build a bridge, so that the community-based, Chinese community-based organization can use us as a bridge to reach this Fukienese community. And that’s what we’re trying to do. And until now, we’re still doing that, and we have referred hundreds of clients to the Chinese-based community. And in some ways we screen them, they understand Mandarin. They have staff in their agency who can speak Mandarin, and we’re trying to refer them. But of course, if they don’t speak Mandarin, you know, and they speak Fukienese, and those agency have no Fukienese-speaking staff, why should we refer them, so that when we try to help them, whatever way we can, with the limited resources.

Q: Are you still being funded by any 911 money?

Ye: Well, after today, today is March 11th----

Q: ---Eleventh---

Ye: Two thousand and four---

Q: ---Four---

Ye: ---Um, we still get funded by September 11th Fund. We understand that our program had been closed because limited funding that have September 11th fund left. But since we started New Life Center, and we served this Fujianese community, with that small grant, grant of money from this LDNRY, is a private foundation, is a Lutheran foundation as a matter of fact, that we started and we sort of surpassed the number that we anticipated to serve in one year, and we have presented this problem to the September 11th Fund, and they also realized that this community is not being served, I mean, as properly, I would say. So they started funding us since last year, and so this year, when they asked us to, send them another proposal, and which we did, and then they funded us again. And because of that funding we’re able to continue to help the underserved population.

Q: Do you think there is not enough dialogue between the different associations, organizations in Chinatown? Or is there not a leader that is strong enough to lead this community?

Ye: Well, I clearly can say from the political point of view and from the community point of view, I think what we are lacking is that, like you say a strong leader. I think it is a matter of unity. The changes to Chinatown, you have, you probably have a couple of population. One, the people from different borough come to work , and you have lots of business owner, which involve this group, does not live in Chinatown. But then you have lots of resident in Chinatown, and, one, a big part of that restaurant is the Fujianese community. But Fujianese immigrant community is, that is, so, so, new to this country, they don’t even know what the law is. It’s kind of hard for them to get into the politic arena, but a lot of Cantonese have been here for so long they know what they can do to voice out for the Chinese community. But a lot of time, our voice has been split. You look at the history, how in Chinatown, we have candidates who come to run for city councilman, or city councilwoman. You have three candidates and try to spread the same amount of votes, among this same community. But in the end, none of them win, so who win? They say this time Ellen Garson win again. But from history, and if you really talk about Chinese, Chinatown history, I think ourselves, Chinese have to reflect and how to really think what is the best interest of the Chinatown. It’s not what is the best interest of my self or my group. It’s the entire Chinatown. So if we, if we, have small voices from here, from there, from there, those, they politician first they will not hear you. It’s true, the community if not working together, the energy and the force, is limited.

So if we have a, say strong leader in Chinese community. Let’s say you have hundreds of associations in Chinatown, could we say, Toisanese, Cantonese, Fukienese, or other, in northern part of China, and you have CCBA, you have so many association, but you know, if this organization united, but not just by name, united as a one identity and listen to one voice, instead of just talking here and there, you have a better chance in term of a political arena, in term of how to put a community together.

Look, Chinatown is a closer immigrant community to Ground Zero. But how come their resources is so limited to come down to Chinatown, if you really do a research study, compared to money that the, let’s say the September 11th Fund have, the Salvation Army and Red Cross receive. How, how many percent of that money really divert to the Chinese community to rebuild Chinatown? We’ve taught so many to rebuild Chinatown. But how much of the money really come into Chinatown, to help our community, to help the people being affected, impacted? If you look at the number is significantly smaller, significantly small. Why is that?

Well, because Chinatown is part of, I want to say part of lower east side. From years, I mean, I would say as a Chinese, I would say it’s part of lower east side in need, because each community have their own small mountain, and each association, on top of that small mountain, have their fire. But then this, small fires like is one candle, you can not really make much difference, but if you imagine you put all the small mountain together, you got a big mountain, and you put all the small fire together, then you see this huge mountain of fire. Don’t you think the whole Tri-State Area will see your area is a fire? Right? World Trade Center got hit. The whole world know. Why? Because it’s so tall, so famous, and it got hit. The smoke goes sky high, high. And the whole world will see it. But imagine if one building in China get a fire, maybe the people who live in Brooklyn have no idea, or people who live in the east of Chinatown will have no idea that East Broadway have a building that just burned down, right? So I think it’s a matter of pulling together as one community and then speak out for the community, but at this time, personally I feel that we did not really speak out as one community, we just here and there, and that’s why our community has not been served properly.

Q: But we, what is the thing that you think can unite us, because it’s from, it sounds like language does not unite us, there’s all---from writing to speaking, is all over the place, so what is the main thing that you think this community can agree on, to come together on?

Ye: As long as you identify yourselves, as a Chinese community, or as a Chinese-American, with that word, “Chinese,” you already have a base to start with. If you consider yourself Chinese, then you can communicate in the sense that U.N. (United Nations). How come the U.N. can function? Is it all the U.N. people, or the representative of the U.N., speak the same language? No, they don’t speak the same language, but they have the same mission. They all, together, as a one identity, we’re the United Nations, we come from different part of world, speak different language, but we’re here as a one identity. And when you have meeting, you can use translation. If you don’t, really, speak Fukienese, then you’re Fukienese leader, I mean that, you’re a Fukienese leader, you don’t speak Mandarin, then while someone speak Mandarin, you can use ear prop and translation. All the Cantonese, they say, I don’t speak Mandarin. Then, can, you know, translation.

But I think language can be conquered. If U.N. can conquer that, Chinese community certainly have no problem, because you is talking about, there’s probably a hundred and eight different dialects, and we do a talk in here, probably less than ten dialects here, right?----

Q: ---Main ones.

YE: ---Main ones. So if you have ten different dialect, it’s not that hard to conquer. But only thing the Chinese community have to realize that, if we don’t reunite, we’re still going the same, year after year, so look at, for the past fifteen years, yeah, I see some progress in the Chinese community, but there is not much have done. Just look at the traffic light down Canal Street; you find the traffic run over a old lady, or old man, because they walk too slow and trucks have to run over them so they can get to Holland Tunnel. That problem has been presented for years. Is there anything have done with that? Not really. Why not? Because Chinatown itself is a land of no one. We voiced out to politicians. And politicians, why I have to do this to you? What you have done for me? When time of vote, how many voters contributed to me, to my party? Oh, sorry, not many. Then, why are you asking?

Q: So the problem is people, Chinese people don’t vote, so therefore we don’t have political power in the city.

Ye: It’s not that Chinese people don’t vote, it’s that, that, people who know how to vote, and people who know what votes mean, for the community, are not really working hard enough to educate the community to vote. Like I say, we’re, we’re living in the U.S., we have this voting rights. But you’re in China, vote is something new. When you talk about, let’s have a meeting of four hundred people, and talk about politics, you’re probably in the next hour you end up in jail, right?

But in U.S. it’s different. U.S., you can vote, you have the right to vote, you have the voice out, either against your country, or speak for your country, you could. But a lot of people are still, even though they become a U.S. citizen, but they don’t know what kind of duty and responsibility they have. In the past, say many years ago, before you become a U.S. citizen, they even teach you the duty and responsibility of a U.S. citizen, once you become a U.S. citizen. But now the so, everything instant, just pass the test and we give you the naturalization certificate, and now you’re a U.S. citizen. But what about the duty and responsibility? If the government is not doing that, then who will do that, and form the shoulder of our community-based organization, or association?

But if we’re not doing that enough, to make it voting day as a community event day, people would not really know about it. A lot of people, when voting day, do you think they know this is the voting day, or today is the voting day? No, they won’t know, no. Because they don’t read newspaper, they can’t understand. But if you make it your effort, and try to go out in the community and make noise about this, you have a better chance. Because we look at the voting numbers, it’s pretty slow---ah, pretty small. But we haven’t found more registered voter than the actual voter come out.

Q: You seem like a very passionate man who cares deeply about the community. How about yourself? Have you thought of running for something?

Ye: Well, you know, I, you know, I thought about it, but like you know, like you mentioned when you started, you know, I’m still young, there a lot of things to learn, and politics, it’s, ah, something big. Because running politics you need a different skill. Not just someone can speak and have the passion, you can do it. You need to have to the right connection, the right people, and know, know, the right people. Really know the big guys in the community, so they can you know speak for you or support you. Because otherwise to just go out there and say I’m here, running. They’ll say, who are you, where you come from? Right? It very, very true, because politics is money, money is politics, and in I’m just an ordinary family father, and it’s kind of, it will take me some time. You know, I wouldn’t say never, never, but I just say that I am still learning, I am meeting people, and now I’m, at this level I’m just a director, I’m just meeting director-level people, but, meeting with the an executive, and other, probably will take me some years. So. But I know there a lot of people out there who already know the whole system, who already know all the connection, and already know all the big guy. Those people probably have a better chance. As long as we pull together. We need to sit at one table and talk about the need of the community and put down our own agenda, our own selfish agenda, and what is best for the community is not what is best for me, or for my wallet.

If they don’t come with that kind of selfish agenda, certainly and Chinatown have better chance and better hope.

Q: Well, for someone who came, who left China at thirteen and then came here at nineteen, with no clear dreams or ambition, I think you have found yourself in a place, um, that you’ve done a lot for the community. Are you surprised, you look back, the last fifteen years, and where you are now?

Ye: Well, actually, I’m very surprised, even though a lot of my friends, my classmates, they also suprised, and how come you can come so fast and so high? I guess the word is passion. I have passion for the immigrant community because myself is a immigrant, and I’ve gone through so many hard times, and once I got here, and like I say, I called Chinatown it’s a cemetery, because I really see a lot of young people dying every day and gangs fight and struggle, and there’s lots of problems in Chinatown, and because my faith, because my religion background, that really help me to understand that humanity is not something selfish, you have to sacrifice. I could go out and do business and probably make a decent amount of money and go on vacation every six months, but I choose to stay in the social work field.

When I look back, I really feel that the kind of reward that I’m getting or I got is far more than money can buy, and it’s a surprise thing for me. I mean, I got an example, I, I enter Hunter Social Work School in the year 2000. I graduated in two and half years later, and I did not pay a penny to get that degree, because I get a scholarship from the Department of Health and Hygiene. And I look back, there’s so many people in New York City competing for that two, twenty slot, and I was one of them. How could I, can I get it, and how do other people when they’re able? Very one simple word: it’s because I care about the community, and I have done a lot for the community, and the, the people who look at that application also see that, and that someone can even do more if they have the M.S.W. degree (Master’s of Social Work). So they choose to, they give to me for free, and get this education.

So that really encourage me, that whatever I have done, even though I am not really get awarded in a sense, cash, but the system itself is awarding me, and they say awarding, and they give some awards to me. And I feel pretty good about that, and I’m so thankful that, in New York City, actually, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene have recognized that, and I’m so, you know, proud of that as well. And so that really is a way to encourage me to continue, that one day, you know, when you need it and people will recognize you and award you for what you have done.

So, yeah, it is a surprise. I never thought that I would come to today and just thought I would also get more educated and I can do something helpful that can help the people and help myself, but this is definitely is a huge reward.

Q: So, my last question, um, since you said when you came to Chinatown, you see Chinatown as a cemetery. Are you optimistic that in your lifetime this cemetery will be filled with, or alive with life rather than, than, a graveyard? Do you think this can be done?

YE: I, you know, I’m a man of hope and a man of faith, I never give up something when we still have a chance, and I think Chinatown itself has a lot of potential, and Chinatown also have lots of potential people and leaders. I do see that, that things have changed, for the past fifteen year. Especially with the Giuliani administration, because he wipe out all the gangs. Other gangster and prosecute all of them, sort of kind of die, die out for a couple of years, and have changed a little bit. It’s not that scary for that era.

But thing, you know, change again. So what I really think that Chinatown, if we really want to say you know, instead of cemetery become a garden, it takes some hard work, and what this hard work mean is not just probably for this generation from leaders, but for the second generation immigrant leaders. Because if this generation cannot break the wall, to sit down and really talk, ask the question of what is best for our community and let’s work together regardless of what is our personal opinion and personal agenda, if they cannot do that, and I don’t think there’s much we can do, but we just keep going as a way in, sometime get a little bit better, sometime get much more worse, but I do place a lot of hope in the second generation immigrant, that the second generation immigrant, I myself was the first generation to consider, but hope the second generation will have enough skills that can speak different languages, Mandarin, English, Cantonese, and a lot of the Fukienese people already speak, just three, I mean the young generation speak the two or three language. I have a couple of staff who are Fukienese who can speak English, Cantonese, Mandarin, have no problem.

So I just you know, want to say that the second generation working with the first generation young immigrant, they can do something much more positive than what we could do in this generation. Because this generation if we still have that old mind-set, it will be hard. But I, I see the second generation it changing. When I talk about the second generation, like ABC, but when I talk about the first young generation, I mean, they come as a teenager, they see all the struggle, all the problem. So if this two generation can work together, I think we certainly can change the Chinatown into a garden, and in terms of keep being a graveyard.

But they, they do need to work together and communicate together, in the sense now in the schools. Sometimes, the ABC still pick on the new immigrant, ”Oh, your English is not so good.” But if those new immigrant children pick on them, “Oh, you call yourself Chinese, shame on you, you don’t even speak Chinese.” And if they continue with that kind of mentality, then that’s another war that they have to deal with. But so, I hope that this generation whatever we cannot do, but at least we can educate our children, educate our second generation or the young immigrant generation to break that wall, to live as a one community, and to work as a one community, and for the better future of Chinatown.

Q: Well, thank you so much for sharing your views and your vision with us today. Is there anything else that you want to say, that I haven’t asked you?

Ye: No, pretty much you asked a lot of good questions, and I think you also, I feel that you also know the community well, and the struggle, of course from the Chinese Museum, I can imagine you probably know the past, you know the present and hopefully you guys will do more to create a better future for Chinatown. Ah, you need, I think history itself can make men wise. Without history, we don’t know what is passed, what had happened. So history is so important, so I hope that more and more second generation and also the new immigrants’ children can have opportunity to really learn more about the history of Chinatown, and to interview like this certainly can help them to understand what kind of struggle, ah, we have gone through and what we are facing, and hopefully in the future this thing will not happen again. And certainly about this Fujianese community, after we have gone thought those September 11th meetings, and with FEMA, with the government official, and federal and local level official, we have told them so much about this community, I strongly believe, this idea of, that if there is another let’s say, incident or disaster that happen in New York City or any part of the country, certainly they probably are more, will be more sensitive, to each community, not just listen to what people are saying, but that they themselves would investigate and understand which community has not been served and why it hasn’t been served. Because, if they’re giving the money out, they certainly need, will need to hold the people who are getting the money accountable and responsible for getting the funds. Because the funds themselves come from different parts of sources, and some from people, ordinary people, and some from rich people, but certainly using that fund to the right community, and to the people that really need it is so important.

So I think after going to all the meetings they certainly have better understanding about the structure of Chinatown themselves, so the working group that they have, from what I heard is that they already have a map out, and yes, when you’re working with immigrant community you have to look beyond this group that you can see. So, so to speak, like Fukienese community, we call them, it’s a minority group within the minority group. So really, it’s need to help.

So, I think, I think that that probably will help us to understand, because Chinese community is one community, but in Chinese community you have another, you know, minority group, like a Fukienese. So I, I kind of feel that other community might have the same struggle, same problem, so I just hope that those government official, the state and local official and people who are giving out funding can be more savvy and more careful when they give out the money and need to hold everyone accountable.

And so that really help all the people who needed help, not just certain people who just happen to know how to get help. But there a lot of people, sometime they don’t even know how to ask for help, because they so, desperate and so badly impacted, like this community, that they don’t even know how to ask for your help, so I hope that this something that I share can be helpful, um, to become part of the history.

Q: Well, the Fujianese community is lucky to have you to help them here.

Well, I’ve been speaking with Henry Ye, of True Light Lutheran Church. Thank you so much for your time, and, and sharing your views with us. And my name is Lan Trinh. Thank you.

Ye: Thank you.

[end of session]

Chinatown Interview: Interview (zh)

<p> 問﹕今天是2004年3月11日。我現在在唐人街Worth Street True Light Church﹐坐在我旁邊的是Henry Ye。你能先講一下你是從哪里來的嗎﹖</p>
<p>問﹕哇﹐[笑] 講得很快。請稍微慢一些。你是在廣州出生的。我能問一下你的年紀嗎﹖</p>

<p>葉﹕是的﹐是很奇怪。但我去的是Lower East Side Preparatory High School﹐他們只接收十七歲以上﹑有初中或高中畢業文憑的學生。這樣﹐他們可以幫助你適應這個社區環境。所以﹐這對我有很大幫助。我認識的很多學生都來自世界各地﹐他們的年齡也差不多是十七﹑十八歲。他們並不比我年輕多少﹐所以我在那個學校還不是覺得很特殊。</p>
<p>葉﹕是的。實際上﹐我剛來的時候是住在唐人街。我住在Christie Street,Christie和Grant Street的交口處。</p>


<p>葉:實際上,在我畢業前不久,我申請了唐人街YMCA的一份工作,是做預防專案的病例策劃,這個專案是爲了幫助那些跟ACS(Administration for Children’s Service)和Center for Children’s Services有麻煩的家庭,或在家庭法院有糾紛的家庭,或其他一些需要幫助的家庭,比如他們的孩子已經輟學,或在輟學邊緣,不知道要加入幫派還是繼續讀書。</p>


<p>葉:主要是有孩子的家庭,正如我剛才所講,他們或者是跟ACS有麻煩,因爲文化差異或是語言障礙,父母管教孩子不當,導致學校或輔導員跟Administration for Children’s Service聯繫,因爲他們擔心會有虐待兒童或忽視兒童的危險。我們就是這樣介入的,我們大多數的病例來自ACS,是ACS推薦來的,主要的準則是你必須讓孩子待在家裏,然後我們做他們的工作,因爲這就是預防的含義,幫助那些家裏有小孩的家庭。</p>




<p>葉:1994年,政府部門估計美國有十萬福建人,紐約的唐人街是他們首選的地方,是所有福建人的第一選擇。在那時,1994年,發生了Golden Venture事件,從那時開始,政府官員才開始關注這個團體。在此之前,他們沒有太注意這些,除非哪個當地、市里的政府官員或警察彙報說這個社區有很多營利什麽的。</p>


<p>葉:這個Lutheran社區服務新生命中心是在一年半前成立的。剛才我也有提過,是在9/11前不久。我的主辦公室離世貿中心只有兩個街口,在9/11的時候,部分撞到世貿中心的客機的機翼尖兒落到我們主辦公室的大樓,所以那座大樓不得不關閉。之後,行政人員和職員就搬到我們的辦公室,那時我們是在Christopher Street, Greenwich Village。他們搬到我們的辦公室後,我們沒有其他辦法,在那之後的一年就搬到布魯克林辦公。</p>
<p>但那些福建人似乎不知道發生了什麽事情,外面有什麽情況。當我問Safe Horizon,如果你對此有瞭解的話,Safe Horizon是負責9/11基金發放的機構。如果您想獲得9/11專案的補償,你必須要通過Safe Horizon,一個補償分配的機構。當你在那裏登記的時候,<br>

你會獲得一張白卡,上面記有你的姓名和基本資訊。你可以用這張白卡申請醫療保險,不管你有沒有身份,你也可以報名參加ESL培訓班和職業培訓班。但當我們問他們在此之後的一年裏有多少福建人參加了這個專案。令人驚訝的是,具Safe Horizon記載,在9/11之後只有一少部分福建人參加了這個專案。</p>
<p>問:那你是說在9/11之後,儘管福建社區是唐人街的一個很大的社區,而且他們離Ground Zero也非常近,你覺得只有一少部分人申請9/11的救濟金是令人驚訝的。</p>

<p>葉:不是。9/11基金是通過FEMA(Federal Emergency Management)設立的專案,申請者必須要證明自己的身份。但其他很多的專案或服務提供的9/11基金是由紅十字會,Salvation Army,以及我們廣大民衆資助的,這些機構捐贈了上百萬美金設立了這個基金會來幫助受害者。這些錢並不全是政府出的錢,是幫助爲了那些需要幫助的人,與有沒有身份無關。只要你符合條件,需要幫助,你就可以領到救濟。</p>

另外一個問題是,當我們去見FEMA和New York Disaster Response Unit,以及其他主要負責機構反映福建社區的需要時,當我們問及他們是否知道福建社區沒有得到重視、被忽視的時候,他們顯得很驚訝,很不理解。他們說,我們劃撥了這麽多錢給華人社區的服務機構。那些華人社區的組織都講如果我們給他們錢他們會幫助華人社區。他們拿到錢之後,就應該把錢分給中國人。他們指的是所有的中國人,還是部分中國人?我們就是這樣在一次開會的時候認識了剛才你提過的官員,Charlie Lai。我們的問題是,福建人屬不屬於華人社區的?屬於。福建社區是不是也是在受害區域內?是的。但爲什麽他們沒有分到呢?這同華人社區其他的人不一樣,因爲他們不講廣東話。</p>

<p>因此,如果你們沒有會講福州話或能夠跟他們交流的員工,那些福建人會怎麽樣?他們當然聽不懂。那麽,因爲這個問題,那些華人社區的機構不能和福建社區交流,又沒有做特別的努力去照顧福建社區,這樣就會形成一條鴻溝。幾年前,Asian-American Federation做了一項調查,顯示福建社區裏只有1.56%的福建人有初中以上的文憑。可以想象98.44%的福建人只有初中或更低的教育程度,也就是說,他們大部分都是文盲。那你怎樣才能和社區裏的文盲交流呢?靠口頭上的宣傳。</p>
<p>在一年之內,從2002年11月到2003年11月,我們的目標是幫助一百個家庭,因爲我們只從紐約Lutheran Disaster Response,即LDRNY,得到一小部分款項。我們只得到很少的款項來開始這個專案,開始的時候才有兩個人。爲了幫助這個社區,我們請了福建的員工,主要負責宣傳教育工作。我們就是這樣開始的,逐漸有了一些客人,三個月後我們已經有了四百個客人。在第九個月,有一千兩百個。比我們預計或計劃服務的人數多很多。可見這個社區的需求很大。</p>
<p>葉:是的。教會本身是廣東的教會,我們利用從LDRNY申請到的款項服務福建社區,因爲已經有服務廣東社區的社區組織,“已經”是因爲他們也講廣東話,他們服務那個社區已經有很長時間,但是福建人卻什麽也沒有。就好象9/11的灰塵還在覆蓋著這個社區。人們還是看不到這個社區的需要,或者即使看到,他們也並不關心。這就是爲什麽當我同Charlie Lai談到這個社區的需要的時候,他也是非常贊同。我管他們叫做“需要更多幫助的社區”,Charlie Lai稱其爲“沒有得到幫助的社區”。這是非常現實的,爲什麽一年之後,有一千、一萬多個廣東人已經拿到了白卡,已經完成了各種培訓,已經得到了所有的幫助、救濟金,已經得到抵押租金幫助---一切他們能夠申請的,他們都已經申請了。<br>



<p>因此,幫助他們從9/11相關的專案申請到幫助會減輕家庭裏的緊張。觀察到他們有這些需要之後,我們就開始提供這些服務來填平這個鴻溝。我們New Life Center在12月12日舉行了一次活動,到場的有一百多個來自社區、市里的民衆,以及聯邦、勞動部的官員。我們已經跟公衆宣佈,我們並不想競爭,只是想填溝架橋,這樣華人社區的組織可以通過我們幫助到福建社區。這就是我們要做的。直到現在,我們還是在這樣做,我們把上百個客人介紹給那些社區組織。在某種程度上,我們做一些篩選,他們必須懂普通話。那些組織有講普通話的員工,我們會把他們介紹給客人。當然,如果他們只講福州話,那些組織又沒有講福州話的員工,我們就沒有必要介紹給他們。我們只有有限的資源,能幫助他們的話,我們就會儘量幫助他們。</p>
<p>葉:我們還有9/11基金的資助。我知道我們的專案曾一度終止過,因爲9/11基金剩下的錢不夠了。但自從我們設立了New Life Center開始爲福建社區服務,我們從LDNRY-一個私人機構,實際上是Lutheran基金會-得到的有限的資助開始,在一年之後,我們服務的人數遠遠超出了預計的數目。我們把這些問題反映到了9/11基金會,他們也意識到這個社區被忽視了。於是,他們從去年開始又撥給我們一些錢。當今年他們讓我們再提交建議的時候,我們又這樣做了,然後他們又提供了資助。因爲這些資助,我們才得以繼續幫助這些沒有得到幫助的人。</p>

但福建移民社區來到這個國家的時間不長,他們不知道法律規定如何。他們很難進入政治舞臺,但很多廣東人在這裏待了很長時間,他們知道怎樣反映華人社區的問題。但大多時候,我們的觀點有分歧。在過去,我們唐人街有競選市議員的候選人。我們一共有三位候選人在同一個社區拉選票。但最終沒有一個勝出,那到底是誰贏了?聽說這次又是Ellen Garson被選上了。從唐人街的歷史上看,我認爲我們應該好好反省,要認真想一想唐人街最大的利益是什麽,而不是我自己或我的團體的最大利益,而是整個兒唐人街。如果我們的呼聲只是來自不同的地方,那些政治人士根本就不會理睬。如果這個社區不團結起來,我們的精力和力量是很有限的。</p>
<p>唐人街是離Ground Zero很近的一個社區。如果你做一些調查研究,跟Salvation Army和紅十字會得到9/11基金比起來,爲什麽提供給唐人街的資助這麽有限?有多少錢真正投入到華人社區重建唐人街?我們講了這麽多要重建唐人街,但究竟有多少錢投入到唐人街來幫助我們的社區,幫助那些受到影響和創傷的人?如果你看到這些統計數位的話,你會發現是有多麽的少,多麽的微不足道。這又是爲什麽呢?</p>
唐人街是屬於Lower East Side的一部分。這麽多年來,作爲華人,我認爲的確是Lower East Side的一部分,因爲每個社區都有自己的一座山,每個組織又是每座小山上的一堆火。如果這堆火只是一根蠟燭的話,根本就起不了什麽作用,但如果你能夠把這些小山都放在一起的話,會形成一座大山,如果你把這些小堆的火放在一起的話,就會看到一座大山上的火。難道整個兒Tri-State Area看不到這個地區的火焰嗎?對不對?世貿中心受到襲擊,全世界都知道。爲什麽?因爲它這麽高,這麽有名,又遭到襲擊。煙霧升到高高的天空。全世界都能夠看到。假設唐人街的一座建築物著了火,也許住在布魯克林的人不知道,或者住在唐人街東面的人不知道東百老彙有座樓著火了,對不對?所以,我認爲問題的關鍵是要團結起來形成一個團體,再爲這個團體做呼籲。但現時,我個人認爲我們沒有作爲一個團體講話,只是分散在各處,這就是爲什麽我們社區沒有得到合理的幫助。</p>
<p>葉:主要的問題。如果只有十種不同的方言,這還不算是一個克服不了的困難。但華人社區需要認識到的唯一的問題是,如果我們不團結,我們永遠是老樣子,年復一年,在過去的十五年裏,我看到華人社區的一些發展,但發展還是不大。比如說Canal Street的交通燈,你經常看到有車撞到老年人,因爲他們行動緩慢,而那些車輛又趕著過Holland Tunnel。這個問題已經提出有好幾年了。這種情況有沒有得到改善?沒有。爲什麽沒有?因爲唐人街本身就沒有人管。我們反映給了政府官員。那政府官員說,我爲什麽要爲你們做這些?你們爲我做了些什麽?在我競選的時候,有多少人選了我,選了我的黨?哦,對不起,不多。那你現在又爲什麽來找我?</p>


<p>當我回顧過去,我的確感到我已經或正在得到的回報要遠遠超過金錢所能夠購買的,這的確令我很驚訝。我給你舉一個例子,我從2002年開始在Hunter Social Work School學習。兩年半後畢業,我自己沒有花一分錢讀那個學位,因爲我獲得Department of Health and Hygiene的獎學金。我現在回想起來,當時紐約市有那麽多人申請那二十個名額,我就是其中的一個。爲什麽我能夠得到,其他人也都很有能力?就是這麽簡單一句話:因爲我關心社區,我已經爲社區做了很多。而且做決定的人也已經看到<br>

如果我有MSW(Master of Social Work)學位的話,我會做更多的貢獻。所以,他們把獎學金發給了我,讓我免費受教育。</p>
<p>這的確對我是很大的鼓勵,無論我做了些什麽,即使在經濟上我沒有獲得補償,但整個兒的系統是在補償我,他們給了我獎學金。我自己也非常高興,也非常感激,我的工作受到了紐約市,實際上是Department of Health and Mental Hygiene的肯定,我自己也以此爲榮。這也鼓勵我繼續努力,有一天,如果你需要,人們會肯定你的工作,獎賞你所做的一切。</p>

<p>我的意思是說,第二代移民與年輕的第一代移民合作,他們能夠做的事情要比我們這一代人多得多。因爲如果我們這代人仍然保持那老一套思想的話,我們很難做出什麽成績出來。但我看到我們第二代移民的觀念在轉變。第二代移民就是那些在美國土生土長的中國人後裔(ABC, American Born Chinese),我所說的年輕的第一代移民是指那些在十幾歲的時候就來美國的移民,他們目睹過這些移民的奮鬥和存在的問題。因此,如果這兩代人能在一起合作的話,我肯定他們會把唐人街改變成爲一個花園,而不是一塊墓地。</p>

<p>我今天採訪的是來自Lutheran Church True Light的Henry Ye。非常感謝你能抽出時間跟我們分享你的觀點。我是鄭愛蘭。謝謝你。</p>


“Henry Ye,” September 11 Digital Archive, accessed March 31, 2020,