Thursday, April 13, 2017

Photo by Bob Lee

On April 9th, the Downtown Community Television Centre organized a community event to commemorate Peter Kwong, who had passed away on March 17. He was widely recognized for his passionate commitment to human rights and social justice. All photographs were taken by Bob Lee, who attended the event.


Peter Kwong (1941-2017) was Distinguished Professor of Urban Affairs and Planning at Hunter College, as well as Professor of Sociology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Mr. Kwong not only was a pioneer in Asian American studies, but also a leading scholar of immigration. Mr. Kwong published many books that explored Chinatown, Chinese immigration and labor, and Chinese politics. He has written numerous books, including Chinese America: The Untold Story of America’s Older New Community, Forbidden Workers: Chinese Illegal Immigrants and American Labor, Chinese Americans: An Immigrant Experience, The New Chinatown, and Chinatown, New York: Labor and Politics 1930-1950

He also contributed to several English language publications, such as The National, the International Herald Tribune, the Globe and Mail, and Village Voice. He wrote several articles that touched upon controversial topics that not only effected the Asian American community, but also the entire world. On July 17, 1990, Mr. Kwong wrote an article entitled “The Year of the Horse,” which investigated the growing control of the heroin trade by Chinese organized crime. He also wrote an outstanding, eye-opening piece (that was published on June 9, 1992,) about the 1992 Los Angeles Riots: in his article “The First Multiracial Riots,” he argues that contemporary media reports fundamentally misunderstood the L.A Riots of 1992 as simply a “Black vs. White” phenomenon, when it was actually “the first multiracial class riot in American history.” Both of his articles were nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.
In an email, Joseph P. Viteritti, the Chairman of Hunter’s Urban Policy and Planning Department, wrote that Professor Kwong “challenges the notion that Asians are a model minority, revealing in his research widespread class divisions, poverty, exploitation, drug abuse and organized crime — all of which were exacerbated by decades of discrimination by a majority white society."

In addition to writing, Mr. Kwong also chronicled the Asian American experience through documentary films. He covered similar issues, ranging from a market in Chinatown to Chinese organized crime in New York, discussed in his articles and books, through his films.

Chinatown Food Co-Op
Price List
A Consumer 
Snakeheads: The Chinese Mafia and the New Slave Trade
240 Chinese Remain in Jail
Mr. Kwong produced the 2010 Oscar-nominated short documentary film China’s Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province, which depicted the Chinese government’s inept response to a catastrophic earthquake in 2008 that killed tens of thousands of people. The film was broadcast on HBO in 2009.

127 Children Were Killed

She Was in the 5th Grade
Numerous colleagues, friends, artists, and enthusiasts, as well as family members, attended the event, some reminiscing about their experiences with Mr. Kwong and the impact he had left on them, and the lives of others.

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Peter Kwong was a man who highlighted the raw and complex history of the Asian American experience --  he went beyond stereotypes, beyond the media, and beyond established assumptions. He created rich and detailed pieces of literature and artwork that highlighted the specific and complex narratives within Chinatown, that can simultaneously be gain empathy and support by other communities. His work reminds us of many things: that the beautiful can be flawed; that the vulnerable holds strength; that the divided can find unity; and that the powerless can become the powerful.

Rest in Peace, Peter Kwong
Original Photo by Zheng Lianjie

For more information about Mr. Kwong's Pulitzer Prize-nominated articles:
To watch the full version of China’s Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province
*Please disregard the first few seconds of the video

Different Themes
Written by Lovely

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