This is an overdue report from the retreat I attended, late November in Salinas Chinatown:
Great meeting (part of our development retreat) at the Learning Center on Soledad St. in Salinas Chinatown. Finally met Dorothy & Tom Fujita-Rony. Lengthy talk-story session w/Chinatown old-timers. Met some of the homeless folks who live in Chinatown, and even some of the cops who have the Chinatown beat. The people who were encamped in front of the Republic Cafe door respected our request to detach their tents from the front door, so we could go inside (regularly, we hope). Long talks about the homeless issue. The police don’t have answers. The City Council member didn’t have answers.
We need the City of Salinas to acknowledge and understand what we’re doing, and give their support to help w/the homeless issue. We need to disrupt a negative historical pattern here. To do that, we will partner better w/some of the other service projects in the area, and come up with a clear-cut plan to help provide better and safer services for the homeless in Chinatown, which will also allow us to have better and safer access to what will eventually become the museum, what Linda Batwin described as a “living cultural center.”*
We realized today that we are not going to preserve memories (only); but to create a space where the multi-layered and interconnected culture of the Chinatown neighborhood can thrive and change (Salinas Chinatown is different from some others in that Chinese, Japanese, Filipinos, Mexicans and some African Americans lived, worked, and played in the one neighborhood side-by-side). “Urban renewal” and the creation of one-way streets (away from downtown Salinas) choked off the vibrant energy of the area, creating a weirdly timeless blight; the concrete walls of the underpass and the Southern Pacific’s black, iron-barred fence at the railroad tracks further isolated it; I suspect that much of the downtown Salinas community would like to forget it; but that energy is still there; we could definitely feel it at today’s meeting.
*Update: we did come up with a plan, and presented it to Salinas City Council in early December. We received their unanimous support. But what this means in terms of real change is yet to be seen. So we keep on pushing.
This post is part of the thread: Salinas Chinatown Museum Project – an ongoing story on this site. View the thread timeline for more context on this post.