The grassroots campaign raises funds for businesses in New York’s Chinatowns and fights coronavirus-related racism. A local activist hopes to bring it here.
Back in February, Mayor Jim Kenney sat down for lunch in Chinatown. Though Covid-19 had yet to slam the city, news of the virus abroad was already driving customers away from Asian-American eateries. He went to show his support and dispel racist myths that those businesses were less safe than others—and, of course, enjoy some tasty shrimp dumplings.
Around the same time, up in New York City, law student Winn Periyasamy and her friends grabbed dinner in Manhattan’s Chinatown, for all the same reasons.
But it wasn’t long until the crew, a group of self-described policy advocates, began hatching a scheme. What if they organized a food crawl to bring business to Chinatown while also raising awareness about emerging racism and xenophobia?
Dubbed “Dumplings Against Hate” and held on February 17, the event was a rousing success—so much so that it spawned a follow-up food crawl four days later in Sunset Park. But just as Periyasamy and her fellow organizers began planning more events, the city shut down.
That’s where Amy Zhang comes in. A native of Hong Kong and a segment producer for Netflix’s Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj, Zhang is passionate about civic engagement, especially in Asian-American communities. When she saw Whitney Hu, a candidate for City Council in Sunset Park, tweeting about loss of business in Chinatown, she messaged her and asked how she could help.
Turns out, Hu is a member of Periyasamy’s organizing group. Hu invited Zhang to join one of their calls on March 15, and Zhang pitched an idea she’d been mulling over: a fun and interactive website that mimics a dim sum menu, but instead of offering food, it allows concerned citizens to donate to struggling Chinatown businesses.
The team loved the idea, and thus, “Dumplings Against Hate” went digital. The website links to a GoFundMe that directs donations to Asian Americans for Equality’s (AAFE) Emergency Small Business Relief Fund. The fund is distributed to businesses in all nine of New York City’s Chinatowns.
“Chinatowns have always been there for you,” the GoFundMe description reads. “When you were drunk at 3 a.m. and desperately needed dumplings, that restaurant was always open. And when you needed a brunch place for nine friends, you knew that dim sum place had it covered. Now, will you show up for NYC’s Chinatowns?”
Donors choose the amount they want to give by ordering pretend “meals” at different price points. Each meal is accompanied by an illustration designed by the organizers’ artist friends. The cheapest option, “Har Gow,” or shrimp dumplings, comes to $5, while the priciest, “The Banquet,” totals $50. Donors can also type in a custom amount on the GoFundMe page.
In moving the campaign online, Zhang and the other organizers still wanted to maintain one of the main motivating factors behind the original food tour: community-building.
To do so—and to provide an additional incentive to contribute—the group set up a “Saturday Night Dinner” over Zoom. Anyone who donates is sent a link to join and encouraged to buy takeout or delivery from their local Chinatown so they can share a virtual meal with friends and strangers.