Allow me to be sentimental a little bit because the morning temperature is still below 75 degrees Fahrenheit. It will be hard to stay creative when you are busy wiping sweat from your forehead.
Anyway, a couple of days ago, another class of students at my old high school – Carver High School of Engineering and Science (E&S) – graduated. I was not there witnessing the students throwing them hats emphatically to the roof, but all Facebook pictures that grads had posted online definitely allowed be a part of the festivity. Coincidentally, exactly two years ago, I was like just anyone of them and also walked through the same pomp and circumstance. Indeed, seeing them finished high school and headed to write the next chapter of their lives gave me cheers. My high school was founded on the idea that people of color, could also become scientists and engineers through education, like George Washington Carver; and having that grand scheme in mind for four years straight made the whole graduation thing more meaningful and ritual than it is supposed to be. Don’t take me wrong, I am saying it with full positivity and honesty. I remembered when my class graduated, my African American history teacher told us that graduating from E&S was like saying, “things are tough, but we’ve made it.” The whole “made it” thing become extremely relevant when you consider that we are in Philadelphia. Right now I am a college student and probably will see the world through the darker lens (not a pair of bougie sunglasses that I am talking here). But yeah, even now I can still use some of that optimism and courage from high school times and tell the world that I am going to “make it” one day.
Two days ago I went to a pop-up tour in Chinatown, and what I had learned was quite unexpected. I knew Chinatown, at least I thought I know Chinatown, because of the social attachment that I had developed with this area. I mean it is Chinatown, and who would not like a place to get boba that is like 30 minutes away by train? Moreover, I also had taken courses discussing and studying the history of Philadelphia Chinatown. On paper, I thought I might be overqualified for this endeavor.
But it turned out that I had many things that I did not know at all about Chinatown. For example, one of the karaoke places that I went along with some Penn folks was actually the site of where the first Chinese-owned business (actually a laundromat) opened in the city. Starting from that alone but brave laundromat owner, more and more Chinese men and women began to settle here and found their fortune (“gold mountain,” as early Chinese would describe). In other words, the place that I frequented for entertainment was the genesis of what we know as Chinatown today, and I frankly did not know that at all. Interestingly, there was a plague on the wall and a pole erected by the State of Pennsylvania, to commemorate the birth of Chinatown. But for too long, I was busy to take notice of them.
It reminded me of an old trip to MOCA ( Museum of Chinese in America) in New York Chinatown. New York Chinatown is a lot more commercial and dazzling than Philly one, and the Asian folks there are far more New York than typical New Yorker that you are going to meet in Midtown, Manhattan. However, the Museum sat at a super quiet alley in Chinatown, and the interior decoration brought the weight of history instantly. There were exhibitions of old Chinese drug stores and the current one on the gambling problem in Chinese immigrant communities. For a moment, I did not have to think about train schedule, restaurants and dollar stores, but just focused on where I was from. I think I do get tired from time to time, and thinking about the past reminds that I should not lose things, while I am traveling.