Meet the 12 AAPI heroes featured in Chinatown San Francisco’s new mural

San Francisco chinatown AAPI mural
  • The “AAPI Community Heroes Mural” created by the Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco has been unveiled in the city’s Chinatown.
  • The mural was created in collaboration with the Wells Fargo Community Mural Program and honors 12 Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) figures who have often gone unrecognized in U.S. history.
  • The organizers saw the mural as an opportunity to fight racism and misinformation amid the rise of anti-Asian hate during the pandemic.

A new mural honoring 12 community Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) was unveiled in San Francisco’s Chinatown on Wednesday morning.

The “AAPI Community Heroes Mural” was created by the Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco in collaboration with the Wells Fargo Community Mural Program. Located at the corner of Jackson Street and Grant Avenue, the public artwork aims to educate and recognize educators, artists, activists and community leaders who have helped transform the world.

The concept of the mural emerged during the rise of anti-Asian hate during the pandemic. The organizers said they wanted to fight racism and misinformation by celebrating AAPI leaders who often go unrecognized in U.S. history.

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Five thousand students located in the Bay Area were asked to nominate candidates, while community panelists chose which of the candidates to include in the mural.

 “We’re so proud ahead of Asian American Islander Pacific heritage month to be able to unveil this mural that shares our community stories and uplifts our Asian American heroes,” Jenny Leung, executive director of the Chinese Cultural Center, said.

“It’s been a long process, but it’s been very intentional,” Wendy Liu, the Chinese Cultural Center’s engagement associate, said.

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The AAPI community figures included in the mural are:

  1. Tiffany Long

Long is an elementary educator at the Chinese American International School in San Francisco. She was nominated by students because of her activism in the school’s Stop AAPI Hate march.

  1. Wong Kim Ark

Ark was born to Chinese immigrants in 1873 in San Francisco. The United States v. Wong Kim Ark (1898) case determined the 14th Amendment through the Supreme Court, granting birthright citizenship to anybody born in the U.S. regardless of race or nationality.

  1. Layton Doung

Doung was a fourth-generation Chinese American who introduced the Yangge dance to the West Portal Elementary School Chinese Immersion Program. The dance, which includes stilt walking, drumming, ribbon and fan dancing, continues to be performed at the annual Chinese New Year Parade.

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  1. Cynthia Choi

Choi is a Korean American activist and community leader. She co-founded Stop AAPI Hate, a nonprofit organization which tracks incidents of hate and discrimination against AAPIs in the U.S. She is also the co-executive director of Chinese for Affirmative Action.

  1. Ruth Asawa

Asawa was a Japanese American modernist sculptor who developed looped-wire sculptures that are now displayed in the country’s most prestigious art institutions. She is also known for her activism in education and co-founded the Alvarado School Arts Workshop in 1968.

  1. Yuri Kochiyama

Fueled by her family’s experience in a Japanese American concentration camp, Kochiyama became a civil rights activist who dedicated her life to social justice and human rights movements. 

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  1. Judy Yung

Yung was an award-winning Asian American scholar and writer who wrote books about Chinese American history and Chinese women in America. She has recorded the history of the first Chinese who immigrated to the U.S. in the mid-1800s.

  1. Caroline Cabading

Cabading is Manilatown Heritage Foundation’s current board president and executive director. She helped open the International Hotel Manilatown Center on the first floor of the International Hotel Senior Residences, which honors the legacy of historic Manilatown and the International Hotel Eviction. 

  1. Jeanette Lazam 

Lazam, a social justice artist and housing activist, was a key organizer for the 150 elderly Filipino and Chinese tenants in the International Hotel that was slated for demolition in 1977. Lazam and more than 3,000 activists gained international media attention after locking in arms to save the Manilatown remnant. While the building was destroyed, it was rebuilt in 2005 and was named the International Hotel Senior Residences.

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  1. Reverend Norman Fong

Fong was the former executive director of the Chinatown Community Development Center, which has rehabilitated or developed thousands of affordable housing units since its founding.  He also helped develop innovative, influential methods of managing single-room occupancies.

  1. Betty Ann Ong

Ong was an American Airlines flight attendant who became the first person to alert the country of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The 9/11 Commission declared Ong a hero for relaying vital information on the radiophone for over 20 minutes. San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown declared Sept. 21, 2001 as “Betty Ann Ong Day.”

  1. Alok Vaid-Menon

Vaid-Menon, the child of Malaysian and Indian immigrants, is a transgender and nonbinary writer, performance artist and media personality who promotes transgender rights and mental health around the world.  

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Feature Image via Wells Fargo

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