On Saturday, November 17th, Candice Coyan from American Express and I (along with our family members) represented Partners in Preservation (PiP) at the Pui Tak Center's community celebration. After Chinese harp music performed by students, the program began with a short video they had prepared to tell the story of how they won the popular vote and got the big award, mainly as a THANK YOU to the room full of people who had voted regularly and supported their efforts. The video was prepare by one of their students who also teaches computer skills.
Three speakers were invited to tell why they voted in support of PuiTak and why they believed the building should be preserved. Each of these were people who had "grown up" in the building attending classes or participating in social events with their parents. The first was Helen Lee, the head of the Chinese chamber of commerce and a first-generation Chinese American. The second was a gentleman who was a third-generation immigrant family member who had studied Chinese at Pui Tak every day after American school. The third was a first-generation college student who spoke in Chinese; she had taken ESL classes in the building after immigrating as a teenager with her family. Each speech was translated in segments by the outreach minister of the Chinese Christian Union Church which now owns the building. It was very moving.
I then spoke briefly about PiP and expressed appreciation for the manner in which the Chinese American community of Chicago had embraced the program and committed themselves to historic preservation, and Candice followed with remarks on the goals of the program and AmEx's commitment to the cause. Candice announced that the outstanding performance of the Chinese American community in the public vote had so impressed the advisory committee that they had awarded the project $110K - more than they had requested. Then there was a presentation of the Big Check which Candice had prepared.
The evening continued with more music, dim sum (yum yum), and chit chat. Many people came up to me and expressed appreciation as one might expect, but I was very impressed by the younger generation who spoke passionately about the importance of the building's preservation as an anchor, not just of Chinese culture, but of their communal experience in Chicago.
-- Royce Yeater
Royce Yeater is director of the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Midwest Office.