Photo by James Tran

Neon Was Never Brighter: Tribute to Chinatown

As the first Chinatown in the United States with the largest Chinese community outside of Asia, San Francisco Chinatown is one of America’s 10 greatest neighborhoods and an icon of Asian American political power and pride. It is home to immigrant families, small businesses, restaurants, and banquet halls. It is a place where people can enjoy diverse cuisine and learn about Asian American contributions to multiracial democracy in America.

Unfortunately, the neighborhood has been devastated by COVID 19, racially motivated violence against Asians, soaring unemployment and the decimation of restaurants and small businesses due to the pandemic and xenophobia. To heal and rebound, San Francisco Chinatown must adapt. Now is the time to bring people together to spark discourse on issues that are relevant, communicate a new narrative, and celebrate creative expressions at the intersection of community, culture, and media.

In celebration of the announcement of Edge on the Square, the region’s first Asian Pacific Islander contemporary arts & media destination, opening in 2025 at 800 Grant Street, the Chinatown Media and Arts Collaborative (CMAC) presents Neon Was Never Brighter: A Glimpse Into The Future, on the evening of Saturday, October 23, 2021 from 7pm – 10pm throughout Chinatown. The free event harnesses the power of art and culture to contribute to the social and economic recovery of Chinatown, and the shaping of a more inclusive and just America.

CMAC is an unprecedented partnership that formed to establish Edge on the Square. Its founding members include Chinese for Affirmative Action, the Center for Asian American Media, the Chinese Culture Center & Foundation of San Francisco, the Chinatown Community Development Center, Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation, and the Chinese Historical Society of America. The collaborative sees the new platform as a transformative addition to Chinatown, complementing the area’s existing restaurants and businesses and spurring economic development. The six founding organizations represent best practices in their field and each contributes their expertise to ensure a successful launch of Edge on the Square, which is slated to open in Spring 2025.

Neon Was Never Brighter, begins at 7pm on October 23, 2021 with a procession created by artist, Summer Mei Ling Lee featuring musicians, including Li Ka Sing 李家聲 (famous singer) who will sing a traditional Chinese song (acapella) about victory to co-start the procession at 800 Grant, as well as ritual-keepers, artists, performers such as Lion Dance Me, and community members, including youth from Community Youth Center, who will perform acts of light, hope, and joy for Chinatown spaces that have suffered through the last two years. Artistic surprises along the procession route include a collaborative project by renowned trendsetting perfumer, Yosh Han and artist Billy Ola Hutchinson, for the creative distribution of Han’s “longevity scent”.

Curated by Candace Huey, the Neon Was Never Brighter event unfolds throughout the evening with a series of artist activations across Chinatown, guided by the theme of Chinatown personified: See Me, Hear Me, Sense Me, Know Me, Remember Me and Join Me. “The entirety of the CMAC preview event, Neon Was Never Brighter,” states Huey, “focuses on the notion of Chinatown “personified.” It celebrates this unique neighborhood identity by symbolically giving it a face, body, and voice. Via its people and place, Chinatown breathes and lives. We seek to feel its pulse, still beating as a testament to longevity and posterity.”