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Small Business, Sanctuary, and Survival LES Short Films Screening and Panel with City Lore’s Urban Explorers, public artist Tomie Arai, chef Olesia Lew and fifth-generation small business owner Mei Lum

May 26 @ 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM



Join us for a live stream film screening of two urgent short documentaries, Sweet Home Chinatown? and Flavors of New York, produced within the City Lore youth program Urban Explorers, directed by Raquel Almazan. The screenings will be followed by a panel discussion between the young filmmakers and featured voices from the films, including public artist Tomie Arai, chef Olesia Lew and and fifth-generation small business owner Mei Lum.

The conversation will address small businesses survival in the face of gentrification and COVID, anti-Asian violence and bias, and the future of the Lower East Side as a sanctuary for immigrant communities and independent enterprise.

This event is held in celebration of Lower East Side History Month! See more content and the full schedule of events at  www.peoplesles.org

URBAN EXPLORERS is a summer and after school program that serves High School students. The program introduces students to a variety of art mediums (documentation skills, dance, music, oral history, drumming, hip hop art practices and visual art mediums) through the social inquiry of the Lower East Side, while being responsive to the interests of students. The program engages young people in exploring, documenting, interpreting, and advocating for people and places in their communities and city. Students gain skills in using documentary tools, including audio and video recording, photography, and interviewing. Working in small groups they will create documentaries or interpretive artworks about the chosen subjects.

“Flavors of New York”

Directed by: Alice La, Sumya Abida and Esther Bistricer

Teaching Artist Mentor: Suzette Burton, Raquel Almazan

SYNOPSIS: Over centuries of modernization and development, the idea of food has become closely intertwined with the cultural identity of individuals and communities. How do three New York City restaurants embody the preservation of culture through food and highlight the immigrant experience in the US? This film explores the intersection of personal immigrant narratives and food culture, as well as the response of small businesses during the covid pandemic. 

The project began as an exploration of diverse Lower East Side restaurants, their cultural impact and legacy in New York City. The onset of the COVID pandemic shifted the film’s core intent, leading to nuanced discoveries of trans-cultural experiences of immigrant workers. Using the universal recognition of the essentiality of food, we follow the stories of food workers as they navigate their lives during a time of economic crisis and outbreaks of anti-Asian hate crimes. Our film is interested in the reparative potential of art: revealing the significance of ethnic lives behind the myriad of food that Americans eat everyday. 

“Sweet Home Chinatown?”

Directed by: Sumya Abida, Zawadi Boyce, Tina Gao, Ningxi Pan and Michelle Villalba

Teaching Artist Mentor: Mei Kazama, Raquel Almazan

SYNOPSIS: “Sweet Home Chinatown?” is a short documentary depicting modern day Chinatown in New York City. Through interviews with art activists such as Chinatown Art Brigade, and residents from the Chinatown community, the film uses personal and collective narratives to highlight the neighborhood’s struggles with gentrification. Oral history from Chinese immigrant residents such as Gary Lum, fourth-generation owner of family antiques shop, offer insight to the ways in which historical cultural values of immigrant business families are reinvented to flourish in contemporary times. This film investigates how immigrant culture is preserved, not negotiated in relation to the American landscape. 

This was a collaborative effort of youth filmmakers at City Lore and several arts organizations, including Chinatown Art Brigade (based in the Lower East Side) who are all POC from diverse cultural backgrounds.  

As local community members, our film is part of the movement to sustain the vibrancy of the community, our allyship in resisting gentrification, as two members in the group identify as Chinese immigrant residents in the area. 

We sought to address assimilation, survival and the legacy of culture through art making and advocacy; to center artists’ way of thinking and asking universal questions of where we all belong.


The Urban Explorers program is made possible by the Pinkerton Foundation, with additional support from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and the New York State Council on the Arts.


May 26
6:00 PM - 8:00 PM
Event Category:


City Lore



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