Thursday, August 3, 2017

40 years ago, the International Hotel fell


NANCY WONG
3000 protestors ringed the hotel in an unsuccessful attempt to save the International Hotel and its elderly Filipino and Chinese  tenants.


FORTY YEARS ago, when the elderly tenants of the International Hotel in San Francisco were evicted, a chapter in Asian/American history ended ... and a new chapter began.

The plight of the elderly Filipinos and Chinese who were fighting to keep their home in the last remaining block of Manilatown sparked a generation of Asian/Americans more keenly aware of the discrimination faced by earlier generations,  and the need to tell the story of the manongs to future generations.

The struggle to save the hotel and prevent the final eviction -- in many ways -- was Asian America's Selma. Activists encircled the I-Hotel block four-deep. Police descended on the three-story brick structure by horse, truncheon and sledgehammers. 

The decade-long back-and-forth struggle in the streets, courts and city hall  gave birth to the affordable housing movement repeated in cities across the U.S. and beyond the AAPI community.
The I-Hotel struggle, along with Filipino farmworker-instigated Grape Strike in 1965, was one of the catalysts for Asian/Americans becoming part of the civil rights movement sweeping over the nation in the 1960s and 1970s giving birth to Asian/American history being taught in our colleges and inspired the formation of a host of political, civil rights and legal organizations advocating for the community.

The Asian/American activists who rallied behind the elderly tenants, ate with them, listened to their stories and linked arms with thousands of others to prevent the eviction, like ripples in a pond, became affordable housing advocates, politicians, filmmakers, medical professionals, union organizers, teachers, artists, lawyers, writers and journalists.

As I was covering the entire struggle for the Philippine News, one of the other journalists doing the same thing for community newspapers was a fresh-scrubbed, straight out of college, Randall Yip. Now a television producer for one of the local stations, he also curates a Internet news site, AsAm News. He covered the I-Hotel struggle for two Asian/American publications, East West and the San Francisco Journal, both of which have ceased publishing.

He interviewed some of the key people who took part in trying to save the I-Hotel. Read his story here.
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On Friday night August 4 from 6 – 9 p.m., a 40th anniversary panel discussion will be held at the Manilatown Heritage Foundation to commemorate the 40th anniversary. A free screening of The Fall of the I-Hotel will also be held.