Chinatown Pride: Celebrating Queer Chinese Culture
On March 25 from 6-7 pm San Francisco Pride and the Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco will join forces to present Chinatown Pride, an hour long online celebration of Queer Chinese culture. The event will serve as a fundraiser for both organizations and as a gesture of solidarity between two communities that have been historically marginalized.
Described as a combination drag show, video compilation and a tour of neighborhood landmarks, Chinatown Pride takes on a particular poignancy in the light of the violent attacks which Asians and Asian-Americans have been subjected to in recent months. The show is an expansion of Women: From Her to Here, a multimedia exhibition currently on display in the Chinese Culture Center’s gallery space inside Chinatown’s Hilton Hotel. Women: From Her to Here features works by female and LGBTQ+ artists not only from the Bay Area, but from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and elsewhere.
Among the offerings in Chinatown Pride will be a drag performance by Pearl Teese, which was shot on the pedestrian bridge connecting the Hilton Hotel to Portsmouth Square. The video was shot by Queer Latinx filmmaker Stephen Quinones, who spoke to BAS about what the evening will entail.
“It is a collections of shorts and performance, basically to highlight the culture and the beauty of Chinatown in San Francisco,” Quinones said.
Quinones agrees that there’s a need to raise Asian visibility due to the violence that the community has been subjected to recently. He drew parallels between anti-Asian violence and anti-LGBT violence.
“Being targeted for who you are is something that we’re pretty familiar with,” he said.
He recalls doing some Google research about the bridge on Kearny Street which goes from the Chinese Culture Center and the searches that came up were “is the Chinatown Bridge worth seeing” and “is Chinatown safe to visit?”
“These are the most popular search terms for Chinatown currently,” he said. “To me that’s just crazy. I can’t even believe that that’s what is there. It’s really insane, especially with recent events, like what just happened yesterday (the shootings and killing of eight Asian people in Georgia). It’s heartbreaking.”
Quinones pointed out that it’s hard to change people’s minds.
“You really have to work, and you really have to keep your head up and not get discouraged or not lose your faith and your esteem, and being fully who you are and not being afraid to be the person you would like to be for the world at large,” he said.
Quinones says that the Chinese Culture Center is worth checking out. The space features various kinds of art exhibits, videos, sculptures, and paintings. The venue has a rotating gallery of different works which represent various aspects of Chinese culture. The current exhibition features a number of Queer artists and is curated by a Queer person.
Chinatown Pride will include a tour of various historical spots around Chinatown. Some of these videos were shot by the Pride organization and some by Quinones and his production team. The tour includes a chat with Kevin Chan of the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory.
“It’s kind of like a mini-documentary,” said Quinones. “Just kind of summarizing history, what they’ve been through, Covid, and the changes to the neighborhood, just speaking to that as far as what they’ve seen and how much Chinatown has changed and grown. We go to each location and ask the same series of questions to get a broader understanding of what they’re going through. A little bit of light at the end of the tunnel, that they’re feeling the turnaround slowly happening. In connection with Pride they’ve extended their time and their space to us.”
There will be a walking tour of the neighborhood with Lenore Chinn, a well known artist and photographer and a Queer activist. Among other things, she talks about Bernice Bing, an out lesbian painter. There will also be an interview with Brandon Jew, owner of the popular Chinatown eatery Mister Jiu’s.
One of the evening’s highlights will no doubt be the drag performance by Pearl Teese.
“Pearl is African-American and Chinese descent,” said Quinones. “We shot her performing on the bridge, we have this beautiful footage of the neighborhood. She performs a very powerful, strong dance piece along the bridge, starting from the Chinese Culture Center and then going across the bridge. I think the tone of the performance is a push back in letting people know ‘Hey, I’m here, I’m not going to be pushed down by these ideas, I’m going to remain strong, I’m going to express who I am.'”
Quinones hopes that people unfamiliar with Queer Chinese culture will check out Chinatown Pride.
“I think that understanding is easily met through art,” he said. “Art is a universal language. Having a curiosity about other places and other ways of life really helps you understand yourself.”
Tickets for Chinatown Pride are $25 for general admission, $100 for a VIP box. Tickets can be purchased at Eventbrite.
“I hope that people fall a little bit more in love with their surroundings and with Chinatown and Pride as a result of checking this out,” Quinones said.