2015.048.013 The Family Journey of Thomas and Edwin Wong

Edwin Wong and his father has been involved with community work in their personal and professional lives for almost four decades combined. Mr. Wong was born in Burma and has family roots in China, Hong Kong and Canada. When he arrived in New York City he became involved with the Department of Social Services, working as a case worker in neighborhoods in the Bronx and the Lower East Side. On his own time he became involved in local community boards in Queens and also spent his time in Manhattan Chinatown, joining the Wong Family Association as well as the Chinese Community Center. He credits his language skills, knowledge, personality and refusal to keep quiet as positives that helped him get to where he is today, although he also describes some experiences with discrimination and prejudice against Chinese and Chinese Americans, especially during the hiring and promoting process. While Mr. Wong is incredibly dedicated to community work, he makes sure to prioritize the wellbeing of the immediate family first, saying that personal and family needs have to be met before you get involved with the community. He transmits this value to his three sons. Edwin internalizes this lesson, saying that financial and overall stability is needed before community work can be done, although he is actively involved in community groups and boards around his neighborhood of Forest Hills.

0:00 - Introductions, Thomas talks about arriving in New York (1962), being born in Burma and his family’s business there, returning to Hong Kong during WWII, living in Toronto before coming to the US, working and studying in New York, working as an accounting from 1966 to 1968 then transitioning to the department of social services, Interactions with the Toishan community in NY, locations throughout NY that he worked in social services.

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10:29 - Great grandfather’s business in Hong Kong and supporting his grandfather in Burma, living in China after his family was forced to move back during WWII, marrying his wife, becoming a catholic, raising his three sons in Queens, Children’s Chinese names and birthdates.

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18:58 - Moving to and living in Queens, Chinese community in Sunnyside, working with the Chinatown community as a member of social services, working with the Wong association, marriage reception at the Wong association building, racial makeup of the department of social services during his tenure.

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31:08 - Proficiency in many Chinese dialects, sending his children to Chinese school, changes he observed in the Chinatown community, work environment at the department of social services.

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40:58 - Working philosophy as a social worker, thoughts on his son Edwin being active in the community, how he identifies himself culturally, brief thoughts about other Asian American organizations in Chinatown.

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46:04 - Decision to get involved with the Chinatown community, working with MOCA and the Forest Hills Asian Association, Thomas’s thoughts on Edwin’s community work, Edwin talks about the need for more Asian Americans in politics, Thomas talks about Asian American communities lack of interest in politics, Thomas and Edwin discuss their hopes for the Chinese American community, Edwin talks about his catholic upbringing, Edwin and Thomas talk about their self-identity.

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