2015.048.002 The Family Journey of Fay Chew Matsuda

This oral history interviewed Fay Chew Matsuda, director of the City Hall Senior Center, a division of the Hamilton-Madison House, and her life story. Fay grew up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan as the first generation Chinese-American girl born to immigrant parents. Fay would describe herself as a nurturing environment with parents who never pressured her to succeed and instilled in her values of the importance of family and togetherness, and respectation. Fay attended the elite Hunter High School, at the time an all-girls school, and went on to continue her education at the prestigious Barnard College. Fresh out of college she pursued a life of social work that took her from the Hamilton Madison House, to the then New York Chinatown History Project, to the Brooklyn Children Museum, back to the now Museum of Chinese in America, and then back once again to the Hamilton Madison House. Fay story and way of telling is interesting and rich with life experiences that any variety of listeners can be sure to connect to.

0:00 - Introduction, Work with MOCA (since 1989), the NYCHS, definition of activism, Family from Toishan, Immigrant experience led helping people, Attending competitive schools, Best friends Jewish/German, Mandarin-spoken kids with economic stable backgrounds, Racism, Growing up in the back of laundry, Attending elite girl High School and Barnard College, Becoming confident making changes, Customers called her father Charlie, Life in Lower East Side, Columbia University protests of 1968.

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11:19 - Parents positively affecting her, Mother’s way of life, Father’s career (artist, musician, laundryman, and restaurant worker), Parents being supportive, Language ability (English, Toishanese, Cantonese, and Mandarin), Interpersonal skill.

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18:18 - Feminism, Leadership, Working at Hamilton-Madison House (1972-1986), Two years in Chinatown Health Clinic (now known as Charles B. Wang Community Health Center), Joining the New York Chinatown History Project, Going back to MOCA for the second time (1997-2004), Between the two ten years at MOCA (Brooklyn Children’s Museum and the Asian American Federation of New York), Relationship with mother, Re-joining Hamilton-Madison House City Hall Senior Center.

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28:59 - Not a traditionalist, Confucius Plaza demonstrations, Seen by father at the press conference at Chatham Square near Kimlau War Memorial, Details of the demonstrations, Chinese workers were not hired in the construction site, Anticipation when she was young.

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39:45 - Her identity as Asian American woman, Observation of Chinatown, Thoughts about gentrification, Interactions with Chinese students at Hamilton-Madison House City Hall Senior Center, Diversity in the senior center (Mandarina speakers, Cantonese speakers, Toishanese speakers, and Fujianese speakers).

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48:04 - Top Three priorities to improve Chinatown: (1) Housing, (2) Development of job, (3) Racial relation, Witnessing discrimination toward non-Chinese people of color in the community, Asian American feminists (Grace Lee Boggs, Suki Terada Ports, and the first director of CPC Project Reach).

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55:39 - Asian American feminist movement, Thoughts about Asian parents’ expectations, Parents did not push her a lot, Taking the best from both Chinese and American cultures, Values passed down from parents.

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