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Located in the heart of Chinatown, Manhattan, this memorial serves as a spiritual medium for the Asian-American community in New York City. This past year, our community not only had to fight COVID-19, but also prejudice and xenophobia. This is not the first time we have had to face discrimination; Doyers Street is shrouded by an urban legend about Chinese gang violence. This tall tale painted a negative image of our community and created anti-Asian stigmas, but the memorial dispels these urban myths by shining light on the truth. After their time on Earth, spirits continue to live on in the heavenly plane above us. In Chinese culture, it is a tradition to leave the lights on in the house of the deceased to help guide their spirit back home. The stringing of lights represents a tethering of spirits directly to their tight-knit community. Simultaneously, our ancestors are reaching down through the transparent glass to guide us with their light. They bless us with good fortune and good health.
Visitors of the memorial stroll down Doyers Street from Pell Street to Bowery Street. They pause to reflect on the lives of loved ones above, their stories translated in the palm of our hands. Spanning across the street, the plexiglass panels join two worlds by opening a viewport from ours into theirs. Yesterday's barriers become the bridge between the physical and spiritual planes. In Chinese culture, a way we reunite with our ancestors is by sharing a meal with them. We visit the cemetery twice a year and bring a whole spread of food and eat next to our ancestors. There is a familiarity when we dine underneath the panels of the memorial. It honors our culture by remembering those lost through the celebration of their lives. Photographs project out onto the panels and flow across the screen as it plays the memories of our loved ones. Light boxes resemble the windows of the tenement buildings and symbolize their ever-presence. This is our culture on display.
The persistence of the community illustrates the sustaining qualities of the design - their resilience against the elements. The memorial is a reflection of our courage and our strength. The passing and evolution of cultural traditions symbolizes the honoring of memories which will never be forgotten while also adapting to unforeseen circumstances. Despite enduring disease and discrimination, Chinatown continues to thrive, while still providing opportunities for moments of peace and solemnity. This memorial is more than a place to find closure - it is also a beacon of hope for everyone in the neighborhood who has fought through sickness and prejudice. It illuminates a path to a brighter future to the longevity of our community.
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