Ey Up Mei Lum
On my last day in New York I was very fortunate to be able to interview Mei Lum, who generously made time out of what I imagine is her particularly busy schedule running both the Wing on Wo & Co store in Chinatown and the associated W.O.W Project which through localised arts and culturally based activity aims to reclaim the area against the onset of gentrification.
It’s very difficult to ignore the negative impact gentrification is having on New York as a whole, and particularly in Chinatown where over a hundred art galleries have opened up or moved to in recent years, naturally paving the way for what we know follows – ultimately the displacement of people and communities. Knowing how to combat this, or even to open up dialogue surrounding it, is a major challenge but Mei and her colleagues are taking an approach I can only personally define as truly inspirational.
Mei shares with me the story behind the store, how she came to now run it, some of the complexities of Chinatown itself – particularly in relation to gender, and the difficulties and pressures that come with some having expectations of her as being the person to “save Chinatown”.