March 2, 2022
On January 17, 2020, with a free space from SpaceUs on Washington Street, Homa Sarabi-Daunais from Emerson College’s Film Department invited me to collaborate with her and Jenn Pipp on their project, ”Pop Up Artist Studio: Spaces of Connection,” delving into the history of Downtown Crossing, through mental mapping.
Boston’s Downtown Crossing, once a vibrant area of large department stores, small jewelry shops, personalized-fitting shoe stores, inexpensive lunch counters, and friendly coffee shops, before the advent of suburban shopping malls, and Amazon online shopping, was a central gathering place of urban connection for Bostonians from all walks of life. It was also a place where post WW2 new Taishanese immigrants from nearby Chinatown interfaced with mainstream Americans and American products. The place became an integral part of their Americanization journey. There were few opportunities to mix, due to racism and language barriers, but we all shopped at Filene’s, Jordan Marsh, and Woolworth’s in Downtown Crossing. MaMa taught me life lessons at home, but in Downtown Crossing, I translated English, and in the process translated America, for my MaMa and aunties. It is the setting for many scenes in my stories.
This project was my first time using images at a reading, thanks to Homa’s expertise. I learned an invaluable lesson from Homa: It’s okay to fly by the seat of my pants. Thank you, Homa.
Many members of Boston’s art community and Emerson College’s film department attended, sharing their own memories of Downtown Crossing and the notorious Combat Zone. We transformed into a Space of Connection once again.
“I had a blast as Special Guest, Opening Reader, last night at the PopUp Studio project: “Spaces of Connection ,” with generous, talented filmmakers, Homa Sarabi Daunais and Jenn Pipp.
I invited the audience of artists to traverse Space and Time by entering my Memory box, walking from old Chinatown to Downtown Crossing through the Combat Zone, leading to my reading of “Mo Hi: Don’t Look.”
Everyday of our lives, we live in two dimensions: Space and Time. But a third dimension accompanies us, every moment of everyday, and that is the persistence of Memory. In Memory, spaces morph, and time becomes time-less. When buildings, neighborhoods, and landmarks are destroyed, physical memory markers disappear. Then, Story becomes even more important, storytelling becomes collective memory making, passing from generation to generation. Story unites communities and supports their health and continuity. A Story becomes a powerful collective memory marker when physical landmarks are destroyed.
I am the Child and the Child is Me. We are continuous, traversing Space and Time.
Thanks to SpaceUs for the free loft and most of all to Homa Sarabi-Daunais, energetic, upbeat, unifying catalyst and incubator for outrageous invention outside of conventional, commercialized channels.
Thanks to Homa Sarabi Daunais and Alex, Katie Kimbrell and Jeff, and everyone for the great Fiddlehead beer, food, and stimulating conversation at Black Deck afterwards!”
Photo credits: Homa Sarabi-Daunais and Cynthia Yee