Does Indigenous History Matter?

•October 24, 2017 • 4 Comments

There is one thing all Indigenous people have in common. They have all been uprooted, forced to migrate and corned into a life of colonization and genocide often through war, exclusion, and inability to defend oneself physically (not have adamant access to firearms/ammunition in comparison to European forces) or genetically (having a low immune system to defend from diseases). This is the story of the Delaware Lenape people. In the early 1600s, European explorers discovered the cultivated land mass that was Lenape territory. The Dutch began colonizing the land north of the Delaware Lenape territory for commercial land use. Quickly following, the Swedes and Finns claimed this land as “New Sweden” (Norwood) and a war emerged between the Lenape and the Dutch over frustrations of invasion, ultimately asking, “Who owns this land?” Is it the Indigenous population who has cultivated the land and lived within the colony for 10,000 years? Or is it the European settlers who recently arrived with “new world” skill sets and this new goal to put a price tag on a piece of land?

Historically, the colonizers won this battle of displacement. The European explores made a new home on Lenni-Lenape land, and the Lenni-Lenape tribe migrated to a safer location. The Lenni-Lenape population drastically declined due to European diseases their immune systems couldn’t fight (Norwood). The migration was a decision of fight or flight; restart your life in a foreign place or risk the chances of physical harm on your homeland? A struggle that sounds familiar to today’s current immigration wars, right? Except this Indigenous immigration took place in our American homeland, not across a border or in a different country. It took place right here in New York City.

While this story of forced colonization and genocide of Indigenous people may be something we have all heard before, the problem is that in various literature and Higher Education institutions, history begins after the attempted erasure of Indigenous people ended. In other words, the Indigenous People were erased from history.

This erasure of the Indigenous population is evident in my ecology of Columbia’s relationship with Indigenous people, more specifically the Lenape Plaque installed on Indigenous Peoples Day/Columbus Day October 10, 2016 (Woo). This endeavor to install a plaque was brought to light by the Native American Council at Columbia University ‘s petition in 2012 (Change.Org). Critics, like Columbia University College Republicans, argue that Manhattan’s worth is “not the original inhabitants who occupied or sold it,” (Airaksinen) but the colonizers who commercialized it to what we know to be present-day Manhattan. However, history should not be told in only the white European gaze nor should records of history begin with the arrival of the colonizer. Native stories and histories should not be erased from history.


This is the Native American Council at Columbia University’s booth on Indigenous Peoples’ Day (October 9, 2017).

It took Columbia University 262 years to install a singular signage stating that Lenape people (1) existed and (2) lived on the land the campus is located on. Two hundred and sixty-two years. During the beginning of this project, I viewed the Lenape plaque as this token of recognition from Columbia as if to say, “Here, we recognize the Indigenous people, just don’t ask too much more from us.” But, I was proven wrong during my discussions with the Native Students at Columbia on Indigenous Peoples’ Day. I quickly learned that the plaque represented this great pride from the Indigenous Students on campus that their native histories we recognized (by a community of administrators and university owners who represent the modern-day colonizers). This form of recognition represented this formal acknowledgement that native histories exists. Now it is a question of recognizing that native lives don’t just exist in the past,  but that Native students exist at Columbia University, that Indigenous culture is not just part of history.  What is being done to acknowledge, support, or fund Indigenous communities at Columbia now in 2017? That is what I’m trying to figure out next.

Works Cited

“History.” History | Columbia University in the City of New York. Web. 24 Oct. 2017.

Native American Council at Columbia University. “Columbia University: Acknowledge Lenape Territory.” N.p., 2012. Web. 24 Oct. 2017.

Norwood, John R. We Are Still Here! The Tribal Saga of New Jersey’s Nanticoke and Lenape Indians. Moorestown: Native New Jersey Publications, 2007. Print.

“Welcome to Lenape Lifeways.” Welcome to Lenape Lifeways. Lenape Lifeways, 15 July 2014. Web. 24 Oct. 2017.



Blog Post #3

•October 24, 2017 • 1 Comment

In order to evoke the public’s attention on the irregular commercial activities in Flushing Queens, I think it is important to first raise the awareness of the uniqueness of Flushing among other immigrant neighborhoods in New York City. To those who might not be familiar with Flushing, it is hard to visualize a place like this. This is why the combined use of photos, audio and video is crucial for this project.

To justify the precarity of Flushing, I have done some research on the living situations of (new generations of) Chinese immigrants in NYC.

As a surprising fact, the New York metropolitan area has become the choice for the largest ethnic Chinese population outside Asia. Statistic data from 2013 estimates the number of around 780 thousands of people all over NYC, and at least 12 Chinatowns with even more emerging ones scattered in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, New Jersey, to Long Island. Those immigrant neighborhoods usually grow strong in a short amount of time after the first generation of arrives, particularly because the immigrants seek not only a residence in the new country but also a shelter. For many of the elder people who come to the states for a better life, especially a better life for their next generations, what they expect when first arrive in their new living environment normally does not match that of their imaginations before the arrival. The language barrier prevents them from living anywhere outside the place they find resonance with their culture, and with people who speak their language/languages, thus, their working professions can only be limited to serving the community.

The demand of emerging number of immigrants exactly meets what many immigrants who are not sufficient in English can provide – many of them culturally specific, some of them fall under the grey area of laws. From Chinese food, beauty salons, tutoring center, translation service, job agency, marriage agency, driver license training, electronic device to a variety of immigration services, Flushing has been known as the place for the decent price and curious discovery.

The combination of quality and price in Flushing commercial area intrigues not only the residents but also tourists from all over the world. For one thing, it is applaud-able that those services of immigrants are booming and the immigrants are able to make a decent living; however, it is exactly the convenience of the immigrant services that prevent the public from noticing the problems of Flushing.

If the irregular services in Flushing please the customers and do not intrude social orders, maybe the precarity of Flushing is still not that urgent. However, it has been reported that many of the service agencies secretly offer sexual services, and many immigrants picture a wrong image of the US by telling their friends and family back home to come here for easy money. There are many heartbreaking stories, and more or less have to do with frauds.


Works Cited

Data Access and Dissemination Systems (DADS). “Your Geography Selections.” American FactFinder – Results, 5 Oct. 2010,

Semple, Kirk. “Asian New Yorkers Seek Power to Match Numbers.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 23 June 2011,

Tu, Yichen. “‘I Am a Sex Worker.’” Open City, 27 Apr. 2016,


•October 24, 2017 • 1 Comment

There are things that people care about, and things that people care about less. Unfortunately, that’s how it will always be. It doesn’t mean that they might not be interested in anything at all, it’s just that there are certain entities that they aren’t as concerned about. One of these areas is the environment. For example, if one looks at global warming/climate change, there are a lot of people that still don’t believe in it although the facts demonstrate otherwise. There is exhaustive proof that there’s pollution created by us lovely humans and it’s affecting our world yearly. However, the people who are ‘against’ it or refuse to believe in it are somewhat neglecting our Earth. Personally, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t think climate change is happening but I assume that the people who don’t must be ignorant.

Another example of this happens to be what my ecology is about. The Gowanus Canal, a body of water that has existed since the 1600s (and probably before), has been exploited, polluted, depleted, and abandoned. The history of it is extensive but it was basically a means for transportation that was used for commercial and industrial purposes. After the industrial revolution, the canal became one of the most contaminated waters in the US and no one has really payed attention to it until recently (1). This is very serious because if anyone were to go in the water of the Gowanus, they would have probably have dysentery amongst other diseases that would need to be immediately cured. Carcinogens are found in the water along with other very harmful bacteria. And still, the canal is even more polluted than that.

The most incredulous fact about all this is that the area around the canal is hastily gentrifying, becoming more modern and more desirable every day. New buildings surround the canal along with a Whole Foods Market (which was built based on an eco-friendly system and has a vegetable garden greenhouse on the roof). This area is one of the richest in New York City yet there remains a very toxic problem that hasn’t properly been dealt with because people have been neglecting it (2). The Gowanus was listed a Superfund site in 2009 but it really should have been listed long before that. The EPA created a cleanup plan in 2013 that aims to be finished around 2022 (!) but not much has been initiated (3). Imagine your sink being clogged with water from your dirty dishes, now imagine it you threw all your 4 week old trash in it along with your neighbors trash (the really smelly one that oozes strange liquids), your cat’s litter, and just for good measure, some old unused oil that you fried your fish in. The Gowanus isn’t nearly that clean, it’s probably a thousand times worse, but that’s just an image to show perspective. No one would want to touch that dirty sink water, now imagine touching the water from the canal.

The EPA has reported that the canal is so filthy that the air, the soil, the everything around it should be avoided (4) yet everything around the canal hasn’t been evaded except the Gowanus itself. How is it that an extra luxurious residential building can be built along the waterfront of the canal in under 2 years while just preparing a plan to decontaminate the canal takes more than 4 or 5? How is it that a Whole Foods is built a few blocks away that’s based on eco-friendly and all ‘green sustainability’ while the canal has been heavily contaminated and continues to be with no progress? This can’t be a coincidence. Although there has been a little bit more effort put into the development of the Gowanus, it’s not nearly enough to prove that it isn’t neglected.


  1. Superfund Site: Gowanus Canal, Brooklyn. EPA – United States Environmental Protection Agency.
  2. Nosowitz, Dan. “What Would Happen If You Drank Water From The Gowanus Canal?” Science. Popular Science. 2013.
  3. Gowanus Canal Conservancy.
  4. New York City Environmental Protection. Gowanus Canal – History.

It’s just the way it is.

•October 24, 2017 • 5 Comments

As I interviewed a couple men sitting outside the subway station in Hunts Point, I asked if they had any major concerns about living there. One man, named Bruce, replied, “We’ve survived here for so long, you know, and we continue to survive. Unfortunately, it’s just the way it is. You could petition to politicians and all that, but you know they don’t care.”


Bruce manages to keep a smile on his face and laugh off some of his own comments as we talk.

As disheartening as that statement is, it’s hard to find statistics that prove Bruce wrong. The asthma epidemic in Hunts Point was reported on as far back as 1998 in the New York Daily News, where a mother shares her outrage that a recent study blamed the epidemic on cockroaches. Her son died of heart failure at the early age of 27 after being admitted for an asthma attack. One public school in the area reported that 30% of students had asthma. So what did residents do? They spoke out. Local environmental groups rallied against many pollution violations, including those at a nearby medical waste incinerator that had over 500 violations. In 2003, the New York Attorney General put laws in place that regulated truck idling. In the year 2015, Hunts Point (and Longwood) was reported as having the third-highest asthma hospitalization rate among children ages 5 to 14 in the city, which was more than twice the citywide rate. The rate of adult asthma hospitalizations was also more than twice the citywide rate. Bruce told me he had lived in Hunts Point all his life, so it’s not hard to imagine losing faith in the system that had never worked in his favor.

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In an NYU Wagner study (2009) that measured air quality in the area, researchers found hourly concentrations of elemental carbon (a component of diesel exhaust from trucks) to be higher at all South Bronx sites than Manhattan sites. In Hunts Point, concentrations were higher than in other parts of the Bronx. The measurements showed that concentrations measured of certain chemicals exceeded U.S. EPA standards. The study also measured public school proximities to highways and truck routes, discovering that about half of all Pre-Kindergarten to 8th grade students attended schools located within 150 meters (less than 2 city blocks) of a highway or truck route.

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We shouldn’t be putting this responsibility, nor this harm, on the individuals in Hunts Point. The change that needs to take place is from the top. Elected officials should care about the well-being of citizens -regardless of socioeconomic factors – and put the market capitalization of big businesses on the back burner for once.

“We deal with it. We continue life with it, you know. It’s just the way it is.” That may be the way it is, but it shouldn’t be.



Calderone, Joe, et al. “SOUTH BRONX – ASTHMA’S BATTLEGROUND.” NY Daily News, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS, 24 Feb. 1998,

“New York City Community Health Profiles.” Profiles, NYC Health, 2015,

Restrepo, Carlos E, and Rae Zimmerman, editors. “South Bronx Environmental Health and Policy Study.” Institute for Civil Infrastructure Systems, Apr. 2009,

The Affects of Flushing

•October 24, 2017 • Leave a Comment


What do you feel when you walk on the street in Flushing? Going out of the Flushing Main Street subway station, do you feel the change of atmosphere? Do you hear the dialects? What do you see in the area? Do you see Chinese characters? Do you see the workers?Are the scene and atmosphere different from other parts in New York City?

According to the data in 1986 estimated by the Flushing Chinese Business Association approximated 60,000 Chinese in Flushing alone. By 1990, Asians constituted 41% of the population of the core area of Flushing, with Chinese in turn representing 41% of the Asian population. However, ethnic Chinese is constituting an increasingly dominant proportion of the Asian population as well as of the overall population in Flushing and its Chinatown. High rates of both legal and illegal immigration from Mainland China continue to spur the ongoing rise of the ethnic Chinese population in Flushing, as in all of New York City’s Chinatowns.

The most unique characteristic of the ecology of Flushing is the dominance of Chinese culture. When I walk on Main Street, I can see Chinese characters from the names of shops and hear people communicating in Mandarin. Most residents in that area come from China. The main reason for them to work in Flushing rather than elsewhere in New York City is language barrier, which is an obstacle that is hard to be overcome by the Chinese immigrants there. The precarity of the ecology is that language barrier constrain the Chinese immigrants in Flushing and they can only do low income jobs there. The main subjects in my photographs are workers from China in Flushing. I took these photographs to present the precarity by showing the low income jobs they are doing. I also tried to include Chinese characters in these photographs to emphasize the dominance of Chinese culture in Flushing.

The main reason for Chinese to work in Flushing is that they can speak Mandarin there. “They would rather be in a two-bedroom apartment in Flushing than a house on Long Island where they feel isolated,” Councilman Koo said. “Everything is here, and they can speak the language.”(Vera Haller 2014) I tried to explore how the workers there interact with other people and the environment and how they are affected by the affects. In my audio, I record the conversation between the workers and their customers, which are in Mandarin. The workers hardly have chances to speak English in Flushing because their main customers are from China. There is no need for them to communicate in English. Therefore, the longer they stay in Flushing, the harder it becomes for the workers to work elsewhere and do high income jobs.

The video, “Fragments on Machines”, taken by Emma Charles also inspired me. Her video successfully tells the story of machinery and she skilfully arranges the sound of the machines to express the dynamic affects. It tells me how powerful sounds could be and how to record sound to tell the story. I focus on the sound in my ecology and consider about how to reveal the precarity through the sound I recorded. I listen carefully what sound the workers made when they do their jobs rather then just observe what they are doing.

When I go to Flushing, I cannot help thinking about the affects of the ecology every second. I tried to see through the obvious things in front of my eyes to explore the deep and hidden affects. What is the affects of the dominance of Chinese culture in Flushing? How would the workers there be affected?  How do they feel the affects? It is easy to perceive the Chinese atmosphere in Flushing but it is harder to feel the underlying affects through the actual things.


Blog 3: Consumption

•October 24, 2017 • 4 Comments

Americans comprise 4% of the world’s population (1) yet consume 21% of its oil (2) and 17% of its meat (3), while producing 18% of its municipal solid waste (4) and 17% of its carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels (5). Per capita, the United States is the most wasteful nation on earth (with the exception of a few small oil kingdoms on the Persian Gulf). However, we–the coastal, liberal, urban elite–congratulate ourselves as being more environmentally enlightened than our truck driving, gun-toting countrymen in land-locked corn country who we generally like to blame for our problems. We boast that as New Yorkers, our carbon footprint is the lowest in America. We take public transportation. We live in small appartments rather than sprawling suburban homes. We buy organic.

But a carbon footprint is a lot more complicated than an electric bill. Your carbon footprint is, in essence, the summation of all the shit you have ever bought. Your carbon footprint is the energy it took to make your iPhone 12; the (fossil) energy required to rip the raw materials from the earth, assemble them in a factory bigger than any you can imagine, and then ship them across the Pacific Ocean. Your carbon footprint is the spectacular quantity and variety of food you eat, no matter the season. Your footprint is the airplane trips to Europe, the designer handbag, the elevator rides to the 3rd floor. The world economic order is sustained by America’s affluent urban centers of consumption– So the next time we open our mouths to complain about Trump or the redneck climate deniers down south, I suggest we stop and think about our enthusiastic complacency in the system of runaway consumption that brought us here, with the ocean lapping at our feet and trash drowning our most marginal communities.

There’s a fascinating, oft-qouted study (6) that shows general happiness does not rise according to GDP growth (with the major exception of populations leaving extreme poverty). You can have all the iPhones in the world and it’s not going to make you any happier. And that’s what’s so sad about all of this — we’ve killed the world, and for what? We don’t even have anything to show for it.

My ecology is about trash, the byproduct of decadence. Some weeks ago, during our critique, one of you said that I should be more explicit in telling the audience of my website what they should do, so here goes: Stop it. Stop buying shit. You don’t need a new iPhone. You don’t need to go out to dinner twice a week. Make your own coffee, or at least get a thermos so you’re not throwing away a plastic cup every morning. Take the stairs. Turn off the lights. Turn off the air conditioner. Unplug your chargers. Stop ‘liking’ things on facebook. Make choices about your food. And for the Love of God, stop using plastic bags. The list goes on and on. People much smarter and more disciplined than me have longer, better lists. Read theirs.

And even then, carbon and waste are so interwoven into our lives, it probably wont do much more than knock the tip of f the iceberg. But it’s a start, and you have to start somewhere; because right now the world is dying so we can binge-watch Netflix, and there is something so ineffably tragic about that.



1. US Census Population Clock.

2. International Energy Agency’s Atlas of Energy!/tellmap/-1920537974/1

3. Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)

4. 2012 World Bank Report: WHAT A WASTE: A Global Review of Solid Waste Management by Daniel Hoornweg and Perinaz Bhada-Tata.

5. IEA’s Atlas of Energy.!/tellmap/1378539487

6. “The Economics of Happiness” by Richard Easterlin.


Cultural Phenomena, Geographical Transference and Affect

•October 3, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Sunset Park in Brooklyn did not become a “Chinatown” overnight. After decades of ongoing European immigration, the end of World War 2 marked a significant downgrade in Sunset Park’s economy. Previously reliant on jobs such as those at the “Brooklyn Army Terminal, where materials for the war were manufactured and shipped”, local manufacturers and blue collar workers thus lost a significant amount of their income. The “original residents emigrated out of Brooklyn, and Latin American and Chinese American populations immigrated into Sunset Park.” (McCallum) Nowadays, Sunset Park especially suffers from overcrowding, as it is “estimated to be about 2.25 square miles large, with a total population of 126,000 people. The population density of this region is therefore 56,000 people per square mile. [1] The population density of NYC is less than half of this number. By these numbers, Sunset Park is terrifyingly dense.” (McCallum)

Just as we aren’t “self-contained in terms of our energies”, it is impossible to isolate Leif Ericson Park from the neighborhood around it, in all its historical and cultural vibrancy. (Brennan) Yes, my project is focused on these public parks’ role in mediating a safe physical space for Chinese elders to practice their activities and its subsequent role in alleviating mental health, but it would be dishonest of me to fixate solely on the park. Just as Leif Ericson’s geographic ecology is affected by the bustling streets that border it, the people who find community and solace within it have deeply enriched lives beyond the park’s “walls”, and are undoubtedly and continuously affected by the whirlwind (or stagnancy) of everyday life, as well as the interactions that come with it. The very people who spend a few hours at these parks spend the majority of their remaining time in other places. Affect is unbounded by physical barriers, and when documenting the surrounding community of Sunset Park, this includes noting the placement of the MJHS Elderplan buildings a few blocks away, the Chinese supermarkets that fill the streets, the parlors that boast acupuncture and herbal remedies, and the configuration of the surrounding (crowded) apartment blocks. This includes noting the density of housing outlets, the atrocious amounts of landlord manipulation within Sunset Park, and the presence of Latino immigrants in Sunset Park as well. Even though it would physically impossible for me to completely ethnographically examine all the complexities that make up these areas, it is my responsibility to acknowledge these factors as simultaneously affective and illustrate these factors realistically. Of course, on the flipside, it is also important to realize that while parks such as Leif Ericson are intertwined within a larger ecology, they are also not interchangeable with other spaces. Elders deliberately seek this space out, as everywhere else is too crowded, and this is precisely why documenting its relevance is so crucial.

The phenomena of guǎngchǎng wǔ, or Chinese square dancing, is not limited to Brooklyn, NY. As expected, this originated in China – and these “dancing grannies” have made global headlines for noise disruption. In China, dissatisfied neighbors were “fed up with both the noise and the encroachment on public space”, and in 2015, this escalated into physical battles. This extreme case ended with “angry neighbors were deploying homespun artillery, like water balloons and human excrement. One gun-toting man unleashed his dogs on the dancers…in one seemingly self-defeating move, a group of residents pooled $40,000 to buy military speakers — then blasted the elderly women with the sound of car alarms.” (Hunwick) Similarly, a 2013 documented case in Sunset Park caused similar ruckus — “police were called to the park in response to multiple noise complaints. What the officers found was a group of women rehearsing the dance. And what they did was arrest the group’s choreographer and leader, a 60-year-old woman known by the surname Wang.” (Berg) Wang was arrested again, only a month later, a situation exacerbated by language barriers – “Wang said her troupe had trouble communicating in English and that no Chinese-speaking police officers were present to help, making the situation confusing.” (Berg)

While its notoriety has died down since, Chinese elders still continue to participate in these gatherings. During my last trip to Leif Ericson Park, although it was evening time, a boombox blasted Chinese tunes off to the side, a lone couple dancing together. Across the flatground, a huddle of elders (mostly Chinese) talked with one another, a few watching the couple sway against one another. While separated by a few yards, one or two nonparticipating Chinese elders swayed along to the music, moving their arms to and fro. The age difference of the people in the park was apparent – kids and teenagers ran around and played ball games, seemingly immune to the Chinese crooning leaking from the side. Evidently, these activities are staples in these residents’ lives and their wellness regimes, and serve as a much-needed cultural mode of expression. What other activities are available for Chinese elders in America to simultaneously 1) participate in their culture 2) physically exercise 3) gain mental relief and 4) socialize with like minded individuals in a mutually understood language?

In my project, I want to figuratively step into this space and flesh out the vitality that the park brings out in the community. It is easy to forget or dismiss other cultures’ traditions as being wholly separate from yourself, or to even compartmentalize your own ethnicity’s culture with a passing shrug, with the sentiment that that’s just the way life works. Non-Chinese and Chinese American youth alike have varying frequencies of attachment or investment in such issues, and I want my project to showcase why these distant Chinese elderly activities have deeper roots that affect us all. From collecting an assortment of video and audio bites to conversing directly with the residents in the area, I want to tangibly document these nuances. Images have power – they are “the conveyors of forces of emergence, as vehicles for existential potentialization and transfer.” (Massumi) Generational differences in attitudes regarding tradition and mental health can seem daunting and even fruitless, and I want to help create a bridge of empathy through this documentation .


Berg, Caroline. “Dancing in Brooklyn Leads to Noise Complaints.” China Daily USA, 14 Aug. 2013,

Brennan, Teresa. “Introduction.” The Transmission of Affect, Cornell University Press, 2004, pp. 1–22.

Hunwick, Robert Foyle. “Old Chinese Women Won’t Stop Dancing in Streets.” USA Today, 9 Apr. 2015,

Massumi, Brian. “The Autonomy of Affect.” Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation.

McCallum, K, et al. “Sunset Park Is Overcrowded: Housing and Education in the Neighborhood.” Shaping the Future of NYC, WordPress, 31 Mar. 2015,