Continuing a San Franciscan Legacy
Over 100 years ago, my grandmother was born on a rare, snowy San Francisco day. Growing up in Chinatown, Jade Snow Wong was a Chinese American daughter of immigrants who would eventually establish herself as an international artist, business owner, author, and mother of four. She has made lasting marks on the city with a legacy that has outlived her. Today, her books can be found in San Francisco public libraries while her ceramic and enamel work is in San Francisco's Asian Art Museum.
In her autobiography, Fifth Chinese Daughter, she wrote about her experience growing up under pressure in a fiercely traditional Chinese family. Chinese girls were expected to be quiet, respectful, and obedient; however, because she was exposed to American culture, she would be inspired by new American values and found a love for writing and ceramics. Although it challenged her family's expectations, her artistic calling set her creativity free.
Every year during Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, I reflect on my grandmother's achievements and the obstacles she faced during her life. My relationship with art started when I grew up visiting my grandmother’s small business on Polk Street. This gave me an opportunity to learn about the challenges and joys of being an artist in San Francisco. As a born and raised San Franciscan myself, I was able to continue to explore a plethora of art programs and enrichments as a youth, including school plays, marching band, and ceramics. In middle school, I found a love for singing. I took choral classes offered by San Francisco Unified School District for the next seven years until I graduated from high school. From this experience, I was able to compete in choral festivals, perform across the country, and make valuable friends and memories I still cherish today.
Looking back, I am so grateful for all of the offerings I was exposed to as a young person. From the early memories of visiting my grandmother’s ceramic studio to the countless opportunities which came from my school, I was able to explore my creative passions early in life. As a former Y youth, I have seen how enrichments empower creativity and growth for young people. I believe it is important to have various art programs offered to youth, as it can teach the next generation the importance of different perspectives and expressing self-identity.
Although my grandmother is no longer with me, her independent spirit and dedication to her passion have left a lasting impact on me. Her legacy continues to inspire me every day. Because she introduced me to the world of art, I try to bring her pursuit of excellence and call for creativity wherever I go. Working for the YMCA of San Francisco continues to be a unique and rewarding journey. As a part of the Marketing and Communications team, I am able to bring this creative passion to various campaigns every day to uplift the many positive stories of our local communities in the Bay Area. Embracing my heritage as an Asian American San Franciscan fills me with immense pride. I will continue my grandmother’s legacy by being an advocate for arts in early education, supporting local youth programs, and contributing to the rich tapestry of this diverse and inclusive city.