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92 Snell Library
360 Huntington Ave.
Boston, MA 02115
(617) 373-2351

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Historical Note

Scope and Content Note


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Title:Chinese Progressive Association records
Call Number:M163

Historical Note

The Chinese Progressive Association, originally called the Chinatown People's Progressive Association, was founded in 1977 to advocate "for full equity and empowerment of the Chinese community in the Greater Boston area and beyond." Early projects included promoting the normalization of diplomatic relations between the United States and China, working with tenants on eviction and other tenant issues, and organizing community support for victims of racial violence, including Wei–ti Choi in 1979 and Long Guang Huang in 1985. The Association also organized celebrations in recognition of Chinese holidays, such as the August Moon Festival, Chinese New Year, and Chinese National Day.

In the early 1980s, the Association registered voters, raised awareness of electoral issues in Chinatown, worked for bilingual education, and lobbied Massachusetts politicians to provide forms and office support in Chinese. The Association also provided limited translation services, created bilingual pamphlets on workers' rights, and held informational sessions on unemployment insurance and workers' rights.

In the mid–1980s, the Association worked closely with displaced garment workers from the P & L Sportswear and Beverly Rose Sportswear factories to establish Commonwealth–funded bilingual retraining programs and greater awareness for the issues concerning garment workers and, more generally, immigrant workers in Boston. The Association's involvement with the garment workers led to the founding of the Workers' Center in 1987. In 1988, the Center produced a video documentary about the garment workers, "Through Strength and Struggle" (Box 10).

In the 1990s, the Association and the Workers' Center advocated for workers' rights, increased awareness of exploited workers in American sweatshops, and they promoted the increase of unemployment insurance benefits provided by the state. The Association worked to ensure that the Commonwealth's new unemployment claim telephone system provided multilingual access for all state residents. The Association also became involved in the struggle between Chinatown residents and the City of Boston over the proposed development of Parcel C in Chinatown. The New England Medical Center had negotiated with the City to build a multi–story parking garage on Parcel C which had previously been promised to Chinatown as land for a community center. The Association's advocacy, along with that of other community groups, led to the withdrawal of the Medical Center's plan. Chinatown was formally granted land for a community center, and discussions over future development began in the late 1990s. In addition, in 1994 the Association began the Chinese Youth Initiative program designed to bring Asian and Asian–American youth to work in the Chinatown community during the summer.

The Association continued its work on tenants' rights, workers' rights, and local Chinatown issues into the 2000s, becoming involved in, among other projects, a campaign to re–establish a branch library in Chinatown. In 2000, the Association, along with other community organizations and activists, was one of the members of the Chinatown Initiative group convened to update the 1990 Chinatown master plan. This process included holding community meetings and conducting interviews of Chinatown residents to develop a sense of the community's vision for Chinatown. The Association also continued its involvement in land issues, advocating for a community voice in the development plans for Parcel A and Parcel 24 in 2003 and 2004 respectively. In 2005, the Association joined the Chinatown Gateway Coalition to work toward the goals laid out in the revised Chinatown Masterplan 2000, including addressing the shortage of housing in Chinatown, quality of life issues caused by the proximity of Boston's red–light district (the Combat Zone), and maintenance and improvement of Chinatown's physical environment. The Association continues its work on tenants' rights, workers' rights, political empowerment, and local Chinatown issues, including a campaign to re–establish a branch library in Chinatown and to secure the future of Chinese and Vietnamese bilingual ballots for Boston voters.
1977Chinatown People's Progressive Association is founded on July 17th.
1978Becomes founding member of Chinatown Housing and Land Development Task Force.
Offers first ESL classes.
1979Organizes community support for Wei–ti Choi, victim of racial assault attending Charlestown middle school.
1983Begins voter registration and electoral involvement work with Chinatown residents.
1984Helps Warren St. tenants win compensation and replacement housing after 5–year anti–eviction campaign.
Establishes Chinatown Employment and Job Training Task Force with other agencies to organize for community job opportunities at new Lafayette Hotel.
Joins African American and Latino community leaders to file lawsuit against gerrymandering of electoral districts; succeeds in redrawing a district to include Chinatown, South Cove and Mission Hill.
1985Organizes community support for Long Guang Huang.
Launches campaign against Combat Zone.
1986Helps displaced garment workers to get the first state–funded bilingual retraining programs in New England.
1987Lydia Lowe becomes director, replacing Suzanne Lee.
Garment Worker Committee and Garment Workers Support Committee establish the CPA Workers' Center.
Provides organizing and translation support to African American and Chinese immigrant tenants to establish Castle Square Tenant's Organization.
1988Produces "Through Strength and Struggle" video documentary on garment workers' struggle for job training.
Helps displaced Andy's Sportswear workers advocate for combined ESL / job training programs.
Organizes unemployed women to launch Unemployed Rights Campaign with Greater Boston Legal Services.
1989Works with ILGWU to organize women workers at Knight Medical against poor working conditions.
1990Moves office to 164 Lincoln Street.
Unemployed Rights Campaign wins apology to the Chinese community, Chinese interpreter services, right to interpreters at appeal hearings, and multilingual written information at Mass. Division of Employment and Training.
1991Helps former Dynasty Restaurant waiters organize the first labor picket in Chinatown and win back wages.
Publishes first bilingual Chinese/English literature on workplace rights in New England.
Works with Health Care for All on campaign to inform Chinese community about health care rights of unemployed and uninsured, increasing enrollment in Health Security Plan.
Organizes ten voter registration sessions in Chinatown.
1992Works with ILGWU and IRATE to help Chinese women workers at wholesale flower market unite with Latino workers to stop institution of piece–rate wages.
1993Organizes, with other Chinatown organizations and American Friends Service Committee, community–based plebiscite on parking garage development.
Holds workshops for unemployed workers interested in street vending or starting small business.
1994Plays key role in campaign to halt development plans for 455–car parking garage on Parcel C in center of Chinatown; wins community development rights of Parcel C in fall.
Helps Parents at Chinese Church Head Start stop merger with South End Head Start.
Launches Chinese Youth Initiative, an internship program for Chinese–American youth.
1995Helps Lei Jing construction workers organize and win back wages.
Participates in Coalition for a Living Wage to increase minimum wage.
Launches two–year, weekly law clinic for Chinese workers in collaboration with Greater Boston Legal Services.
1996Helps lead community coalition to win relocation of proposed Central Artery "temporary" off ramp away from Chinatown residential streets.
Moves office to 33 Harrison Avenue.
Organizes workers to expand Chinese bilingual services at Mass. Division of Employment and Training.
Launches Saturday Coffee Hour with workshops, recreational activities, and informal discussion for immigrant workers.
Initiates annual Workers' Justice Award to popularize Chinese workers' victories.
1997Participates in community coalition to stop Central Artery permanent Ramp DD from increasing traffic and air pollution in Chinatown.
Working with Campaign on Contingent Work, helps Chinese unite with multiracial group of laid–off Woolworth workers to organize against age discrimination and for fair severance package.
Launches multi–year campaign against substandard employment.
1999Assists Chinatown residents organize tenants' associations and participates in the development of the Chinatown Masterplan 2000.
2002Wins City of Boston recognition for Chinatown Resident Association as a neighborhood council.
2005Helps launch the Chinatown Gateway Coalition.
2006Completes $1.5 million capital campaign for permanent office at the Metropolitan.

M163, Box 3, Folder 8, "History"

M163, Box 3, Folder 14–29; Box 4, Folder 1–15, "Publications"

M163, Box 8, Folder 7, "Historical Background"

Chinese Progressive Association Website, accessed September 2009.

The Chinatown Coalition Website, accessed August 2009

The Chinatown Gateway Coalition Website, accessed August 2009

Chinatown Masterplan 2000, accessed August 2009