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“I Owe It to My Family”: Awkwafina Donates Music Revenue to Chinatown, Shares Personal Story

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Golden Globe-winning actress, producer, writer, and rapper Awkwafina posted a personal story to Instagram touching on notes of discrimination, gentrification, and the effects of the pandemic on her home of New York City, as she announced that her music sales from this quarter will go to The Longevity Fund and two other initiatives supporting small businesses across the five boroughs.

Awkwafina, born Nora Lum, describes her tough great grandmother, who worked as a seamstress on the historic Orchard Street, a street now “unrecognizable in a sea of coffee bars, Whole Foods, and luxury hotels.”

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“She was the kind of Asian grandma that only used her oven as a storage closet for toilet paper,” writes Lum. “At six I saw someone nodding out on heroin on her block, and asked my dad if he was sleeping. I remember thinking it was weird that my dad felt unsafe there, while my great grandma traipsed around unphased by anything. She was strong.”

“I owe it to my family to help struggling businesses during this time,” she added.

Born in Long Island and raised in Queens, Lum has never been shy about expressing her love for her city in her lyrics, arriving in the public eye via her breakout hit NYC Bitche$.

It’s clear that Lum connects deeply with the city, even mentioning her great grandfather started the first Chinese-American restaurant in Flushing. It’s these same Chinese-American and Asian-American businesses, she writes, that have suffered deeply during the rampant xenophobia and economic stasis brought about during the pandemic.

“Bravo for always being a role model, stepping up, and shining a light on people and businesses that need support. ✨🙌💛” one user writes. 

“Brave and brilliant” writes another. 

Lakshmi Iyengar
    Lakshmi Iyengar is a Yenching Scholar studying health, economics, and modern China. Before moving to Beijing, she majored in Biomedical Engineering at Yale. Follow her on twitter @vlakshmiiyengar for insights on China and life