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For Lunar New Year, an Oakland Nonprofit Is Giving Chinatown Businesses the Gift of Swag

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Anh Nguyen poses in a poppy orange long-sleeved tee and a stylish hat and boots, inside her restaurant Cam Anh.
Anh Nguyen strikes a pose in a banh mi-themed shirt created by the nonprofit Cut Fruit Collective to raise funds for her Oakland Chinatown business Cam Anh. (Andria Lo)

To boost Oakland Chinatown restaurants struggling to survive the pandemic, Daphne Wu has helped raise tens of thousands of dollars through emergency GoFundMe campaigns, fortune cookie bake sales and the distribution of limited-edition zines. Still, the co-founder of the Oakland-based nonprofit Cut Fruit Collective says, recovery for the neighborhood has been slow.

Now, just in time for Lunar New Year, Wu and her collaborators have put together their most stylish fundraising project yet: a collection of swag that includes a trucker hat, a tote bag and a banh mi–themed long-sleeved shirt. Each item features a longstanding Chinatown food business that will receive 100% of the profits from each sale.

Wu explains that most of Cut Fruit Collective’s past initiatives, extending back to when the group was called Save Our Chinatowns, were more akin to emergency relief funds or mutual aid. Inspired by the work of a New York City-based organization called Welcome to Chinatown, the new, auspiciously named Community Prosperity Collection was born out of the desire to co-create something with Chinatown merchants themselves.

As it turns out, Finnie Phung, the owner of Green Fish Seafood Market, had studied fashion design, so she worked with Cut Fruit Collective creative director Maya Kulkarni to design the collection’s Green Fish Seafood sweater and trucker hat. And both she and Cam Anh owner Anh Nguyen even helped model the merch.

Woman poses in a trucker hat and a green sweatshirt, both promoting her business, Green Fish Seafood Market.
Green Fish Seafood owner Finnie Phong models a trucker hat and sweater that she co-created with the nonprofit Cut Fruit Collective. (Andria Lo)

Needless to say, salvation rarely comes in the form of trucker hats alone. But the broader significance of the work of Oakland organizations like Cut Fruit Collective and Good Good Eatz is the way they’re helping Chinatown stay relevant to younger generations of Asian Americans who are looking to connect, or reconnect, with their heritage. In the past, you wouldn’t have imagined that legacy Chinatown businesses, which have historically catered to an older, monolingual, first-generation immigrant customer base, would have hip, fashion-forward swag or a vibrant social media presence. Cut Fruit Collective’s mission, in a nutshell, is to help bridge that gap.


“Even if they didn’t grow up in neighborhoods like this, they feel that connection,” Wu says of the younger folks who, for instance, make up most of Cut Fruit Collective’s Instagram following. “These neighborhoods help them explore their identities. And we can introduce them to these neighborhood shops that they might not be as bold to venture out to.”

The organization’s name alludes to the practice — ubiquitous in many cultures throughout Asia and the Pacific Islands — of sharing cut fruit as an act of hospitality. “It’s a love language for our communities,” Wu says.

That model of community care will also be on display next weekend during a Lantern Festival celebration in Oakland Chinatown’s Pacific Renaissance Plaza that Cut Fruit Collective is co-sponsoring on Sunday, Feb. 5, marking the end of this year’s Lunar New Year festivities. More than that, Wu says, it’ll be an effort to get people excited again about going to Chinatown in the evening time, when business in the neighborhood continues to be extremely slow.

So, Wu and her colleagues thought, “Why not bring an Asian night market to Oakland Chinatown?”

To create a celebratory vibe, local design firm Civic Design Studio will light up the plaza with paper lanterns and other light installations. AAPI Healers for Liberation will organize workshops and community healing activities, in light of the tragic mass shootings in Monterey Park and Half Moon Bay earlier this week. And of course, since it’s a night market, there will be food — mostly courtesy of four vendors from Oakland Bloom, a kitchen incubator for immigrant and refugee chefs.

The main focus, though, will be on encouraging customers to patronize Chinatown’s restaurants and other businesses. Toward that end, Cut Fruit Collective will create a scavenger hunt with prizes.

“It’s been so heavy for the past few years,” Wu says of the outlook and atmosphere in Chinatown. “We feel the Year of the Rabbit is the time to put forth a new vision.”

The Community Prosperity Collection merch is available for purchase via Cut Fruit Collective’s website. The Lantern Festival night market will take place on Sunday, Feb. 5. 3–8 p.m. at the Pacific Renaissance Plaza in Oakland Chinatown.

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