Awkwafina has pledged to donate the profits from her quarterly music sales to help small businesses in New York City's Chinatown affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
Awkwafina, the actress and musician who was born Nora Lum, said on Instagram that she would donate to the grassroots organization Welcome to Chinatown and two other initiatives, including rapper China Mac's movement #TheyCantBurnUsAll, a slogan formed after an 89-year-old Asian woman was set on fire in Brooklyn this year.
In her post, she referred to her own family's deep history in the city, citing her grandfather's restaurants in the Bronx and Flushing, Queens.
"New York is always changing, but never without a constant reminder of its history. My great grandpa opened a restaurant in the Bronx, then the first chinese-American restaurant in Flushing," she wrote. "To see what the pandemic has done to my city, and especially it's Chinatowns is devastating. With a rising rate of xenophobic hate crimes, and an economic standstill leading to closures of legendary New York staples that I grew up with, I owe it to my family to help struggling businesses during this time."
Awkwafina rose to prominence with her viral music videos. She is best known for her movie performances in "Crazy Rich Asians" and "The Farewell" and for co-creating and starring in the Comedy Central series "Awkwafina Is Nora From Queens."
Welcome to Chinatown co-founder Jennifer Tam said Awkwafina's contribution will be critical in helping fund its grant program, The Longevity Fund. It created the fund to help 40 local businesses sustain their operations and to combat financial loss due to the Covid-19 crisis.
"Chinatown is very multigeneration and has a very rich history. It's a culturally significant enclave for Asian Americans," Tam said.
"When Awkwafina shared her personal story and posted that she was donating, it was a pleasant surprise for us, but it aligns with the core of the Welcome to Chinatown mission."
Since it launched six months ago, Welcome to Chinatown has funded $5,000 for 10 grantees, among them restaurants, grocery and retail stores, health markets, a dance studio, a bakery and a physical therapy clinic.
Tam and her co-founder, Victoria Lee — residents of Chinatown who continue to work in their full-time jobs — were compelled to start the movement after having witnessed their neighborhood suffer because of the virus and the xenophobia that came with it.
The city's Commission on Human Rights reported that 42 percent of complaints filed in March and April spurred by the fear of the coronavirus were specifically anti-Asian. In August, police announced the formation of an Asian hate crimes task force.
Tam said they also spotted an inequity gap for immigrant- and minority-owned small businesses that weren't going to benefit from federal loan programs like the Paycheck Protection Program.
A report in April from the nonprofit Center for Responsible Lending found that about 75 percent of Asian-owned businesses stand close to no chance of receiving loans under the program through mainstream banks or credit unions.
They created The Longevity Fund to exclusively help those in Manhattan's Chinatown facing the brunt of the unprecedented circumstances.