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#RedefineAtoZ: Mei Lum Is Fighting for Chinatown and Keeping Her Family's Legacy Going

Though her family's Chinatown shop Wing on Wo & Co. could've been sold last year, Mei Lum knew she wanted to stay and fight for her neighborhood.
Mei Lum
Mei Lum in front of Wing on Wo & Co. Lum took over her family's historic Chinatown store in New York, NY, in 2016 and says she wants to help reclaim the narrative of their neighborhood.Paulo Chun / NBC News

NAME: Mei Lum

AGE: 26

HOMETOWN: Chinatown, NYC

TWITTER: @meihonglum, @wingonwoandco / INSTAGRAM: @meilum, @wingonwoandco

How do you introduce yourself?

I am a woman of color, an Asian American, a third-generation Chinese American. I am a granddaughter and daughter of my family’s long legacy in New York City’s Chinatown.

What inspires you? What challenges you?

Continuously fighting — in daily conversations and in the work that I do — to challenge this common narrative that Chinatown is a dying neighborhood. There are so many members of our community that are fighting: to stay in their homes, to amplify their voices and their stories, and to create and innovate in their own capacities during a time when Chinatown is going through rapid changes. There is a counter narrative of resistance and resilience coming from those who make up our neighborhood. We don’t spend enough time celebrating these stories. This is what challenges and inspires me in everything that I do.

SEE THE LIST: NBC Asian America Presents: A to Z - The 26 Emerging Voices of 2017

"Believe in the opportunities that exist in the unexpected and the unknown."

Tell us about the biggest risk you ever took.

I think this has been both the biggest and safest risk I’ve ever taken. I realize now how much of an influence years of Cantonese poetry lessons with my grandfather has had on me. I remember memorizing a Confucian saying about respecting and honoring your elders and… here I am.

What are you reading/watching/listening to these days?

I'm reading Grace Lee Boggs’ autobiography "Living for Change," and Joseph Goldstein’s "Mindfulness." I am currently listening to Half Waif’s "Turn Me Around" on repeat and blasting Mitski’s "Puberty" album on the shop's record player when no one's around.

If you weren’t doing what you’re doing now, what job would you want to have?

In this moment, it’s really tough for me to think about my life without this experience…but I have always wondered about how my life would be like if ended up pursuing music after high school and played tuba professionally.

What’s your motto?

Trust and lean into the ebs and flows of life and believe in the opportunities that exist in the unexpected and the unknown.

I celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month because...

...I celebrate the journey and the struggle of my ancestors who came before me. They worked tirelessly to establish deep roots in America and make sure our family had opportunities to pursue our passions. My ancestors’ journey to America, to New York City’s Chinatown define my Asian-American heritage.

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