Jeremy C. Fox for Boston.com
Chinatown leaders gathered Thursday morning to praise The Chinatown Coalition for 20 years of overcoming divisions and enabling community collaborations.
Founded in 1993, the coalition brings together representatives from neighborhood social service agencies and institutions with presences in Chinatown to share ideas and plan for the future of the community.
Thomas Lee, pastor of the Boston Chinese Evangelical Church and a former co-chair of the coalition, told the gathering of Chinatown leaders and activists that the organization had provided opportunities for groups to step outside the silos of their own work and learn from one another, voice their own concerns, and form collective strategies.
“Sometimes it’s easy to sort of throw stones, and focus on our own thing,” Lee said. “There was sometimes subtle competition even within the community, and tensions within the community, and I think the TCC really gave an opportunity for us to see each other for who we were as people, each one really desiring the very best for the community, even though we had our own individual focuses.”
The umbrella group grew out of former Boston Mayor Ray Flynn’s Healthy Boston initiative, which sought to coordinate efforts among public and private social service agencies to care for underprivileged children in each of the city’s neighborhoods.
The effort came at a time when Chinatown’s social service agencies were coming of age, co-founder David Moy said in an interview, but not communicating and coordinating efforts to ensure that they were neither duplicating services nor leaving gaps of needs unfulfilled.
At the time, many organizations were serving members of the same families without necessarily knowing about the other organizations’ efforts or attempting to collaborate and address the needs of the family as a whole, said Beverly Wing, who began working with the coalition shortly after its founding, in an interview.
Alongside the Chinatown Neighborhood Council, the coalition worked hard to bring an end to the Combat Zone adult entertainment district that for decades overlapped the western edge of Chinatown and the Theater District, Moy said.
Lydia Lowe, executive director of the Chinese Progressive Association, told the crowd that the organization has been able to unite a community that can often be split by differing priorities and incompatible personalities.
“Sometimes Chinatown is a little bit like — particularly the community leaders and agency leaders in Chinatown — sometimes we’re a lot like a dysfunctional family,” Lowe said, to laughter from the crowd.
“A lot of us, we’ve known each other for many years. We fight. We have rivalries. We have bullies. … But I think that TCC has been that neutral space where we come together and talk about things, because no matter what, there is a recognition that we are family.”
Jeremy C. Fox for Boston.com