Monday, May 22, 2023

Blurring The Color Line: Chinese in the Segregated South


Speaking to today’s Afro-Asian tensions, Chinese grocers in the Black neighborhood during Jim Crow disrupt the black and white narrative of America’s racial history.


What did it mean to be Chinese in Black space during segregation? Following director Crystal Kwok’s personal journey of discovery, she digs into how her grandmother’s family navigated life as grocery store owners in the black neighborhood of Augusta, Georgia. The film weaves personal family stories with memories from the larger Chinese and Black communities, opening up uncomfortable but necessary conversations around anti-black racism and the deeply rooted structure of white power and Chinese patriarchy that contributed to this. Which fountain did the Chinese drink from? Where did they sit on the bus? An entrance into our connected histories we never knew or dared speak about as told through the woman’s lens.

BLURRING THE COLOR LINE follows director Crystal Kwok as she unpacks the history behind her grandmother’s family, who were neighborhood grocery store owners in the Black community of Augusta, Georgia during the Jim Crow era.

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This documentary serves to disrupt racial narratives and bridge divides.

“At a time in America when we are aware of how divided we are, especially racially, this film bravely explores one of our nation's most discussed, most politicized, and most misunderstood racial divides. I’m of course referring to the relationship between Asian Americans and Black Americans.”

— W. Kamau Bell, Executive Producer

“This project has forced me to dig deep into the cracks of American history, of what is told, forgotten, or erased. It was important for me to weave in the significance of how the larger structure of segregation worked in the deep south and how that paved the way for the Chinese immigrants to enter. It begs us to ask where the Chinese, or any other minority for that matter, fit in on the color line and how it affected their sense of identity and attitudes towards Black people. Why were they able to go to white schools but had to live in the Black neighborhood? Why did certain Chinese families allow or not allow their children to play with their Black neighbor kids? How do these behaviors speak to today’s racial tensions?” 

— Crystal Kwok, Director

Event Details

Date: Friday May 26, 2023
Time: 6 - 7:30 PM
Location: 21 Pell St, New York, NY. In the heart of Chinatown 


CRYSTAL KWOK is an award winning filmmaker who established her career in Hong Kong as an actress, writer, director, and talk show host. She won the audience choice awards at the 2000 Deauville Asian Film Festival for her debut feature length film, The Mistress. She was commissioned by Canal Plus to document “A Day in the Life of Jackie Chan” as part of the centennial celebration of international directors, She created and produced a bilingual edutainment video series for young children, “The Culture Cubs” and wrote and has staged several original plays about sensitive women’s issues. As a strong women’s advocate, her talk show, “Kwoktalk” broke boundaries in Hong Kong with conversations about women and sexuality. Having moved back to American soil after being overseas for a couple of decades, Kwok now embraces issues closer to home -- that of her Asian-American heritage. Kwok is currently a PhD student at the University of Hawaii in Performance Studies and a recipient of the prestigious East West Center Scholar awards. She also hosts a radio talk show and podcast, “Kwoktalk” on KTUH 90.1fm, addressing racial and gender issues with a multicultural perspective.

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