By David Yamaguchi
The North American Post
On Saturday, February 12, a celebratory dinner was held in the large banquet room of China Harbor Restaurant in honor of Assunta Ng and George Liu. The married-couple owners just retired the print edition of the “Northwest Asian Weekly” after 40 years. They also discontinued publication of the “Seattle Chinese Post” entirely after 41 years. As has been covered in recent media articles, the NWAW is moving entirely online.
Universal respect for “Assunta and George” was felt throughout the expansive room. Arriving in Seattle as two young immigrants, they started the SCP after recognizing that Seattle needed a Chinese language newspaper. Until then, restaurants seeking workers, for example, had to advertise in a San Francisco Chinese newspaper. A year later, they added the NWAW to meet the similar demand of Asian Americans for local Asian American news. Both papers were intended to address the “lack of voice” of local Asians in print.
It was remarkable to see the many notables who took the time to attend, and the broad cross-section of Greater Seattle they represent. The room was a “Who’s Who” of Seattle and the regional Asian community.
Mayor Bruce Harrell led a luminary list of speakers by presenting Assunta with an official city proclamation. He read from it in part,
“Whereas, at age 19, Assunta moved here… received a Master of Arts in 1979…, 1973 founded NWAW…, 1974 married George (who) became manager … (that their work) “embodies the values of our One Seattle Vision…,
“I, Bruce A. Harrell… do hereby proclaim February 11, 2023 to be “Assunta and George Day.”
Former Governor Christine Gregoire continued, “You were tenacious about holding elected officials accountable… You have been a part of the Change in the Chinatown-International District.”
Lori Matsukawa: “They are leaving this community an amazing legacy…”
Judge Mary Yu: “Assunta brought light to issues that went uncovered by the mainstream media… Today, all of us know we must say good-bye to an era…
Gary Locke: “NWAW has informed and challenged the Asian American community. You have in many ways been the de facto mayor of our community…
Assunta responded, “I am grateful to so many… In 1982, when I planned to start a Chinese paper, people asked, ‘Are you nuts?’ She described the experience as ‘long hours and constant struggle.'”
She closed by saying, “Thank you for all of your stories.”
Moving on to starting an endowment fund at the UW Department of Asian Languages & Literature, to which dinner attendees were invited to contribute, Assunta described it as “a way to honor the heritage of Asian Americans… Shame prevented Asian Americans from learning and speaking their ancestral languages.
“I have yet to meet one Asian kid who says, ‘I am proud to speak Chinese… Japanese…’ I want our Asian kids to speak Asian languages.
“Education is the greatest tool for fighting racism.”
The UW fund is named “The Seattle Chinese Post Innovation Fund.”
Zev Handel, Chair of the UW Asian Languages & Literature Dept., concluded the evening.
He explained, “It is Assunta’s way of acknowledging her debt to a former UW professor who helped her along her way. It is also based on Assunta’s perception that Asian Americans “do not (speak their heritage languages) … “
One wonders what will be the community-wide effects of the disappearance of print versions of the NWAW from community newsracks? Will all of its readers and advertisers migrate with it to the web? How should the two surviving ID print English newspapers, including this one, adapt to the new environment?
Other faces in the crowd. Deborah Uno (volunteer delivery person for the NAP in the ID), with Mercedes Luna (Wing Luke Museum, napost.com, Nov. 2022). Carmen Hom and Chetanya Robinson of the “International Examiner,” the other remaining English-language ID newspaper.
A related question is how long will the NAP and “Soy Source” —the Japanese American and Japanese community papers which are analogous to the “twins” raised by Assunta — be able to survive in their current print configurations? A disturbing fact shared at the dinner is that two community newspapers are closing each week.