Thursday, June 18, 2009

Once a notorious gangster, today's Chinatown Champion

Raymond Chow 周國祥, aka Shrimp Boy, is one of the most enigmatic figures Chinatown has seen in a long while. Every time you see him he's always dressed sharply, smile on his face, and very approachable. In spite of what some may think, he always has a warm and welcoming way about him that makes anyone he meets feel at ease. Yes, he has a notorious PAST that was built on the back of organized crime. Although the odds are stacked against him, today he is rebuilding his reputation as the gangster gone straight on the strength of his desire in turning over a new leaf. A difficult task according to the nay sayers, but to those who know him, not impossible.

For his crimes, Raymond Chow did his time and payed his debt to society. Once he was released from prison, he made a personal vow to leave his life of crime behind. Which is understandable with everything he experienced as being Peter Chong's partner....that would leave a bad taste in anyone's mouth. He has been out of prison for 6 years now, and is under constant surveilance, wears an ankle monitor, even regularly check is with his parole officer. Regardless, the media, law enforcement, and some politicians won't seem to let it go, and pay attention to what Raymond Chow is currently doing. They prefer to dredge up all of the negativity he was once involved in instead of focusing on what he is trying to accomplish for his Chinatown community nowadays.

IF you leave it to the media, Raymond Chow is nothing more than a monster who needs to be locked up for eternity as if he were a serial killer, rapist, child molestor, or any other pure evil. But, if you were to come to Chinatown, you'd see a community that stands behind him. People are always making it a point to walk over and say hello to him. Anyone that knows him knows he's the kind of person that would help you if he could. Up until now, Raymond Chow has actively been involved with the Chinatown community. When he became the leader of the Ghee Kung Tong he took advantage of this to step up the positive work he's been doing. He's come to a place in his life where he doesn't want to see today's kids travel down the same road he did. With groups such as the "United Playaz" Raymond Chow speaks to young inner city kids about staying out of gangs.

Raymond Chow has learned alot in his life, both good and bad. Trust, Honor, and Loyalty are three things he holds dear to his heart. When it comes to the Chinese community, all three virtues go into action. Although people are skeptical of him due to his shaky past, he is out to earn their trust. As the current leader of the Ghee Kung Tong, his only wish is to uphold the honor of his Tong. And although he once took away from the Chinese community, he now works hard to prove his loyalty to his community. In fact, in April of 2008, when CNN's Jack Cafferty made some negative comments about the Chinese people, the Chinese people fought back and protested in front of CNN's downtown San Francisco office. And, who was right there in front of it all? Raymond Chow, and the Ng Jo Hung Mun Ghee Kung Jung Tong, standing up for the rights of the Chinese people, something the Hung Mun was known to do for centuries.

In 2006, Fiona Ma issued the Ghee Kung Tong a Certificate of Honor from the city of San Francisco, and Supervisor David Chiu did the same in March of 2009. This was quite an honor for the Ghee Kung Tong, which proudly has it displayed on its walls. By this time, much of the underserving negative attention about Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow was beginning to fade away. Then things seemed to be looking up, Benny Yee, former manger of the Chinatown Night Market stepped down and replaced himself with Raymond Chow as manager for this years Night Market. This was another opportunity for him to work with the community, and for this position he accepted only $1 in pay. The board of the Night Market consisted on 19 members, and wanting to have his people involved with the night market, Raymond Chow appointed only 6 members of the Ghee Kung Tong to co-chair this event. 6 out 19 is hardly a majority, so what was the problem when Chinatown Supervisor David Chiu found out that Raymond Chow was going to manage the 2009 Chinatown Night Fair?

When Chinatown Supervisor David Chiu discovered that he was about to issue a $35,000 grant for the night market now being ran by Raymond Chow he's quoted saying "Given the difficult and challenging history of the night market, given the current budget crisis that we're in, and given the new players that are allegedly involved, I have significant questions about what has been proposed." What was the problem here? The Night Fair was going to on as planned, but seemed to take a turn for the worst when the City learned that Raymond Chow would be the Manager of it. News reporter Vic Lee said it was thought to be a power grab by chow and the 6 members of the Ghee Kung Tong. As previously stated, 6 out of 19 is hardly enough people to make any kind of a power grab. Clearly the only problem here is Raymond Chow's background. How can the man prove that he is doing what he can to reverse the damage he once caused if no one ALLOWS him to?

Raymond Chow truly loves the Chinese community and would never do anything to hurt it now. So, in an honorable gesture, he resigned as night manager of the Chinatown Fair. And how does the City of San Francisco repay the Chinese Commnity? They completely shut down the night market all together. Now is that the right thing to do? The money that would have been brought in was much needed. Now, out of fear and ingorance, the mayor of San Francisco decides to make the entire Chinese Community suffer. This really isn't fair to anyone at all. Raymond Chow only accepted the position as the Manager of the Night Fare because he wanted to do something good for the community and produce one the best night fair's chinatown has seen in a long time. He didn't have any bad intentions. He's just eager to come out and give back to the community. Yet, this is proving difficult because everytime the media mentions Raymond Chow's name, they include crimes that he has nothing to do with. If he had, he'd be back behind bars in a heart beat.

Yes, the odds are heavily stacked against him. But, this is only an obstacle. Raymond Chow is determined more than ever to show the world that he is what he says he is. A reformed man. Regardless of what the media will say about him, the only motives he has is proving to his community that they can put their faith in him. No matter what, he's going to continue to speak to the youngsters in hopes of steering them away from crime and gangs. And, he's always going to be there to support his community. To finish this up, I'd like to say, for a person like Raymond Chow to take the time out of his day to walk my gung fu Grand Master (who is in his late 80's) home and up to the third floor of an apartment buidling in Chinatown to make sure he got home safely, in my mind, Raymond Chow will always be the Champion of Chinatown.