SFX: Street sounds.
A: Hmmm...should have been here by now...
I--Oh, hi. Glad you decided to take me up on the story of Pender Guy. I was getting a little worried that you couldn't find the place, but...Well, this is Pender Street--Pin-Dah Guy--one of the main thoroughfares of commercial Chinatown. I just thought it would be kind of appropriate to tell you about Pender Guy on Pender Guy.
Some people might say that Pender Guy started back with its first broadcast in May of 1976. Personally, I like to go a bit further back. Now, one could say that the story of Pender Guy really started with the first Chinese-Canadians who stepped onto Canadian soil. I'm not going back that far, but you might like to know that a group of Chinese-Canadians pulled together a conference around May of 1975. It was called the B. C. Chinese-Canadian Youth Conference. It dealt with issues like racism, assimilation, the Chinese-Canadian community, and the changing roles of women and men in that community.
A workshop grew out of that conference. Among its activities was assisting in the organizing of a second conference. This was the Between
Us Chinese Youth Conference with participants from two U. B. C. Chinese-Canadian student organizations. One of these was the
Chinese Students Association--many of the members of the C. S. A. were Chinese-Canadian students from outside Canada. The other group was
the Chinese Varsity Club--the C. V. C.'s membership consisted largely of Chinese-Canadians who had been born in Canada.
The conference dealt with an apparent gap between Chinese-Canadians born in Canada and those born elsewhere. Misunderstanding, mutual stereotyping, poor communications. Organizers recognized, though, that fully effective long-term solutions required more work than could be accomplished in the short conference.
At the end of the Between Us Chinese Conference, one of the organizers encouraged participation in activities that were in the planning stages in the Chinese-Canadian community at that time.
Activities like the Chinese Cultural Centre's festival held in conjunction with the United Nations' Habitat Festival. Or the possibility of a Chinese-Canadian Aural History Project.
Or how about this possibility: the Between Us Chinese Conference had been publicized on a listener-supported community radio station. Its name: Vancouver Co-operative Radio. Why not check out the possibility of getting a regular Chinese-Canadian program onto that radio station?
Why not, indeed!
Even from the very start, folks at Vancouver Co-operative Radio went out of their way to be helpful--to be encouraging. Some felt that we had a
fresh, new perspective of Chinatown. So, when our first half-hour pre-taped shows finally hit the airwaves on Co-op Radio, we were pretty excited.
Chinese-Canadians were expressing thoughts on questions many people had failed to ask.
We began looking at Chinese-Canadian history; trying our hands at using creative writing to pass the message along; searching for a definition of Chinese-Canadian music--of Chinese-Canadian culture; comparing the experiences of our Asian-American sisters and brothers. But perhaps above all, we were concerned--we wanted our listeners to be crystal-clear on the fact that "Chinese-Canadian" does not equal "Chinese"--that we had an identity--and a culture--unto ourselves. We were angry about the racism, the sexism, the stereotyping--we said, in effect, "You don't have to limit your choices between pretending that your mind lives in the Far East and pretending that you're white. You can stop pretending--and be your Chinese-Canadian self.
We even tried to raise questions on stage--in a live bilingual performance for the Chinese Students Association of U. B. C.. We were all volunteers--a lot of us were university students. Financially, we were reaching into our own handbags and wallets to get what we needed to stay on the air. Other Co-op Radio volunteers and staff were teaching us how to do radio--and how to radio better.
Our crew was growing. For 1977, we aimed to obtain federal government assistance. And we did receive assistance. Some of the funds granted went
towards providing resources. Most of the funds went towards a summer project. At the time, there had been--and there still are--very few
Chinese-Canadians and members of other visible racial minorities in media.
In Pender Guy's Chinese-Canadian Radio Development Project, we hired a number of Chinese-Canadians to teach radio to other interested Chinese-Canadians. Some of the people who learned radio then indeed form part of our current production crew.
As well, we knew that to understand the present required some knowledge of the past that led up to that present. We chose to look at Chinese-Canadian participation in the Second World War effort. The staff carried out research--including original aural history interviews--and produced a documentary series--"The War Years".
While these grant-supported activities were happening, Pender Guy volunteers performed the necessary changes for us to evolve from a one-half hour pre-taped show to a one-hour pre-taped show. Eventually, we went to a one-hour live show.
The grant activities had infused our crew with a new vitality--new creative energy. We even produced a series of skits live before a coffeehouse audience. The sound of our show was changing, too--technically, the flow was generally becoming smoother. Indeed, after a while, some of us were even wondering whether we were spending too much thought and energy on packaging--too little thought and energy on what was inside the package.
We sought new and better ways of organizing ourselves--with new structures and committees. We found, though, that once summer ended and the university or school term began, we were unable--or unwilling--to maintain the complicated system we had set up. Responsibility for the show sometimes fell onto the shoulders of a few people, but often we were able to share the production workload among ourselves.
Our sound has reflected the personal and collective tastes of those who have worked our airwaves. In the past year or so, we've been working on focusing and crystallizing our objectives--our raisons d'être. Pender Guy has developed an identifiably public affairs approach, generally. We've taken the experience and energy of working a weekly one-hour live show and channeled it into producing a weekly half-hour pretaped show.
In the fall of 1980, Co-op Radio won the Radio Media Human Rights Award from the B'nai Br'ith. The award was given on the basis of two public
affairs productions by Pender Guy.
I think all of us in Pender Guy are proud and grateful to be working in a radio station that gives us the full flexibility and support to do the kind of community work that has to be done on the airwaves.
Myself, I've been around Pender Guy since our first show hit the air in May of 1976. And the way I see it, one can almost draw an analogy: our current Chinese-Canadian community has been built from several waves of immigration--from the times of the Gold Rush, to the Canadian Pacific Railway, through the arrival of Chinese-Canadians currently from around the world. It almost seems that Pender Guy, too, has itself evolved from several waves of influx of dedicated volunteers--of people who have put in vast amounts of time and energy to bring you what you have heard and what you hear today. It's not easy to produce the kind of show we want to produce--in the way we want to produce it. But, in a way, I'm glad it's not too easy--we're forced to ask new questions--to understand each other's perspectives.
Well, listen, I'm glad you were able to join me. The story I gave you is my version--my interpretation of some of Pender Guy's evolution. I've left out a lot of details. And--who knows--maybe I should go back and double-check some of the things I've told you.
By the way, my name's Barry Wong. Next time you're in the Chinatown Pender Street area again, just leave me a message at the station.
Oh--and-uh--stay tuned to Pender Guy.
SFX: Street sounds...out
Approximate time length: 8:27.
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This page was updated on January 26, 2005.
Copyright © 1998-2005 by Barry G. Wong. All rights reserved.