Photography by Michelle Kilfeather
Connie Chan used to love listening to music at Tower Records.
In this podcast, we get to know Connie, who's beginning her second year as supervisor of San Francisco's District 1 (more or less the Inner and Outer Richmond). She and her brother were born in Hong Kong and raised in Taiwan. Connie shares the story of how her parents met: Her dad was a Hong Kong cop who worked with youth; Connie's mom was a social worker who also spent a lot of time with kids. They met through their work.
When Connie was 5, the family moved to Taiwan. It was the Eighties and Connie and her brother were very much latch-key kids. Connie was exposed to plenty of pop culture, although it took some time for music and movies to reach eastern Asia.
She talks about how members of her family had various trades and interests in Asia (piano teacher, opera singer, university professor) that they had to give up when they immigrated to the US. An aunt and uncle came over before her own family, and they landed in San Francisco's Chinatown. Her aunt served dim sum and her uncle worked as a bookkeeper for the famed Empress of China restaurant.
Connie speaks to the well-established immigrant and Chinese-American community in Chinatown and the role they played in her family's move there when she was 13. The networks that existed, the opportunities that opened to newcomers ... it all played a part in establishing a trust that was almost always paid forward. Her mom moved Connie and her brother there, where the three lived with her aunt and uncle in a not-very-big apartment.
But she got her first impression of San Francisco on a trip here the year before. Connie plays the mandolin and visited as part of a band that toured the US for two weeks, SF being one of the stops. It was also the beginning of her really learning English. Her family speaks Cantonese, but from an early age, Connie learned Mandarin in school.
She talks about some racism and bullying she experienced at school shortly after her arrival here. But Connie adjusted and made the most of her new circumstances. She would stop at Tower Records and visit their listening stations, where she would read along to the music and learn even more English.
As a teen, Connie felt she had everything she needed in Chinatown. But when she returned to San Francisco as a 21-year-old after college, The City really opened up for her.
Check back Thursday for Part 2 and the story of how Connie ended up running for and becoming a supervisor in San Francisco.
D9 Supervisor Hillary Ronen Part 1/Part 2
We recorded this podcast at San Francisco City Hall in February 2022.