[Jane Kim, known to (many) San Franciscans as the hot, young Matt Gonzalez protégé who ran for school board in 2004 (she lost), has been one of those running the youth programs of the Chinatown Community Development Center (CCDC) for several years now.]
Chinatown Alleyway Tours is a not for profit, youth-run and youth-led program sponsored by the Adopt-An-Alleyway Youth Project, which is under the Chinatown Community Development Center. As a group of young leaders, their mission is to educate people about the Chinatown community. This program empowers youth by giving them an opportunity to give back to this community and to hone leadership skills. In turn, tour participants will learn about the history and culture of Chinatown through the youths' personal experience.
Blah, blah, blah. Yeah, I hate nonprofitspeak, too. Basically, these teenagers were brought into the Adopt an Alleyway program to clean up their own neighborhood, keep it clean, and to build in them a sense of community responsibility. Out of this, many of these kids started taking an interest in the cultural life of the alleys they were cleaning. That, combined with some research, resulted in the kids creating insiders' tours of the contemporary and historical life of the "real" Chinatown.
As the Trib tells it:
Beyond telling stories about the nooks and crannies of the alleyways, they also tell about the social and political history of Chinatown. For example, they talk about the displacement and struggle of early Chinese immigrants and connect it to current issues, such as the need to maintain low-income housing for seniors.
... Much of the history of Chinatown is about space or lack of it: from single-residence occupancy living conditions to the decades-long struggle of the I-Hotel, a piece of historical Manilatown next to Chinatown.
Indeed. In fact, that Chinatown even still exists is a miracle, given the number of times in the past reactionary demogogues have attempted to clear it, or the number of chunks of Chinatown have been absorbed by the Financial District which nearly surrounds it, and the higher-income neighborhoods to the west. Here's an image with the area of the alley tours circled in green (the darker the red, the higher the income):
As you can see, there's a lot of story to tell, aside from ching-chong, and fortune cookies, and dragons on the gate. Next time you're in San Francisco, maybe take a tour. It's only $15 for adults.