The late poet Jim Wong-Chu of Vancouver, who would have turned 72 on Thursday, was honoured with a Google Doodle.
Wong-Chu, who died at age 68 in 2017, is depicted holding a book and leaning up against a wall under a neon-lit scene of Vancouver’s Chinatown, with the neighbourhood’s famous Millennium Gate in the background.
Google Doodles, a temporary alteration of the Google logo on the search engine’s home page, celebrate the lives of artists, pioneers, and scientists from around the world.
Born in Hong Kong, Wong-Chu moved to Canada when he was four. He arrived in the country with his aunt and uncle in a “paper son” setup — a way of coming into the country to get around the Chinese Exclusion Act, which banned most Chinese immigration to Canada.
Though his day job was as a mail carrier for Canada Post, Wong-Chu’s passion was art and community building. He worked as a poet, radio show host, photographer, activist and mentor to many Canadian writers and artists such as Madeline Thien and Wayson Choy.
He helped found the Asian Canadian Writers’ Workshop in 1996 to create space for Asian-Canadian writers to flourish and challenge the dominant voices in the Canadian literary scene. The workshop’s magazine, Ricepaper, continues today in digital format.
Allan Cho, executive director of the Asian Canadian Writers’ Workshop, said Wong-Chu’s goal was to promote voices that were left voiceless or not given a chance to get published.
“He was just so interested and curious about people, and generally a lot of the work that he’s done is really about anti-racism and the challenges and struggles that he faced growing up,” said Wong-Chu.
Wong-Chu’s Google Doodle image, which was illustrated by San Francisco-based artist David Lu, puts the artist squarely in Vancouver’s Chinatown.
Cho says it’s an apt homage.
“He always centred in [on] Chinatown. It marked a space that was always special to him, but it also was a space that had a lot of struggles and challenges throughout the century of history of Chinatown in Vancouver and in Canada,” said Cho.
Listen to the interview with Allan Cho from CBC’s On The Coast:
On The Coast8:06Remembering Jim Wong-Chu