Hello Professor Rebecca Karl, Professor Mae Ngai, Professor…

Hello Professor Rebecca Karl, Professor Mae Ngai, Professor…


What the general reader needs to know:

The co-chair of Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) is Jonathan Chu, the biggest landlord and private real estate developer in Chinatown. Third generation in the family business. Displacing the community through gentrification.

A year into the pandemic, 2021, MOCA evicted Jing Fong, the largest banquet hall and last unionized restaurant in Chinatown, serving over 10,000 people a week, essentially a community center, the heart of Chinatown

Later in 2021, MOCA accepts $35 million “giveback” (bribe) from de Blasio in exchange for the museum’s support of his jail-expansion plan to build a skyscraper jail in Chinatown, criminalizing community.

2021: The community begins a picket line outside of MOCA, demanding that MOCA return the bribe and reopen Jing Fong.

Rocky Chin begins a petition against the picket line and in support of MOCA (and their actions). NYU professor Rebecca Karl and Columbia professor Mae Ngai are both contributors of the petition and its accompanying letter.

In response to the picket line, MOCA harasses (generally, racially and sexually) the protesters, and tries to buy them off with free tote bags.

May 2022: A year into the picket line, the museum announces their plan for a $118 million 9-story building expansion. 

After announcing fundraising (for said building), MOCA begins to call the cops on the picket line, in an attempt to squash the picket line, which reflects poorly on the museum, especially during fundraisers.

Cop Vinny Cheung (friend of Jonathan Chu) harasses protesters, confiscates their materials 

For weeks, MOCA sends NYPD after the picket line, ticketing protesters (MOCA 8) for “excessive noise.” Ticket fines ranged from $450-$3,000. They also seized “drums” that were soy sauce buckets.

Summer 2022: Community organizes a huge march from NYPD to MOCA, calling out their collusion and criminalization of the community. 

October 2022: A rally is held the day before the MOCA 8 have their summons ticket hearings, to call out Rebecca Karl and Mae Ngai for their continual support of MOCA, despite knowledge of the museum’s use of police harassment (and unlawful ticketing of protesters, including myself and other NYU and Columbia students); knowledge of MOCA’s acceptance of the jail money, facilitating displacement, harassment, and the general destruction of the community; and their hypocrisy as leftist professors allying with the Chinatown elite.

Harassment from MOCA continues at the picket line.

Artist’s Statement

As noted above, the day before the MOCA 8’s hearing a rally was held that called out Rebecca Karl and Mae Ngai. NYU’s Washington Square News reported on the rally but everything regarding the two professors was cut from the article. Professors like Rebecca Karl and Mae Ngai make their careers writing and teaching about Chinese workers. Yet they are silent on the condition of workers in Chinatown, the 24-hour workday, and rampant wage theft. Instead, they use their position in academia to legitimize and protect MOCA. 

My piece is a reaction to all that. I created a photo collage to highlight the contradictions of Rebecca Karl and Mae Ngai, of their pedagogy, activism, teachings, and actions. In contrast to the detached professors perched in their ivory towers, my video collage portrays the present happenings in the community and on the ground at the picket line. 

Ivory Tower by Audrey Hui
Ivory Tower by Audrey Hui
Ivory Tower by Audrey Hui


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