Craigslisting the old-fashioned way
In the heart of high-tech California, a low-tech Craigslist is emerging on a store wall in Oakland’s Chinatown. Lindsey Lee Keel has this story.
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LINDSEY LEE KEEL: I’m standing in Oakland’s Chinatown with Anne Huang and Roy Chan.
ANNE HUANG: I’m the former director of Oakland Asian Cultural Center.
ROY CHAN: I am the co-director of the Oakland Asian Cultural Center.
And we are…
CHAN: We’re at the corner of 8th and Webster, and this is sort of like the epicenter of Chinatown.
We’re standing in front of a bakery called Delicious Foods. It smells really delicious, but we’re actually looking at the outside wall of the bakery.
CHAN: We’re in front of this community board and it’s these two bulletin boards…
The boards are covered with dozens of handmade flyers stuck on with tape.
CHAN: It’s what we’ve kind of labeled a Chinatown Craigslist.
Yeah, a very low-tech Craigslist.
CHAN: It’s a board that has postings of spaces for rent…
Job opportunities, cars for sale…
HUANG: There’s one posting for “Learn how to shoot!”
A parking spot for rent catches Chan’s eye.
CHAN: Five dollars a day? I might buy that!
Without Chan and Huang, I’d be lost—apart from one or two English flyers, these postings are mostly in Chinese.
HUANG: This one means, “One room available”. This other one means “Oakland Chinatown.” And it looks like a popular flyer, all the little tags are gone!
This board on the bakery wall provides a vital community service, especially for new immigrants. Roy Chan says those with limited English skills, or without internet access, can use the Chinatown Craigslist as way to connect with others for goods and services.
CHAN: This is a really neat board because it sort of reflects, sort of this exchange of information and resources in a way that’s just very, very immediate and quick and very tangible.
The board started when the storeowners saw flyers covering the light poles in Chinatown – including the ones outside their business. So they decided to clean up and centralize the system. To post on the wall, your flyer has to be approved and stamped with the date. And you have to pay a fee.
Anne Huang says the wall has become an important place for making connections.
HUANG: I don’t see any community vandalism. You see that once the signs are up, then the community really respects this particular space.
HUANG: This bakery is such a great example of how businesses are multifaceted in acting as a community resource center.
As we walk away from the Chinatown Craigslist wall, we decide to check out the other resources—on the inside of the bakery.
CHAN: This place gets crowded at noon.
LEE KEEL: I guess we have to get in line.
HUANG: Although the line in Chinatown is sometimes very amorphous!
LEE KEEL: So I’m going to get something, what should I get?
CHAN: You want an egg custard? Or a lotus seed moon cake? They’re not that sweet.
LEE KEEL: I’ll get the lotus seed moon cake.
Roy Chan orders the pastries, and as the bakery’s name suggests, they’re delicious.
In Oakland, I’m Lindsey Lee Keel for Crosscurrents.
This story originally aired on June 17, 2010 as part of a series on Oakland's Chinatown.