This Website

Culture Tools: Building Community Through Folk Arts is a website that celebrates and documents the work of artists, activists, elders and youth in our communities. It is a collaboration between Asian Americans United, the Philadelphia Folklore Project and the Folk Arts – Cultural Treasures Charter School created as part of Scribe Video Center’s eSights eSounds program.

In the current context of globalization with its increasing pressures towards uniformity and the commercialization of culture, preserving and passing down local knowledge is a vital task – an act of resistance that is critical to building culturally healthy people and communities. At the core of FACTS’ vision is that we build students’ capacity to see, value, respect and sustain local peoples’ community heritage and cultural knowledge. We work to nurture students’ awareness of the taken-for-granted, the too-often-dismissed, the everyday: all that meaning around us which comes from people’s lives rather than from corporate media or larger structures. Through course work, after school programs, visiting artists, and project-based learning, FACTS gives students meaningful avenues for making sense of community-grounded ways of being, and the capacity to critically question those structures and practices that diminish local lifeways.

Culture Tools: Building Community Through Folk Arts will contribute to the fulfillment of this vision by helping students, teachers, parents and other community members become active culture makers while sharing their culture tools with others. Teachers, using project-based learning at FACTS, engage students in documenting the stories of family and community members, artists and artistic traditions, and community histories of struggle and perseverance. By putting these stories up on the web in forms that are appealing and accessible to people who speak varying languages and have a range of literacy levels, this project expands the power of the children’s work. It takes their work beyond their classrooms and puts it in the service of the larger project of strengthening the cultural health of our communities. The site will also feature ways that we defend and build our community through events like the Mid-Autumn Festival and the struggle to fight the opening of a casino in Chinatown.

This website was developed by:
Kathy Shimizu, Web Design and Production, Block Print Creation
Sonia Arora, Project Team Management
Debora Kodish, Content Development
Ellen Somekawa, Content Development
Karynn Henry, Team Member
Eric Joselyn, Team Member
Francine Lee-Kim, Team Member
Rana Sindhikara, Team Member
Laura Deutch, eSights eSounds Project Facilitator
Keith Obadike, eSights eSounds Project Mentor
Mendi Obadike, eSights eSounds Project Mentor


The Organizations

Asian Americans United (AAU)

Asian Americans United (AAU) exists so that people of Asian ancestry in Philadelphia exercise leadership to build their communities and unite to challenge oppression. AAU was founded in 1985 by a small group of activists seeking to create an organized response to rising issues of anti-Asian violence, substandard housing and education rights for non-English speaking Asians in the city. For 17 years, AAU’s youth development programs involved young people in contributing directly to their communities through planning and implementing community projects. In September 2005, AAU took a major step towards our long-term goal of establishing institutional permanence and stability with the opening of the Folk Arts – Cultural Treasures Charter School (FACTS). AAU has worked for more than two decades in the Philadelphia public schools to fight for quality education opportunities for Asian American and immigrant students and families. The charter school came out of the desire of many of our constituents for a school that that would respond to the needs of immigrant children and would serve as a public resource to the Chinatown community. AAU, with our longtime ally the Philadelphia Folklore Project, founded this school and continue to partner with it. For more information, please visit

The Philadelphia Folklore Project (PFP)

The Philadelphia Folklore Project (PFP) is a twenty-year old public folklore organization. PFP works to sustain and nurture cultural and artistic practices and expression that are rooted in the histories, traditions, and everyday lives of the people, neighborhoods and communities of the Philadelphia region. We collaborate with artists, cultural workers and communities to increase respect for, understanding of and access to local grassroots arts and humanities, and to challenge systems and practices that diminish them. We investigate and articulate the ways that pursuit of folk arts foster positive social change. We offer public education in the folk arts (including classes, residencies, and technical assistance services), develop arts- and humanities-based community projects (workshops, public programs, exhibitions), and documentary resources (publications, research, and an archive), and we advocate and organize around issues of concern in the field of folk and traditional arts. For more information, please visit

Folk Arts – Cultural Treasures Charter School (FACTS)

Folk Arts – Cultural Treasures Charter School (FACTS) provides children with an exemplary education that utilizes traditional arts and cultures found within their own and neighboring communities as catalysts for critical inquiry and community engagement. Based in Philadelphia’s Chinatown community, FACTS provides children with an education which has high academic standards, is truly community-based, respects the lives of students and their families, engages students in understanding their own cultures and communities, and encourages students to become active participants in working for a just society. For more information, please visit

Scribe Video Center

Scribe Video Center, a non-profit organization founded in December 1982 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, seeks to explore, develop and advance the use of electronic media, including video and audio, as artistic media and as tools for progressive social change. "Scribe" is a metaphor for the use of electronic recording technologies as a modern tool to document significant contemporary concerns and events. Scribe uses electronic media to document issues and ideas affecting diverse economic and cultural communities; create media works that comment on the human condition and celebrate cultural diversity. Scribe Video Center facilitates new approaches to visual form and language in an effort to further the aesthetics of video making. For more information, please visit