Chinatown now has its very own competitive women’s volleyball team!
The new team, named Voltage, an AAFE-sponsored group, is part of the Asian American 9-Man volleyball community. Voltage members appeared at a recent community event coordinated by the Upper Manhattan Asian American Alliance in Harlem to celebrate the inclusion of Asian American history in the New York City public schools (see above photo). And Voltage will be competing in the Mini Mini, its first New York tournament June 18 in Seward Park.
A few months ago, team founder Claire Ho (pictured below: upper left) reached out to AAFE to propose a partnership. She had noticed that there didn’t seem to be a volleyball team affiliated with an Asian American organization in Chinatown, Claire was born and raised in Chinatown and still lives in the neighborhood, just a short distance from AAFE’s Chinatown community offices. She explained, “I actually live right near AAFE. I’m aware of the organization, the activism, how they give back to the community. I just thought it would be cool if there was a volleyball team in Chinatown that represents the community, especially the Asian American community.”
Emily Rios, AAFE’s managing director of Community Services, thought it was a great idea. Emily said, “AAFE offers many different services, including housing counseling, access to social services, immigration counseling, youth programs and food pantries. But especially as Chinatown changes so quickly, we feel like it’s so important to also support Asian American culture and activities that bring the community together. 9-Man volleyball is a big part of Chinatown culture, so we were really excited to join forces with Voltage.
9-Man volleyball originated in China in the 1920s and then became popular in major American cities. The tournaments are major community events, bringing out the young and old alike to cheer on their favorite teams (women actually compete with six players as opposed to 9). Claire said, “I think a lot of people are unaware that there’s this big population of Asians who play volleyball and there’s this whole league for volleyball for men and women. It’s really having this connection with our roots and our community and having something that’s for us. For our tournaments we go to other Chinatowns in the U.S. It’s really connecting all of us around the country.”
Many of the Voltage members played together on another larger team. The players, Claire said, were excited to join a team that they can help shape from the ground up. “It’s great to find a support group of people who have similar experiences,” Claire explained. “I grew up in Chinatown but that doesn’t mean everyone else did, so they might not have that connection to their identity and culture.”
Speaking of Chinatown, Claire added, “It’s a very important place to me. It’s not just my home. It’s very deep in my heart. As Voltage gets ready for its New York debut, Claire said, “I just hope that people see the passion and need for it the same way I do. Obviously I’m very grateful for AAFE giving us the opportunity to work together on this. It’s about time there was a volleyball team with ties to an association that also feels very strongly for the community.”
In addition to Claire, Voltage team members include: Annie Lu, Chloe Chan, Gina Sledd, Joanna, Samantha Yu, Ying Ying, Alejandra Chen Zeng and Selina Feng.