Rose Pak: Mourning a Legendary Bay Area Community Activist
Local and state officials expressed grief over the news of Pak's passing, while also honoring her legacy
This week, San Francisco is mourning the loss of Rose Pak, legendary activist and community organizer, who died on September 18 of natural causes at the age of 68.
Pak had worked tirelessly for forty years on behalf of Chinatown residents, as well as other communities within San Francisco.
As the SF Examiner put it:
“Longtime Chinatown community leader Rose Pak, whose influence shaped San Francisco politics for decades, died of natural causes Sunday morning at her home. She was 68.
“Stretching back to the first days of San Francisco, few politicos have been as impactful as Pak, said many politicians after her death.
“Though she never held political office, her legacy is one of numerous wins for the community at large, they said, and especially for the nation’s oldest Chinatown –– and the tens of thousands who call it home.”
Rose Pak’s Life and Legacy
As the SF Examiner reported:
“Pak was born in the Henan Province of China and later fled to Hong Kong, where she grew up. She earned a Master’s in journalism at Columbia University, according to China Daily, and worked as a San Francisco Chronicle reporter in the 1970s. [See photo above from 1973.]
“Later, Pak grew into a community organizer for Chinatown. In that role, news reports have referred to her as a ‘power broker,’ but Pak hated the title, and said it stemmed from racism.
“Her numerous accomplishments include raising money to rebuild the San Francisco Chinese Hospital in Chinatown, which was established in 1925, and brokering a deal after the teardown of the Embarcadero Freeway for The City to build Muni’s Central Subway in Chinatown, which is now under construction and slated to open in 2019.”
Calling Pak a “political powerhouse” in San Francisco, the SF Gate added:
“Ms. Pak rose to prominence in an era when men held most of the political clout and women, especially Asian American women, were expected to be soft-spoken and self-effacing. She was anything but.
“Occasionally bawdy, often profane and always outspoken, she was a fighter for her causes, unafraid to mix it up with anyone who got in her way.
“‘You can’t be so afraid of offending anyone that you don’t do anything,’ Ms. Pak told The Chronicle in 2010. ‘If people take positions I don’t agree with, am I just going to roll over and pretend to be dead? No, I’m going to fight.'”
Local and State Officials Mourn Pak’s Passing
Officials from San Francisco and across the state expressed their grief over Pak’s passing, while also honoring her achievements.
Mayor Ed Lee
“Rose and I have been friends for more than 40 years, and I am among a great many people whose lives were touched in a profound, positive way by this extraordinary woman,” said San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee in a statement on Sunday.
“This is a great loss to the City as a whole, and the Chinese community in particular – a community that Rose served, supported and fought for, often fiercely, her entire adult life.”
Rose Pak battled on behalf of the poor, of immigrants, of women. I will miss her dearly, as will our city. pic.twitter.com/5qTxsEAat5
— Mayor Ed Lee (@mayoredlee) September 19, 2016
Assemblymembers Phil Ting and David Chiu
Extraordinarily saddened and shocked by the loss of Rose Pak. Spent her whole life fighting for our community & those most in need.
— Phil Ting (@PhilTing) September 19, 2016
San Francisco & the Chinese community lost a tremendous champion – fearless, one-of-a-kind, irreplaceable. Rest in peace, Rose Pak.
— David Chiu (@DavidChiu) September 19, 2016
Attorney General Kamala Harris
California Attorney General Kamala Harris also tweeted about Pak’s passing, but ended her message on a positive note about her spirit living on through others.
SF has lost a fearless advocate of with the passing of Rose Pak. Her spirit will live on in the countless lives she touched and inspired.
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) September 20, 2016