Betty Yu

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Betty Yu

Betty Yu became an activist on June 4, 1995, the day she found herself on the wrong side of a barricade at a Chinatown protest. On hand to photograph her sister and others in a hunger strike to protest a restaurant's labor practices, Yu decided that taking pictures wasn't enough. "I joined the hunger strike the next day," she says.

She has continued on the path she began that day--passionate, focused on her community and committed to her family. Today, Yu, project director for the Chinese Staff and Workers Association and cofounder of the National Mobilization Against Sweatshops, pushes for better worker's compensation services for injured garment workers and for equal pay and treatment for low-income women. Her family is still a major source of inspiration--both her parents have worked long days in the garment industry since they came to this country from China 27 years ago, and her mother has become an important leader in their Sunset Park community.

A graduate of New York University's prestigious film school, the 22-year-old Yu says her visual skills are now largely devoted to helping Chinatown youth learn how to document the world they live in. "I view the camera as a weapon to tell one's story and to expose injustice," she says. "There was no way I could play both roles of being a documentary filmmaker and an organizer. So right now, I'm organizing." [1]

Media work

As a Chinese-American interdisciplinary, multi-media artist, educator and community activist. Ms. Yu was a Public Artist-in-Resident with the Laundromat Project and is a 2015 Artist-in-Resident with the Saltonstall Foundation. Currently, Betty is a 2015 Cultural Agent with the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture (USDAC) a people-powered arts network. Betty’s interactive multi-media installation, “The Garment Worker” was part of a 5 week art exhibit in Chinatown and featured at Tribeca Film Institute’s Interactive in 2014. Betty’s work has fused elements of public art intervention, storytelling, theater, and artist citizenry. In 2014, she invited residents to participate in an interactive picnic during Queens Public Art Intervention day. Her documentary “Resilience” about her garment worker mother fighting against sweatshop conditions, screened at national and international film festivals Betty’s short documentary “Against the Grain” that she co-directed with Seyi Adebanjo about a gender non-conforming Nigerian immigrant artist screened at many film festivals including the 2014 San Francisco Transgender Film Festival.Ms. Yu’s work has been exhibited and featured at the International Center of Photography, Directors Guild of America, Eastman Kodak Museum, Museum of Modern Art and Brooklyn Museum. Recently, “Discovering My Grandfather Through Mao”, a short film documenting her grandfather’s radical history as a labor organizer was selected for the 2015 Culture UnPlugged Film Festival. For 7 years, she served on the board of Working Films, a organization that builds partnerships between nonfiction media-makers and social justice groups. For over 4 years, Betty managed the national network, Media Action Grassroots Network (MAG-Net), a project of the Center for Media Justice. Ms. Yu is currently on the Board of Directors of Deep Dish TV and Third World Newsreel, two progressive media arts. Betty graduated with a BFA from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and is finishing her MFA in Integrated Media Arts at Hunter College.[2]

Friends of Gabe

Gabriel Strachota September 4, 2015.


I recently joined LeftRoots a new National org of social movement Leftists. This dialog with activist intellectuals Marta Harnecker and Michael Lebowitz will be our first public event on the coast. Check it out: Skanda Kadirgamar, Shahana Hanif, Betty Yu, Negesti Kazuko Cantave, Cathy Dang, Eli Schmitt, Brigid Flaherty Tah Ohso Grand, Naved Husain, Elliott Liu, Rosa Libre, Akrm Ahmed Joshua Allen.

"Support Bill Ayers"

In October 2008, several thousand college professors, students and academic staff signed a statement Support Bill Ayers in solidarity with former Weather Underground Organization terrorist Bill Ayers.

In the run up to the U.S. presidential elections, Ayers had come under considerable media scrutiny, sparked by his relationship to presidential candidate Barack Obama.

We write to support our colleague Professor William Ayers, Distinguished Professor of Education and Senior University Scholar at the University of Illinois at Chicago, who is currently under determined and sustained political attack...
We, the undersigned, stand on the side of education as an enterprise devoted to human inquiry, enlightenment, and liberation. We oppose the demonization of Professor William Ayers.

Betty Yu of the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Education signed the statement.[3]



Families United for Racial and Economic Equality (FUREE), July 19, 2013;

With Rusia Mohiuddin, Betty Yu, Numi Dee, Krysten Brown-Green, Jumaane D. Williams, Hasan Salaam, Eric Valentin, Jr., Jessica Alfreds, Carrie Gleason, John M. Blasco, Laurie Cumbo, Wanda Imasuen, Irini Neofotistos, Bryan K. Echols, Lynn Lewis, Fahd Ahmed, Joan Gibbs, Andrea Nelson, Lucas Shapiro, Tenelle Breukelen, Peter Hardie, Mo Meazy George, Marquis Jenkins, Imani Henry, Jack Aponte, Tamara Czyzyk, Maurice Moe Mitchell, Elizabeth Yeampierre, Lumumba Bandele, Pamela Hamilton-Brown, Colleen Vincent, Tony Herbert, Cyril Innis, Jr., Jelani Likeitis Mashariki, Fernando Carlo, Lisa Ortega, Shawne Lee, Nathalie Alegre Velarde, Lyrik Tehuti, Fly Guy Yoshi, Kazembe Balagun, Eman Rimawi, Mw Payne, Orlando Green, Nichi Floetic Valentino, Ilana Berger, Byron Hurt and Malik Abu Khalid.

Media Action Grassroots Network

Nijmie Dzurinko July 16, 2013:


Media Action Grassroots Network staff and board convening! — with Karlos Gauna Schmieder, Nick Szuberla, Steven Renderos, Jen Soriano, Malkia Cyril, Amy Sonnie, Alison Roh Park, Betty Yu, Oshen Rose and Brandi Collins.

Freedom Road meeting

Spring 2015, the New York/New Jersey District of Freedom Road Socialist Organization sponsored a forum entitled “Ferguson: The Movement So Far and Lessons for Coming Struggles.” The first speaker was "our comrade", Montague Simmons, Chair of the legendary Organization for Black Struggle in St. Louis.[4]

The meeting was held 39 Eldridge St,New York, 19 March 2015. Organized by Eric Odell.

A Discussion with Montague Simmons Chair of the Organization of Black Struggle – St. Louis and labor organizer

Loyda Colon Co-Director of the Justice Committee, a Latina/Latino-led organization dedicated to building a movement against police violence and systemic racism in New York City

Speaking for the first time in NYC since the police murder of Michael Brown, the chair of OBS, which played a major role in the Ferguson protests, discusses the new strategies, organizational forms and social forces that emerged there, and how the movement was sustained. Loyda Colon will reflect on the Justice Committee’s work organizing with families directly impacted by police violence, and will share their thoughts on the current movement in NYC.
Together they will share their thoughts on key questions for the movements against police abuse that are erupting around the country. How do we hold together broad united fronts with different generations, cultures, classes and political perspectives? What’s the role of anti-capitalists and socialists? What kind of policing reforms do we want and how do they relate to other issues in our communities, and to radical social transformation?[5]

Those signalling their intention to attend on Wherevent included John McCarthy, Juliet Ucelli, Betty Yu, Lily Defriend, Wai Yee Poon, David Unger, Matthew Tinker, Ryan Briles, Enbion Micah Aan, Erick Moreno, Terry Marshall, Jesse Baboo, Daniel Tasripin, Anton Han Kiang, Starlitekid Cosmos, Clayton Nino Brown, Miguel Marrero-Bermudez, Joy Schulman, Jeanne D. Shaw, Mark Swier, Stephanie Zukasaka, Denise Chupacabral, Anne Mitchell, Emma Pliskin, Oriana Roeckraeyer, Lara Shepard-Blue, Karly Safar, Robina Rai, ManSee Kong, Teresa Basilio, Aisha Shillingford, Adriana Cruz, Ofie Virtucio, Rivka Paradis, Katrina Cortes, Sharice Richards.[6]