Rev. Norman Fong (MDiv 1980), Executive Director of San Francisco’s Chinatown Community Development Center (Chinatown CDC), has been selected to receive the 2018 Distinguished Alumni Award from San Francisco Theological Seminary.
A pastor in Chinatown for nearly 40 years, Fong has become a nationally recognized leader in advocating for affordable housing and community empowerment. He was named a “White House Champion of Change” in 2013.
“Norman has demonstrated over the decades that church and society can work closely together in creating change,” says Rev. Harry Chuck (MDiv 1962), who nominated Fong for the Distinguished Alumni Award. “His vision and mission for the church is grounded in his understanding of the imperatives of scripture and the challenges of an evolving theology consistent with his foundational studies at SFTS.”
At Chinatown CDC, Fong oversees a staff of 200 seeking to meet the needs of an underserved, immigrant community. Founded in 1977, the award-winning community development organization has a long history of community organizing, neighborhood planning, affordable housing development, property management, and resident services.
Chinatown CDC manages and provides housing for 3,600 residents in 30 affordable housing properties throughout San Francisco.
Fong grew up in Chinatown in the 1950s and 1960s, when segregation policies forced San Francisco’s Chinese residents to develop their own hospitals, schools, and churches. He began his career working at the Donaldina Cameron House, a social services organization founded by the Presbyterian Church in 1874 as a mission to Chinese girls and women.
Ordained to the ministry of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in 1981, Fong was called to the Presbyterian Church in Chinatown, where he continues to preach and serve as parish associate. He has served on committees of the Presbytery of San Francisco working for social justice. He has also brought together church and community groups to feed the hungry, and helped organize town hall meetings on tenant rights, safety, and other issues.
In the 1990s, Fong developed the Adopt-An-Alley (AAA) program, which empowers youth to become effective community leaders through advocacy. Young AAA participants planned and led activities to improve alleys and open spaces throughout Chinatown.
“Norman is a tireless, energetic individual who is also gifted with incredible social skills,” Chuck says. Fong founded a dance band that draws crowds at community fairs, nonprofit fundraisers, and weddings. The band just celebrated its 50th anniversary.
“While Norman is close to what most would consider retirement age, he is still going strong,” Chuck says. “Hardly a week goes by when he doesn’t remind us of our own potential as Christ’s messengers of love and justice.”