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March 12, 2013 > Chinese American History exhibit

Chinese American History exhibit

Pent-up demand for relevant and inclusive approaches to American history

Submitted By Jordan Yee

Ms. Gerry-Low Sabado, a community-history activist, who has been instrumental in raising awareness of the history of the early Chinese immigrant fishing communities in Pacific Grove California, presented a well-attended talk, on Saturday, January 26, 2013, regarding the pioneering 19th century Chinese immigrant squid fishing community that settled on the shores of the Monterey Bay. Her talk, accompanied by a screening of the CSU Monterey Bay film "By Light of Lanterns: the Untold Story of Monterey Chinese Fishermen" concluded the successful "Remembering 1882 - Exhibit and Lecture Series" presented during January 2013 at Fremont Public Library.

Noted historians, authors, and pioneering Asian American studies professors Mr. Philip P. Choy (January 5) and Ms. Judy Yung (January 12) delivered the program's first two talks to a full house in the library's Fukaya Room. At opening session, Chinese American Citizens' Alliance (CACA) and Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs Association (APAPA) representatives recounted the background to their and other stakeholders' recent efforts to secure the passage of resolutions in the U.S. House and U.S. Senate containing statements of regret for the unconstitutional Chinese Exclusion laws. Many attendees participated in the book-signings by authors Phil Choy and Judy Yung.

Library staff was delighted with the excellent attendance at the lectures and library users' interest in the "Remembering 1882" traveling exhibit in the library's local history collection. The program's third session consisted of a presentation and Chinese American case study by genealogist Christine DeVillier and included a lively question-and-answer session.

The success of the program reflects a pent-up demand by the Chinese American and wider community for cultural and educational programming that addresses the pioneering historical contributions and tribulations of the 19th century and early 20th century Chinese American community. It is also indicative of growing hunger by a politically maturing Asian American community to see the sweeping historical narratives of early Chinese American contributions to the development of the American west presented and recounted in public history gatherings.

During the planning of this exhibit and lecture series, event organizers Jordan Yee and Gerry Low-Sabado, both founding members of the Chinese American History Network, received numerous requests from organizations and from Chinese American elected officials in California for the program to travel to their venue.

"The turnout for this event shows a real demand for an inclusive approach to presenting the history of the American west. It's a challenge that all public history stakeholders need to strive to meet," said Yee.

This combination library exhibit and speaker program was organized by the Chinese American History Network in partnership with the Fremont main branch of the Alameda County Public Library. The program featured lectures and public talks, author book signings, a film screening, and an eight-week presentation of the traveling Chinese Exclusion laws history exhibit developed by the Chinese Historical Society of America. Additional support came from the Chinese American Citizens' Alliance (CACA), Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs Association (APAPA), Chinese Historical Society of America, Citizens for Better Community, and South Bay Chinese Club.

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