'Heritage of Hope' Honors Immigrant Experience
We ushered in the year of the Horse on February 8 with Heritage of Hope, our third Lunar New Year storytelling celebration in partnership with the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park. Braving wind and rain to join us on board theBalcluthaa near-capacity crowd gathered in the evocative shelterdeck of the 1886 square-rigger to bask in the touching warmth of storytelling and presentations that honored the immigrant experience. In a compelling performance, CW community storytellers re-animated powerful stories from our intergenerational immigrant workshops with the Chinatown YMCA last summer. These stories of contemporary immigrant experience were threaded through with stories from earlier generations, to connect the past and the present. Mesmerizing multimedia projections added life to the storytelling and captured the humanity at the heart of these stories—which is also at the heart of the Chinese Whispers spirit.
Story contributor Ford Lee, a long-time member of the CW community who participated in the immigrant workshops as a Mentor, was in the audience. He reflected that: “Being part of the immigrant workshops was an emotional experience for me, to hear of the difficulties and hardship recent immigrants families have experienced. It also made me proud of the Y’s role in helping these immigrant parents adjust and overcome their problems. Hearing their stories again at the Heritage of Hope event reminded me of the work we need to continue to do.”
Park Guide Krystal Ip read from her great uncle Raymond’s account of his passage through Angel Island as a teenager, excerpted from an oral history by historian Judy Yung in the upcoming second edition of Island: Poetry and History of Chinese Immigrants on Angel Island, 1910 –1940. Park Guide David Pelfrey gave a fascinating talk about the skilled Chinese immigrants in the cannery industry—did you know that their daily quota was to pack 40,000 cans of fish? Bringing the afternoon to a close, author Arlene Goldbard spoke about cultural citizenship, and invited the audience to write down their new year’s wishes for the immigrants whose stories they just heard. We will deliver these wishes to the Y, to complete the full circle of the Heritage of Hope.
A shout out to our talented community storytellers, Park presenters, Arlene, and our stalwart volunteers, and our workshop collaborator, the Chinatown Y. Special thanks to our co-presenter, the San Francisco Maritime National Park, in our ongoing partnership to bring history to life. As people filed out from the shelterdeck into the afternoon rain, the mood was quickened by a sense of having been fortified by the stories of perseverance and hope, and the reciprocity demonstrated by our audience.
Thumbs-up to CW at SF History Expo
Sailing Forth into New CW Project!
We joined over fifty organizations at the 2014 San Francisco History Expo to celebrate local history in the Old Mint’s stately chambers. The event teemed with history enthusiasts, including some in period dress. A non-stop stream of diverse visitors stopped by our booth and enjoyed a bonus StoryCookiesTM and red story envelopes. The unique, multi-platform CW approach that gives life to silenced histories and “tales of ordinary people” stood out so much that Chinese Whispers got special mention in the SF Chronicle!
We are thrilled to launch our new project, Chinese Whispers: Bay ChroniclesSM, to retrace the overlooked history of Chinese shrimp fishing in San Francisco Bay. And we are delighted to continue our successful collaboration with the SF Maritime Park on Bay ChroniclesSM. An interdisciplinary CW creative team will chronicle sailings on the Park’s replica 19th century shrimp junk to former sites around the Bay. Stay tuned for public programming in conjunction with landings and sailing routes this September! The project will result in a transmedia installation at the Park in 2015.
Community Sustenance and the History of Place
If you haven’t ventured down to the San Jose Museum of Art yet to check out CW Director Rene Yung’s site-specific art installation “Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread,” we invite you to visit this powerful work before the exhibition closes on April 20. Riffing ironically off of its title, “Give Us This Day…” meditates on the search for sustenance by the 19th century immigrants in San Jose’s former Market St. Chinatown, which was destroyed by arson fire in 1877—and part of which was located right beneath the site of the present SJMA.
CW at CAM Annual Conference
Using a bowl of rice as the cultural icon symbolizing sustenance, the installation sets up a terse dialogue between a 9 ft by 7 ft charcoal drawing of a brimming bowl of rice; a cracked and restored historic rice bowl excavated from the archaeological site; and the translucent enlargement of a historic photograph of the raging fire, which fills the gallery windows overlooking today’s downtown San Jose. A Community Wall flutters softly with myriad hand-dyed paper slips bearing visitors’ reflections on the meaning of rice and sustenance. Come add your reflections, and give a moment of silent welcome to the historic Double Happiness Bowl for its unheralded homecoming, back to the overlaid site of Market St. Chinatown.
Click here for the news story about "Give Us This Day..." on TVB USA (in Cantonese). Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to have an English transcription for the story.
Our thanks to the Market Street Chinatown Archaeology Project and its partners for ongoing collaboration and support!
At a standing-room only session, CW Director Rene Yung presented on the strategic integration of art and civic engagement in creating public dialogue, at the recent California Association of Museums conference in Napa. With a focus on issues of immigration, the panel also included the Museum of Tolerance and Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation.
—The Chinese Whispers Team
Wishing you a rejuvenating spring!
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