Monday, August 22, 2011

Chinatown oral history project

On Saturday's walking tour of Chinatown, we heard from Roy Chan, the director of the Oakland Chinatown Oral History Project that the next piece was premiering later that day. So after the walking tour was done, I ran some errands, got some lunch, then rode back to Chinatown for the showing of the film.

The Chinatown Oral History Project has been a work in progress for several years. Earlier parts recorded people's memories of Chinatown, and talked with people displaced when Lake Merritt BART was built -- 75 homes, an orphanage for girls, and the Chinese True Sunshine Episcopal Church were destroyed. The most recent piece talked with people who currently use Madison Square. It's the place for Tai Chi, and some people have been using the area for decades.

The project is also cool in that it's stimulating inter-generational dialogue. The people who know the history are naturally older, and the people doing the interviews, filming and editing them are students. The current piece was done by Chinatown students attending various universities around the country, and by Mills College students.

More changes are planned for the area to make a transit-oriented community. Given the past treatment of area residents and various Chinese settlements before that, it's understandable that people are taking a lot of interest in the process. Fortunately the city and BART are being open about the process, and getting lots of community input along the way. BART boardmember Robert Raburn was there to view the film and talk with area residents.

Check out the Chinatown Oral History website for more info, and if you're in Chinatown check out the exhibit itself while it's open. The Oakland Asian Cultural Center is at 388 9th Street in the Pacific Renaissance Plaza building.

More about the planning process:
Urban Habitat
Oakland Local
East Bay Bike Coalition

More pictures:
Chinatown oral history

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