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30 May 2018

Chinese Ancestry Day 2018

Chinese Ancestry Day,  held Saturday, May 26, at the Oakland Asian Cultural Center, was a fabulous success. CGS board member Chris Pattillo was among those who volunteered at the event, and she sent us this report: 

Next time you see Maureen Hanlon, make a point of thanking her for planning another tremendously successful CGS event!

Speakers Grant Din and Felicia Lowe
Keynote speaker Felicia Lowe started the day with flair, showing an 18-minute clip of her documentary “Chinese Couplets”—just enough to leave us wanting to see the film in its entirety. Lowe’s journey to uncover her immigrant mother’s past was heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. It also introduced the day’s theme: the impact of the Chinese Exclusion Act on Asian American families to this day.

CGS member Grant Din gave a well-illustrated, clear and concise introduction to doing Chinese family history research. Grant is an engaging and exuberant speaker with 35 years of experience, and he shared ample anecdotes from his work.

We enjoyed lunch and socializing
The delicious lunch provided by Peony Restaurant was worth the price of the event on its own! There was plenty of food--even enough for seconds of yummy sesame balls.

After lunch we heard from Marisa Louie Lee, a former archivist at NARA. She served as an advisor on the PBS documentary “The Chinese Exclusion Act,” which aired this month. I was impressed with how easily Marisa moved between presenting and answering questions. She is a pro speaker. Marisa’s talk was also well illustrated, to the point and included a five-page handout with helpful information and links to other sources.

Finally, we heard from John Wong, a volunteer with the Roots Plus program who has led several tours for Chinese Americans to visit their ancestral villages in China’s Guangdong Province. John showed four videos that showcased the incredible experiences of four different families. The stories that John shared have universal appeal. No, I have no ancestors from China, but I still felt the shivers and warm glow these families experienced as they saw their ancestor’s graves and rural townships for the first time.

Much of the information being presented was not directly relevant to me personally, but I am so glad Maureen invited me to volunteer because I learned so much about things I knew nothing about. Do you know what a “paper mother” is? That is something I learned—if you weren’t there, you’ll just have to ask me.

CGS volunteers Kathryn Doyle and Linda Okazaki
It was apparent that a lot of productive networking was happening throughout the day. At our CGS table, we had two people join as new members and 18 added their names to our e-News list. Our table was next to that of the California Historical Society, where volunteer Frances Kaplan reported that she is grateful for CGS because she refers people with questions to us on a daily basis.

The event was sponsored by the Oakland Asian Cultural Center, California Genealogical Society, the California Historical Society, and the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation. Our thanks to OACC for providing the beautiful venue and to OACC staff member Terri Kaley for being such a gracious host. 

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