Nancy's Travelblogue

... there isn't a train I wouldn't take, no matter where it's going. -- Edna St. Vincent Millay

Location: California, United States

Saturday, September 12, 2009

SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA SECRETS: Oakland Chinatown Oral History Project

Most people think of San Francisco when they think of Chinatown, but actually Oakland Chinatown is as rich and interesting, and without the tourists.

According to Oakland journalist and Chinatown native Bill Wong, Oakland Chinatown was settled in waves, the first in the 1850s following the Gold Rush. Most of the early settlers came from Southeast China near Hong Kong. The early settlers made a living however they could -- as cooks,gardeners, and laundry men, and of course as workers on the railroad.

The next wave came in 1906 earthquake when great numbers of Chinese from San Francisco, displaced by the earthquake, relocated to Oakland. Families put down roots, family and business organizations emerged and evolved, and the community found an identity within the larger Oakland community.

World War II accounted for another change and the emergence of a Chinese American Middle class in Oakland, and became home to a larger Asian American community. Japanese Americans found a home in Chinatown, as did Filipinos, Koreans, making a lively mosaic of cultures, languages, traditions, and values.

The Oakland Asian Cultural Center, located right in the center of Chinatown at the Pacific Renaissance Plaza, has recently completed an oral history project, bringing the stories of Chinatown through the words of longtime residents. The digital archive is now online and there will be a public celebration in Saturday, September 19, at 1:30 p.m.

For more information and photos about this event, check Bill Wong's blog.

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