tv Asian Pacific America with Robert Handa NBC January 29, 2017 5:30am-6:01am PST
hello and welcome to 'asian pacific america.' i'm robert handa, your host for our show h' hello, and welcome to "asian pacific america." i'm robert handa, your host, and cozi-tv. in a recent special, we examined san francisco's china town and the evolution of the chinese comunltd. it was based on an exhibit that was about to open. it is now open. in the spirit of the lunar new year, that is the centerpiece of our show today. we start with a look at the exhibit and we'll talk about the significant events that help shape the community, both the exclusion of chinese as well as how the community was able to be included in society. >> and as part of our tribute and the new year spirit, we present a performance from one of our favorite groups, the firebird youth chinese
orchestra. young musicians playing traditional chinese instruments. >> when people talk tod me abou our recent special on the chinese commute, they usually bring about one of our special guides around the town. joining me is that guide, sue lee, who also recently took us on a tour of the new exhibit at their museum. >> this is a depiction of a creation of the men's barracks in the detention center, and here in the bay area, we would say it would be the refliction of angel island. you can see the male immigrants' belongings. an open suitcase, their clothing. and the bunks that they had to sleep on when they were detained. and there are also videos that explain about paper sons and daughters and about the
protection of the 14th amendment. >> now sue lee joins us here. thank you for being here. >> glad to be here. >> give me an idea, you can see by the clip how extensive the museum is, but it's a lot of history to cover. basically, what is the goal in terms of this exhibit. >> this exhibition, called chinese american exclusion inclusion is probably the largest exhibit on the history of chinese in america. and it starts off before america became the united states. it starts before the revolution. you may recall the boston tea party. that tea that was dumped into the boston harbor was chinese tea. so there's been a trade relationship between america and china from the 1700s. well, this exhibit covers that trade relationship and traces the trajectory of the chinese american community, the thousands of chinese who came
for the gold rush and then became laborers all over the west, including the building of the transcontinental, and it talks about the barriers and the discrimination the chinese immigrants faced. and of course, the biggest piece of legislation that shaped, if you will, the chinese community was the chinese exclusion act that was enacted in 1882. immigration act that specifically called out chinese. it prohibited the immigration of laborers, and it barred chinese from becoming citizens. so there are echoes of that 1882 exclusion act in the debates that we're having today about immigration policy. >> i was just thinking that. >> so the exhibit is very relevant. unfortunately, our history is a forgotten history. you know, chinese were small in numbers.
thousands of chinese began coming for the gold rush, but at the height of the population, when the exclusion act was enacted, there was only i think 170,000 chinese. and the exclusion act was very effective in cutting that population down because there was no new immigration. >> the exhibit goes into inclusion, right? that's a big part, too, and maybe one people aren't as familiar with, the new renaissance that took place. >> those chinese who remained here fought very hard to become citizens of america. and to be able to partake of all the rights and liberties that american citizens are eligible for. and so china townes grew up, chinese communities grew up. we tell that story as well. >> you tell the story, as we're seeing a little of, the interactive story telling. >> one of the things about this exhibition is that it
incorporates artifacts, and interactive elements, so we have videos. we have reproductions. we have audio and video as well. >> somebody was telling me uhad quite a donation from the new york historical society. >> this exhibit was produced by the new york historical society a couple years ago. they showed it at their museum on the upper west side of new york. it was a hit. and afterwards, because it was a temporary exhibit, they decided to gift it to us. so we're very lucky to have received this exhibit that probably cost $2.5 million to produce. >> that's right. you'll be back with us later on in the program. but one thing we want people to understand, it's not just for the chinese community. this is something that people from all communities can learn from. >> this is for everyone. >> sue, we'll see you later on. thank you. stay with us. first, u.s. historian connie will join us and we'll talk about the chinese exclusion act
chinese american community..we were very fortunate to have one of the leading when we ran our special on the chinese american community, we were very fortunate to have one of the leading historians on that topic with a unique family perspective. with me is the one and only connie young yu, a board member emeritus of the chinese historical society of america. welcome. >> thrilled to be here. >> sue talked a lot about the exclusion act, and you and i have talked about it before as maybe one of the most if not the most significant thing, fautd only concerned that community, but in terms of u.s. history as well. what are your thoughts about that and what's happening now? >> well, absolutely. my family endured the shadow of exclusion act for four generations.
and the exclusion act of 1882 was america's attempt to make america white again. for that century, for that time. you know, it came out of the movement, the chinese must go. >> and now we're seeing it used against other groups now. >> absolutely. i think about the paper trail that we have, because of the chinese exclusion law, all my relatives had to prove they were in the united states legally. and there's all this documentation and they had -- my grandmother was detained on angel island for 15 1/2 months, and the testimonies about, you know, the fact that she was a widow, even though her husband was an american citizen. you know, she just had to go through incredible hoops. >> and of course, the kind of obstacles and barriers we're putting up were designed to keep people out. it wasn't really almost in a way like legitimate reasons.
for example, the ailments that your grandmother had was curable. >> yes, every single, you know, possible barrier. whether it's legal, you know, or medical. and -- >> your family can talk about sort of the impact, the emotional impact that has. you know, the exclusion and the feeling of trying to be excluded. and what a lot of people are going through now. it's more significant than a lot of people who don't have to go through that have to endure. >> it's because people of color have to always prove that, you know, even though they're born here, that they are american. they're always considered perpetual aliens. that certainly was true for chinese immigrants specifically because they were excluded from citizenship. there would be children who were born here, but their parents were not allowed to be citizens because of their exclusion act. >> yeah, we were talking before, during the program as well as now, about walter haas and his
family and how they helped your grandfather and what a significant step that was in terms of being seen as equals. and really helped u.s.-china relations. >> walter haas who worked for levi strauss, of course, he had lawyers who helped my grandmother off angel island. but when my grandfather was his agent and traveling back and forth to china, from china to the u.s., even though he was born in the united states and has a u.s. passport, he was stopped at every single entry point and had to prove he was a u.s. citizen. frequently, walter haas, one time, he said i will meet you at the dock personally. and if that's what it took, that you had to have somebody of such influence to intercede on the part of an american citizen of color, you know, that is really
unconstitutional. >> yeah, he and others did make that effort. and did help the community. and that inclusion is a big part of the chinese american community's story as well. for you and your unique family perspective, when you look at the exhibit, what strikes you as the most significant part? >> it's an incredible narrative. at every single panel, every single photograph and caption, you know, is part of evidence of the struggle, evidence of this history of chinese in america. and the struggle against discrimination, against unconstitutional law, and the struggle to be accepted by american society. and the struggle to attain full rights of citizenship. so the exhibit shows that in a very dramatic way. and as i said, because of the exclusion law, we do have a paper trail.
you know, the constant photographs and documents to prove that we deserve to be in the united states. and here to stay. >> that's great. your family's story is a great one. great that the exhibit helps tell a part of it. thank you for being here. >> thank you. >> well, we talked about exclusion. next, we talk about inclusion. stay with us. the worst thing about toilet germs?
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play? >> sterling bank and trust is a privately owned bank. and the seggalman family has a foundati foundation, and their goals are education, history, culture. and the museum is all of that. talked about the culture, the history, and the education. and that's so important right now, especially here on the west coast. and we have been in san francisco now for 23 years. and we are very much involved in the asian american community, in the bay area. and we thought this was a perfect place to donate and to get involved. >> that's great. and sue, we have been talking a little bit about the exhibit. let's take a look a little bit at photographs and jake lee paintings we have showed. we were talking earlier about the color and vividness. tell us what you're seeing and what you want people to appreciate. >> jake lee was a tremendous
watercolor painter. these paintings are from a collection he painted for the form former cannes restaurant in china town. there were 12 paintings that were installed, and they show chinese at work in the american west. this one particularly is of a race in deadwood, south dakota. so chinese were everywhere. providing their labor. >> steve, we were talking earlier. you were saying the henry ford museum. >> yes. >> you saw there was covers of the magazines. >> ford "time" magazines. jake lee was the inhouse painter for what was called fort times magazine. like the employee magazine of ford motor company in the '60s and '70s. and jake lee painted a lot of the covers. you have a lot of '60s vintage ford mustangs and the jake lee paintings, prints.
they're awesome. >> yeah, and great to see that kind of exposure for him. broadly, as an artist. sue, let me talk about some of the other things at the exhibit, significant times. for example, chinese in world war ii. i remember we were talking about that being sort of the turning point for the people accepting the chinese and maybe getting rid of the exclusion act, right? >> absolutely. war was a watershed, actually. the chinese exclusion act was enforced. the chinese population shrunk down to maybe 80,000. world war ii, the u.s. was an ally of china. it didn't seem right that an ally would prohibit the citizens of an ally to become -- to immigrate or to become citizens. there was a repeal of the exclusion act in 1943. >> very interesting. like the japanese american
experience where japanese americans by participating sort of proved their loyalty to a lot of people during that time. interesting parallel. what about the civil rights movement? 1965, i believe, the immigration act and things like that. that's also a big part of the exhibit, right? >> well, as a result of the -- along with the civil rights act, lbj, president johnson, signed an immigration and naturalization act. and that act listed the quotas for immigrants from countries all over the world. and so that law allowed chinese families to reunite. and opened the gate, if you will, for immigration of asians from asia. >> steve, do you feel as though there's a real need to put this out there on a more broader basis, for more people to kind of appreciate what happened and what is happening in chinatown and the san francisco chinese
american community? >> absolutely. just from my experience, first off, it tells the story of the people who were here. i mean, i know friends whose families go back four or five generations, asian americans, and then you have new immigrants who come over and they see this exhibit and they're like, wow, we didn't know we helped with this in america. like the transcontinental railroad. even like when sue was talking about earlier, the boston tea party. and one of the things in the exhibit i learned was franklin delano roosevelt and his family in the 1840s were opium exporters. to the united states. on the east coast. so i find it very fascinating. and that's the educational piece. people know that we have it here and we have it here in san francisco. >> it'sigate to see that the exhibit is going to appeal to more than just the inner community. it's going to have a lot of
mainstream appeal. thanks for being here. >> speaking of inclusion, there is a chinese new year's event at mr. jiu's on monday at 5:30 p.m. if you don't know because it's a hot spot in the city, it's at 28 waverly place in chinatown. it will feature an eight-course meal with help from friends all over san francisco. all proceeds will benefit the chinese historical society of america. now, that sounds like a great way to celebrate chinese new year. coming up next, our traditional artistic and cultural performance. this time from the great firebird youth chinese orchestra. chinese orchestra' as guests
many times..and we are welcome back. we have had the firebird youth chinese orchestra as guests many times and we're proud to showcase one of their performances on the show today to help us all get into the spirit of the new year with the unique sound of young artists playing historical, traditional chinese instruments.
the orchestra as well as the new exhibit at the chinese historical society of america in san francisco all at nbcbayarea.com and on social media. we're on facebook and twitter. we want to thank all of our guests and to our loyal viewers, we will be back next week and every week here on "asian pacific america." thanks for watching. i can show you the world
>> there will be a my advice is to engage but beware. ♪ who can turn the world on with her smile ♪ >> good morning. welcome to "sunday today." i'm willie geist. it's been another weekend of demonstrations after a dizzying first week of executive action under president trump. overnight crowds gathering at airports across the country in response to the president's order signed friday temporarily banning the entry of immigrants to the united states from seven countries and suspending the country's refugee program all together for four months. then a late-night victory in