Celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month at Chatham Square Library
May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. (Formerly known as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, the official name was changed in May 2009 with the signing of Proclamation 8369 by President Obama.) Though some form of this commemoration has existed since the late 1970s, it was finally declared a month-long celebration in 1992 when Congress passed Public Law 102-450. "The month of May was chosen to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese to the United States on May 7, 1843, and to mark the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869. The majority of the workers who laid the tracks were Chinese immigrants." (Source)
Chatham Square Library has been serving a predominantly Chinese population for nearly as long as its existence. The branch opened on November 2, 1903, and was the second branch after Yorkville to be constructed with funds from Carnegie’s 1901 gift to the city of New York. The circulating Chinese language collection has been available here since 1911. In honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, the library will host a film series which highlights the unique experiences of Chinese-Americans.
On Saturday, May 6, we will screen Kenneth Eng's documentary My Life in China. Eng writes: "My father fled the Cultural Revolution in 1966. After risking his life to get to America, he started our family in Boston. But when his restaurant went bankrupt and my mom got sick, he began to feel like he’d failed at the American Dream. A story of migration is passed down from father to son, as we retrace the precarious steps he took in search of a better life. Ultimately asking the question, what does it mean to be both Chinese and American?" (Source)
On Saturday, May 13, we will screen Alvin Tsang's documentary Reunification. In this deeply personal award-winning film that gives an insider view on the contemporary Asian American immigrant experience, divorce and family psychology, and the personal filmmaking process, filmmaker Alvin Tsang reflects on his family’s migration from Hong Kong to Los Angeles in the early 1980s - fraught with betrayal from his parents’ divorce, economic strife and communication meltdown between parents and children. This poetic exploration of many unresolved years moves moodily across different channels and modes, bending into labor histories and Hong Kong’s colonial trajectories. Tsang turns the camera on his own family, cautiously prodding for answers, but fully acknowledging that the only closure he can get will be from deciding for himself how to move on.
Finally, on Saturday, May 20, we will screen Ed Moy's Aviatrix: The Katherine Sui Fun Cheung Story. Aviatrix is an award-winning documentary film that chronicles the inspiring story of Katherine Sui Fun Cheung, who defied racial and gender barriers in pursuit of her dream of flying during the Golden Age of Aviation in the 1930s. She earned her pilot's license during an era when less than one percent of all pilots were women and joined the Ninety-Nines, an all-women pilot's club. She is considered the first licensed Chinese woman pilot in America.
We hope you can join us in celebrating our community and its heritage this May. Of course, every day is a celebration of our community here at Chatham Square, and we frequently have programs that highlight the Chinese-American culture and experience- we encourage you to check out our upcoming programs!