Through Chinatown’s Eyes: The Film Series

Through Chinatown’s Eyes: A Series of Videos Starting with April 1968

The first in a series of short documentaries, April 1968, examines the impact of the civil disturbances and violence in DC on Chinatown after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King in April 1968. The story, from the perspective of people recalling events as school children and young adults in Chinatown, explores ideas about ethnic identity and race relationships. It tells how the street violence affected the growth of the neighborhood and its commercial development.

The film was produced by Penny Lee with Lisa Mao. It is a product of the 1882 Foundations’ DC Chinatown Oral History Project. The project seeks to record the oral histories of people who have a stake in preserving the history and heritage of DC Chinatown.

In collecting the oral histories (and images related to them), project directors wanted to preserve them as stories related to topics or themes or issues.   Each story will be complete on its own, but together they will tell the history of DC Chinatown from its beginnings to today in a series of episodes that collectively we call “Through Chinatown’s Eyes.”

A grant from the DC Humanities Council determined the first episode. Under the “Who’s a Washingtonian Grant,” the 1882 Foundation leaders decided to group together memories and stories that dealt with the 1968 street violence and how ethnic neighborhoods interacted or related to one another.

The events of April 19Through Chinatown Eyes April 1968 Image68 were pivotal for Chinatown, as they were for the U Street neighborhood and the rest of urban DC.   As such, April 1968 is a good episode to start the film series. It delineates a watershed between two time periods to help categorize our stories and conceptualize future episodes. The first period will collect stories generally about traditional perspectives and
legacy Chinatown affiliations. The second period holds together stories that relate prominently to American acculturation and the fading of old organizations and livelihoods for a community moving decidedly to the suburbs, even as Chinatown still remains meaningful in a cultural sense.

What that meaning is, as an indicator of the future of Chinatown, becomes a key question to explore. The question and the effort to articulate answers becomes the purpose of the effort to gather and preserve the stories.

Future episodes of the Through Chinatown’s Eyes series will either go one direction to uncover older history and traditions. These include episodes about family associations, reasons to settle in DC, original function of Chinatown, daily life and society including the direct consequences of the Chinese exclusion laws and the immediate impact of WWII. Episodes can go the other direction to examine topics about activities related to American civil rights and participation in mainstream political actions, the evolution of Chinatown businesses, changing youth activities and the gentrification of DC Chinatown.

A list of potential episodes is added below. We welcome suggestions for others episodes. Each episode will run no longer than 30 minutes. Each will have a study guide similar to the one developed for April 1968. The study guide is important because the mission of 1882 Foundation and this film series is not just to collect and re-tell entertaining stories. Fundamentally, it is to educate the public about the history of Chinese in America and its continuing and future significance to all Americans.

In addition to funding provided by the DC Humanities Council, April 1968 received financial backing from the Chinese American Citizens Alliance, the Sino-American Cultural Society and OCA. The 1882 Foundation is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization.

For more information on April 1968, see posts in Activities and Events and Press.


Anticipated Episodes      计划中的电影系列

  1. Gold Mountain Hopes — Why Chinese came to DC Part I: Patterns and routes from Canton. The Angel Island legacy.  Mobility within the U.S. boarders. Why DC?

金山的希望 – 为什么华人来到哥伦比亚特区(DC),第一部分:从广东来的方式和路线。天使岛遗产。在美国国内的流动。为什么来DC?

  1. The Promise – About the enabling and protective roles of family associations and traditions seen through the “promise” of care even after death illustrated by Qing Ming rites and Range 99 at the Congressional Cemetery.

承诺 – 关于宗亲会及传统习俗的扶持和保护作用,通过清明习俗和在特区的国会公墓99号华人墓葬区表现出来的求逝者保佑的传统。

  1. Safe Harbors — Why Chinese came to DC Part II: Patterns and routes from North China and Taiwan. The legacy of Yung Wing, two Chinas, and Tiananmen, students and professionals. “The legal 105.”

安全的港湾 – 为什么华人来到特区,第二部分:从中国北部和台湾来的方式和路线。容闳的影响,“两个”中国,天安门,学生和专业人士。 “合法的105。”

  1. Community and Youth – Becoming American while holding onto Chinese Community through Church and Youth Clubs, and impact of public education.

社区及青年 – 成为美国人的同时通过教会和青年俱乐部紧紧抓住华人社区,和公共教育的影响。

  1. Pennies for China and Fighting for America — Choices and Commitments, traditionalism and nationalism to China, patriotism and service to America.

汇钱回中国和为美国而战 – 选择和承诺,对中国的传统主义和民族主义,对美国的爱国主义和服务效劳。

  1. April 1968 – Street violence following the Martin Luther King’s assassination, Impact on Chinatown. Between black and white.  Choosing to Stay and Defining identity.

19684 – 马丁·路德·金遇刺后的街头暴力,对中国城黑人和白人间的影响。选择留下来并界定身份。

  1. The Bean Sprout King – Thriving in Chinatown, building prosperity and family life, living the Dream. Teen dances, radio shows, football, cars and beauty queens.

豆芽王 – 欣欣向荣的中国城,创造繁荣和家庭生活,实现梦想。青少年舞蹈,广播节目,足球,汽车和选美皇后。

  1. Movable Chinatowns – Pull Factors: Why Chinese leave DC Part I: Opportunities pull residents away. American educated, capabilities and skills no longer restrict Chinese to Chinatown. Once out, why return? The meaning of multiple Chinatowns and echoes Chinatown in untethered cultural showcases.

变动的中国城 – 吸引因素:为什么华人离开特区,第一部分:机会吸引居民离开。拥有美式教育,能力和技能的华人不再受限于中国城。一旦出来,为什么回归?多个中国城的意义及中国城如何映射出不受制约的文化橱窗。

  1. Gentrification – Push Factors: Why Chinese leave DC Part II: Increasing Costs and Rich Real Estates push Chinese out.  Pan-Asian fusion, and the rise of the Young Professional. Pan-Asian-ism as “cultural gentrification.”

贵族 – 排斥因素:为什么华人离开特区,第二部分:成本提高和昂贵的房地产迫使华人离开。泛亚裔融合,和青年白领的崛起。泛亚主义的“文化贵族化。”

  1. Cultural Touchstone – Historical preservation of sites, maintaining programing venues.  Lion Dancing, 9-man Volley Ball and Talk Story, annual New Year parade.  Persistence of family and district associations, particularly of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association, despite dwindling resident population in Chinatown.

文化的试金石 – 保护历史遗址,保持活动场所:舞狮,九人排球,“讲故事”活动,和一年一度的新年游行。宗亲会,特别是中国公所的延续,尽管中国城居民越来越少。

  1. Creating a Cultural Destination – Relevancy. Preserving story sites as well as physical sites.  Chinatown as a mental construct and Museum.  What lies ahead for Chinatown in DC and other Chinatowns.

树立文化目标 – 现实意义。保存实际地址与历史遗迹。中国城作为一种精神构建和博物馆。特区中国城和其他中国城的前景。


We hope you can help us produce the second and future episodes of the Through Chinatown Eyes series by making donations of any amount to the 1882 Foundation. The foundation is a 501(c)3 organization.  Donations are tax deductible.  OCA-Asian American Advocates in Washington DC acts as the Foundation’s fiscal agent.  Mail checks made out “1882 Foundation” to 1882 Foundation, 508 I Street, NW, Washington, DC, 20001.

我们希望您能向1882基金会捐赠,帮助我们制作《透过唐人街的眼睛》影片系列的第二集和其他续集。该基金会是一个501(c)3 组织。捐赠是免税的。美华协会是基金会的财务代理。支票抬头请写 “1882 Foundation”。邮寄地址:1882 Foundation, 508 I Street NW, Washington, DC, 20001.