On Saturday, July 21st, I had the opportunity to attend the OCA national convention to specifically observe the Your Story, Our Story session hosted by Ali Smith and Ted Gong of the 1882 Foundation. From the standpoint of an 1882 Foundation intern, it was amazing to see the enthusiasm that many in the audience had for this project. When Ted and Ali read aloud some of the stories already submitted to the Tenement/1882 Project page, some were touching and others playful. The sentimental ones inspired murmurs and sounds of compassion while the playful roused appreciative chuckles. The audience was automatically drawn in by these stories sourced from the lineage of everyday Chinese-Americans, exemplifying the power of storytelling.
Through this experience, I have discovered that stories are a fundamental link amongst members of a community. They can be universal and are always interesting; within the Chinese-American community, there might be some elements of others’ heritage that we recognize in our own, but their specific, unique stories are theirs alone to tell. From telling our stories, we spread our stories and thus ensure that our histories are remembered. From listening to others’ stories, we can understand not just our own personal Chinese-American identity, but use these additional perspectives to shape and build onto a broader, multifaceted Chinese-American identity. For the 1882 Foundation, I think this more personal approach of focusing on the individuals in a community could be very effective for future projects and collaborations, and I look forward to hearing the stories and experiences of more Chinese-Americans.