You are currently viewing Chinese American Experiences in History and Short Films: A Traveling Seminar

Join 1882 Foundation for the first installment of our traveling seminars. Seminars feature short documentary film screenings, expert speakers, discussions of key historical themes, and lesson plans for educators. The first session is geared towards teachers and the second session towards the general public (though all are welcome to attend either). The seminars will shed light on the Chinese American experience, what it means to be American, and why that story and that of all Asian Americans must be told.

FIRST SESSION: Recruited, Excluded, and (sort of) Included: the Asian American Experience seen through short films
Aug. 29, 12:30 to 3:30 PM
Arlington County Teachers Workshop
Arlington Traditional School
855 N. Edison St.
Arlington, VA 22206

Chinese came to America looking for “Gold Mountain” in the 1850s and then to build the Transcontinental Railroad. But in 1882 and for 60 years after, Chinese Americans and later all Asians were not allowed into the U.S. and denied citizenship if already here. Fitting into American life was especially difficult given this legacy of exclusion. Teachers will explore this history and view two contemporary short films. “Through Chinatown’s Eyes: April 1968” is about the Washington, DC riots following Martin Luther King’s assassination and its impact on Chinatown. “Finding Cleveland” follows a young Los Angeles man seeking his Chinese roots and unexpectedly finds himself tracing the path of his father and grandfather to Cleveland, Miss. in the heart of the Jim Crow south. A panel discussion will follow with filmmakers Lisa Mao and Larissa Lim and noted scholars Janelle Wong (University of Maryland) and Krystyn Moon (University of Mary Washington). Teachers will also receive lessons addressing the history of exclusion and issues of identity raised by the films.

Speakers/Panelists: Janelle Wong (U. of Maryland), Krystyn Moon (U. of Mary Washington), Larissa Lam (filmmaker of Finding Cleveland), Lisa Mao (filmmaker of Through Chinatown’s Eyes: April 1968)

SECOND SESSION: Recruited, Excluded, and (sort of) Included: the Asian American Experience seen through short films
Aug. 29, 7:00 to 9:00 PM
Open to the Community
Kenmore Middle School
200 S. Carlin Springs Rd.
Arlington, VA 22204

In the evening, we will be showing the same two films but with a different perspective: how do changing communities such as Arlington build on the strengths of their individual communities (Asian, Latino, Black, and White). The idea here is to for people to understand how important it is for all the communities to get to know each other and their history. Panelists include Samir Meghelli, (Curator, Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum), Marya McQuirter (DC 1968 Project) and Larissa Lam

Again, the seminars will need to be tailored to each venue, but this may give you a few ideas. The films I would like to use in Norfolk are Finding Samuel Lowe and Finding Cleveland. “Finding Samuel Lowe” is longer – by Paula Madison runs 40 minutes but is excellent. We showed it in DC at our annual 1882 Symposium. It’s about three African American siblings, one of them Paula, who grew up in Harlem with their Chinese/Jamaican mother. They follow a trail to Jamaica, Toronto, and then to China to learn about their Chinese grandfather. At the critical juncture of venturing off to China, Paula’s husband asks her, “What do you expect? You know you’re Black?” She laughs and says, “I know I’m Black! I expect that because I am their family and they are my family, we’ll be family… I know that I am a Lowe, and they will want me as much as I want them.”

Our events are free and open to all. For questions, or to get involved, please contact Ting-Yi Oei at


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