Chinatown Immigration Stories

By Matthew Williams

The majority of the students at the Chinatown Service Center were born in the United States. Some were born here in Chinatown at the Pacific Alliance Medical Center. This neighborhood is their stomping ground where they hang out with friends in Alpine Park, eat meals at Pho 87, and do community work at the Chinatown Service Center. This is a vibrant community to these students and they share a strong connection to it as well as each other. It's been more than a pleasure discovering it through their eyes.

I was surprised, however, to see that once the conversation shifted to Chinatown's past, my students' faces went blank. Everyone, of course, knew where their families had come from, but the specifics of how they got here were a mystery.

Sensing an opportunity to move both the curriculum and the students' self-knowledge forward, we decided to take some time to get to know these stories. The parents of these kids all came to the US from different regions in Asia. Most of them struggled to come here, escaping wars and, some cases, genocides in their homeland. They all have amazing stories to tell about their journeys here.
Below are the titles to three of my students' stories about how their families ended up in Chinatown. Read them on KCET Youth Voices Chinatown Services Center.


Coming to America By Annie Kim, My mom, Wendy Phoeng, was born in Cambodia on January 22 1959. She was raised in the household, selling fruits and rice to help the family.




A Recollection of Stories from My Mom By Ivan Wu, My dad works until 2 am so he's usually too tired when he's at home to want to do an interview. My mom is a seamstress and she works for about 12 hours...




Twist of Fate: An Interview with My Father By Kevin On, My father was born in Saigon, Vietnam just a little before the First Indochina War. His life in Vietnam was great he says, "maybe even greater than here in America."


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