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When Newark Had a Chinatown: A Talk by Yoland Skeete-Laessig
Wednesday, May 10 @ 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm
A vibrant Chinese community existed in Newark between the 1870s and 1940s.
But when Yoland Skeete-Laessig, herself an immigrant of Chinese descent, wanted to learn about its history she could find almost no information other than old news stories focusing on crime, gambling and other negative topics.
Knowing American history and having experienced the Civil Rights Era first hand, I knew there was a lot missing.
Determined to recover this forgotten history, she began a multi-year project by getting to know the few remaining Chinese residents and seeking out former residents and their descendants. She spent hours tracking down archival documents and even organizing archeological work that included excavations in her own back yard.
Gradually Skeete-Laessig was able to bring back to life the fascinating and deeply moving stories of a community that thrived through hard work, strong community organizations, and mutual support in the face of discriminatory laws. Her research was shaped into a book, When Newark Had a Chinatown: My Personal Journey, that traces the community from its roots in China and shows how the Chinese affected and were affected by events and trends in American history. Above all it gives voice to many remarkable individuals who shaped Newark’s Chinatown.
We are excited that Yoland Skeete-Laessig will be presenting a talk based on her book. Please join us at the Library for this important celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month!
Besides an author, Yoland Skeete-Laessig is a multimedia artist, documentarian, and arts instructor. She was a co-founder and director of the Sumei Multidisciplinary Arts Center in Newark, one of Newark’s leading artist-run alternative spaces from 1993 to 2015. Ms. Skeete-Laessig has been very involved in preservation of the Asian American history of the city of Newark. She is a contributing member to the Museum of Chinese in the Americas, where her photo documentation of the Chinatown in Havana, Cuba is in their permanent collection. She has worked with Professor John Kuo Wei Tchen, Director of Asian Pacific American Institute at NYU, where her Newark Chinatown collection is among the permanent archives in NYU Tamiment Library. Her video, photography and multimedia installations have been exhibited in galleries and major museums around the world.