By Assunta Ng
Northwest Asian Weekly
The small Seattle chapter of the Chinese American Citizens Alliance (CACA) has surprised many with its boldness and drive to host the national convention on Aug. 6-9 for the first time in the Emerald City.
“We were the newest and smallest chapter of CACA two years ago,” said Maxine Loo, a member. “I was leery at first. But when Ming Ming Tung-Edelman, (Seattle’s chapter president) said she is going to bid on it, everyone (at the meeting) applauded.”
Even though the CACA was established more than 150 years ago to fight for civil rights for Chinese Americans, its goal is still relevant today. Discrimination and prejudices still prevail in many segments of the society from government to private sectors, housing to employment, education to services. As long as the Chinese American community is denied of equal opportunity, an organization is deeply needed to stand up for the community.
Established four years ago, Seattle’s CACA chapter has about 40 members. The first chapter, established in 1895 in San Francisco, CACA now has about 40 chapters throughout the United States.
Jerry Lee, a philanthropist who received the Spirit of America Award from CACA last year, gave a historical case in point. During the building of the railroads and seawalls in the 19th century, signs were posted, “Chinese caught fishing will be shot.”
Upon completion of the railroads, Chinese were deported, shot at, and kicked out, Lee said.
The new Chinese Heritage Park in Astoria, Oregon is to honor the Chinese railway workers and remind the public of the workers’ sacrifices and hardship. But a group was opposed to the plan, said Lee.
CACA was the driving force behind the project to ensure the completion of the Chinese Heritage Park built in front of City Hall.
“CACA is a united voice for Chinese Americans to protect our civil rights and interests,” said Tung-Edelman.
“We have been lobbying in DC every year topics ranging from immigration reform, historical preservation, more Asian judicial nominations, and a Medal of Honor to be granted to late Kirk Lee.”
Tung-Edelman said Seattle’s natural beauty and civically engaged residents, and a large thriving Asian community would appeal to the national audience.
She also said Jerry Lee has encouraged her all along to get the convention held in Seattle. Lee is the honorary chair of the 53rd Biennial National Convention. He will also host a lunch at Anthony’s for the delegates on Aug. 6.
Tung-Edelman said she worked on the bid two years ago and has been working to organize the convention. More than 140 Chinese delegates will come to Seattle. “They are from all over the U.S. It’s interesting to meet fourth generation Chinese Americans who speak with a Texas accent, coming in with cowboy hats and boots.” She found it inspiring to meet Chinese Americans with diverse backgrounds from all over the country. The convention’s theme is “Inspiration, Integration, Interaction.”
The highlights of the convention will include a tour of the Chinatown International District and the Wing Luke Asian Museum, organized by community advocate Bettie Luke. Workshops on researching railway workers’ lives and historic preservation will be conducted. Tung-Edelman said there are a lot of railway workers’ descendants in the U.S. This year is the 150th anniversary of railroad building in the U.S. A section on mental health will be taught at the Asian Counseling and Referral Service.
Hon. Gary Locke is a speaker for the Aug. 7 dinner at the China Harbor Restaurant. Food expert Maxine Chan will use ingredients used by pioneers such as railroad workers for a special dinner to be held at the Four Seas Restaurant.
Both delegates and non-delegates are welcome to join. The fee for joining the convention is the same for members and non-members, $350, including all the meals and transportation.
Tung-Edelman said they are in need of many more volunteers. (end)
For information, go to http://www.cacanational.org.
Assunta Ng can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.