By James Tabafunda
Northwest Asian Weekly
SEATTLE — When the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) holds a “first-day-of-issue” dedication ceremony, it makes sure the event is both a celebration of the diversity of the American people and the introduction of a new commemorative stamp.
The national unveiling of the Year of the Rooster Forever stamp took place Jan. 5 at Seattle’s Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience. Beginning Jan. 28, the Year of the Rooster will be celebrated through Feb. 15 in China, Vietnam, and Korea, among other countries.
Some of the ceremony’s highlights included a personal appearance by stamp artist and Fashion Institute of Technology professor Kam Mak, a lion dance performed by the Mak Hin Fai School of Kung Fu, and the presentation of colors by the Seattle Police Department Honor Guard.
Wearing a small pin with the stamp’s design, Chinese Radio Seattle (CRS)’s Office Director Yibo Lu served as master of ceremonies.
The 10th of 12 stamps in the current Celebrating Lunar New Year series (2008-2019), the stamp has a multicolored rooster — a symbol of strength — on a “hongbao,” the traditional red envelope used for holding money or gifts. The color red is associated with good luck in Chinese culture.
Commissioned by the USPS to work on the current series honoring the Lunar New Year, Mak — born in Hong Kong — worked with art director Ethel Kessler.
Kessler’s stamp design includes two elements from the first series (1992-2007): the Chinese character for “rooster,” drawn in grass-style calligraphy by Lau Bun, and Clarence Lee’s cut-paper design of a rooster.
“I wanted it to really tell the rich story of what Lunar New Year is about,” Mak said. “What I felt was significant for me growing up (in New York City’s Chinatown) and what Lunar New Year meant to me.”
Lu introduced the first of four speakers, Beth Takekawa, executive director of the Wing Luke Museum.
“We are really excited to host this ceremony for the first time in the museum’s 50-year history,” Takekawa said. “This ceremony holds personal significance for me.”
She shared one story about her father, Yutaka “Dutch” Takekawa. After the war, he worked at the USPS, “where he stayed his whole working life.”
While growing up, Takekawa said all six members in her family traveled by car each summer to various national parks throughout the West.
“There was one thing that he would always stop the car for, and every post office that we passed, he would stop and take a picture,” she said.
“I think my dad felt the post office was something that made everyone have something in common.”
Takekawa said, “It’s not common that the cultural heritage of an American immigrant community is elevated to museum worthy as it is here, so this ceremony is about a stamp, but it means a lot more than that.”
A 34-year postal professional, Greg G. Graves is the vice president of western area operations. He said, “It’s very interesting. The Postal Service loves to celebrate culture, diversity. And this is one of the ways that we choose to do that.”
“Today’s event is very important, not only because it’s our first dedication for the year, but also because it gives the Postal Service a chance to reinforce our commitment to celebrate America’s great diversity and rich, multicultural heritage.”
Graves continued, “I hope that the Year of the Rooster brings each of you good health, great joy, and above all, boundless prosperity.” He then asked the other featured speakers and participants to join him on stage for the unveiling of the giant-sized stamp.
“It is the nicest looking stamp I have ever seen,” said Lu, before introducing Seattle Chinese Post and Northwest Asian Weekly founder and publisher Assunta Ng, who reminded the audience that the first dedication ceremony honoring a Lunar New Year stamp took place in 1998 at the Seattle Asian Art Museum.
Ng then urged the Postal Service to return to Seattle for another dedication ceremony, sooner than two decades. She proposed a return five years.
All of the featured speakers and participants signed souvenir sheets of the Year of the Rooster Forever stamps at an autograph table.
“This is more than just a job for me,” Mak said. “It allowed me to highlight my culture.”
“This is an opportunity for me to take the skill that I have — painting — and tell the story and highlight my beautiful culture.”
For more information about the Year of the Rooster Forever stamp, go to
James Tabafunda can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.