By RaeAnn Uyeda
Special to the NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
On Saturday, Sept. 30, the Rainier Arts Center in South Seattle hosted the premiere of the comic novella “Gum Saan to Golden Spike (GS2),” organized by students and sponsored by Seattle’s Department of Neighborhoods, OCA Asian Pacific American Advocates, and the University of Washington (UW) American Ethnic Studies department. The event attracted a diverse crowd of approximately 180-200 attendees, ranging from college-age students to seniors, and showcased mid-autumn festival snacks, performances by the Mak Fai Lion Dance and Kung Fu Club, singing and a short film celebrating the 55th anniversary of American Ethnic Studies programs.
The highlight of the evening was the visual presentation of GS2, followed by a panel featuring Han Eckelberg (editor/producer) and several GS2 illustrators and writers, including Iris Hamilton, Dylan Hartano, Brooklyn Hose, Hana Natsuhara, and Heidi Tandiono. Attendees also had the opportunity to participate in a book signing.
“It was the first time I had seen so many different cultural elements integrated,” said one attendee. “Last year, I attended a book panel sponsored by a different department at the University of Washington and a panel in Lima, Peru (where I knew the author), but the atmosphere was very different.”
This attendee described the event as feeling “more like a cultural celebration. The sense of community there was really empowering.”
Dr. Connie So, a speaker at the event and the supervisor for the GS2 comic novella, shed light on the ongoing struggle in Seattle’s Chinatown-International District. This brought attention to the broader debate surrounding the district’s official name. The historical context and the resistance to renaming it to just “Chinatown” were discussed, providing attendees with valuable insights into the neighborhood’s rich cultural history.
The content of the book itself drew praise for its intricate weaving of multiple storylines by authors and designers who were all undergraduate students when they embarked on the project two years ago. Their deliberate approach ensured that the book did not succumb to a single, linear narrative, offering readers a multifaceted experience.
During a panel discussion, attendees were surprised to hear the panelists’ responses to the question, “What have you learned that you didn’t know before?” The discussion revealed gaps in knowledge about the history of Chinese Americans and Asian Americans, highlighting deficiencies in the U.S. educational system. Some panelists openly admitted not knowing about significant historical events, such as the Chinese contribution to building the Transcontinental Railroad
One attendee, who grew up in Hawai`i, shared a personal perspective, emphasizing the importance of comprehensive education on these topics. Their family’s involvement in pivotal moments of Asian American history, including working on railroads, plantation labor, incarceration in camps, and participation in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, underlined the personal connection to the issue. For them, “Gum Saan to Golden Spike (GS2)” and similar initiatives are vital in spreading knowledge and paying homage to heritage and ancestors.
RaeAnn Uyeda is a third year student at the University of Washington, Seattle majoring in American Ethnic Studies and Comparative History of Ideas.