A Decade of Breaking Ground
It’s pouring rain today just as it had on February 15, 2009, the Opening Day Celebration of the Immigration Station as I write this reflection on what led up to that moment ten years ago. To do so, I must go back even further to 1979 and my first visit to the Immigration Station for a Commemorative Ceremony led by Paul Chow of the Angel Island Immigration Station Historical Advisory Committee (AIISHAC) Paul said, “Angel Island is like our Plymouth Rock,” and the metaphor stuck.
AIISHAC, the predecessor of the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation (AIISF) was formed to save the poems after they were discovered on the walls of the barracks by park ranger, Alex Weiss in 1970. In 1980, "Island: The Poetry and History of Angel Island, 1910-1940" by Him Mark Lai, Judy Yung and Genny Lim (all descendents) was published providing valuable first hand stories about the experiences of detainees and translations of the poems. It inspired me to produce "Carved in Silence," even before I discovered that both my father and grandfather had been detained as well.
I was honored to serve as President of the board in the mid-90’s and along with Daniel Quan "professionalized" the organization, hired our first grant writer, Kathy Ko Chin, built a visionary board, applied for and successfully gained recognition as a National Historic Landmark as well as being identified as one of the "Eleven Most Endangered Historic Sites" in America. Those prestigious titles opened funding opportunities through grants and legislation that paid for the studies, architectural designs, plans, construction and all that was entailed in its transformation.
What an enormous sense of satisfaction to see what’s been accomplished. It was icing on the cake when AIISF recognized Dan, Kathy and me as Visionaries last April at the Annual Gala. This brief history hints at the groundwork that has been laid over the years by so many hardworking, committed individuals who believe in the mission of the Foundation: to serve as community stewards, create public awareness of its historical significance, and to restore and preserve our "Plymouth Rock." And there’s more to come!
Former Board President