Monday, October 10, 2005

Honoring California's Roots

There was a great story in the Bee yesterday about another phase of the work being done by California State Parks to honor the roots of all who have made California what it is.

The story, about how time and circumstance preserved the poems written by Chinese detainees on the walls of the detention barracks speak to us today of the pain and loneliness caused by the Chinese Exclusion Act of that period.

California State Parks should itself be honored for this work as well as their work establishing the California Indian Heritage Center & Museum in the Lower Reach of the Parkway, which stories were mentioned here on August 20th and 21st.

Here is yesterday's story about Angel Island:

Walls that talk again
Restoration progresses on carvings by Angel Island detainees
By M.S. Enkoji -- Bee Staff Writer Published 2:15 am PDT Sunday, October 9, 2005

ANGEL ISLAND - Just as the summer of 1916 faded from the San Francisco Bay, a 20-year-old newlywed woman from Hong Kong alighted from the Nippon Maru, her 56-year-old merchant husband at her side.

Quok Shee would spend her first two years in America as a prisoner. Detained at the Angel Island Immigration Station, she could do little more than gaze across the bay, where freedom and her new life waited.

How she dealt with her despair is unknown, but others in similar circumstances left a record. The walls of the men's quarters are dappled with poems, each a personal portrait of injustice under government-sanctioned discrimination.

Even though immigration workers painted over their work - seven times - and puttied in the carvings, the artful expressions survived. Putty, meant to smooth out defacing, actually helped define the characters as the wood around it, over time, deteriorated, leaving the putty to show clearly what it was supposed to have covered.

Once slated for destruction, the barracks and their talking walls are undergoing the first phase of a $50 million restoration by the state Parks and Recreation Department, which began in August.

For the rest of the story: