River News

Locke Asian Pacific Festival promotes Delta’s heritage

May 15, 2013

Galen Kusic

Locke CA

Each year the Locke Asian Pacific Festival gets better.

While there may be controversy surrounding the Locke Management Association, the Locke Foundation puts on an exemplary festival that highlights both Locke’s rich history and its burgeoning future as the Delta’s most historical place.

While the festival provides performances, vendors and access to Locke’s business community – it also provides a stage for historical information that make Locke such an interesting and unique place in American history.

Featured at the event was Lawrence Tom, author of the new book, Locke and the Sacramento Delta Chinatowns, an essential read to any Delta resident that is interested in the community’s rich yet troubled past. The RNH sat down with Tom to ask him about his book and what inspired him to embark on such a literary journey.

Tom is the author of two previous books, Sacramento’s Chinatown (2010) and Marysville’s Chinatown (2008). This book was inspired after completing the previous two, especially after Tom met Ping Lee in Locke before he passed away in 2011. Lee was one of the most knowledgeable residents of Locke, having lived there for generations when he died at the age of 95. Tom also collaborated with the Sacramento Delta Historical Society.

“This last book was the most difficult,” said Tom. “I didn’t know people, so there was a lot of cold-calling. If I couldn’t convince them to talk to me in the first couple minutes, that was it.”

Tom interviewed a couple hundred people for the book, ranging from past residents to current Delta residents. Another struggle was finding pictures for the book, because many folks did not have cameras back in those days.

“Very few people could afford cameras,” he said.

Tom interviewed many past residents of the Delta that now live in Sacramento. Another major challenge of the book was dealing with Arcadia Publishing in North Carolina. They did not have much knowledge of the Chinese heritage in California, and Tom had to deal with six different editors before completion of the book. This created confusion with Phil Pezzaglia’s new book, Towns of the Sacramento River Delta, which was released a month before Tom’s release.

“Sometimes they thought it was the same book,” laughed Tom. “I had to pitch my book to each editor.”

Tom noted that he met a lot of great people in the creation of the book and came down to the Delta three days a week to study the towns and talk to people. In doing so, he contacted many of the descendants of Locke to get the rarely told history. He felt it was especially important to study the buildings of Locke as each one has so much relevant history, and he structured the book similarly- going down Main Street one by one and what each building’s function was and what family operated it.

Tom also talked about Sun-Yat Sen, Hung on Jang and Tsa-Ting-Kai, very influential people that came to the Delta and raised money to send back to causes in China. Another very interesting aspect of the book is the discussion of segregated schools in the Delta, which included the white school, migrant school and Asian school. Of the three, the Asian school had three times as many students as the other two schools combined.

“I did this book to preserve the past for the future,” said Tom.

While the book signing was a huge highlight of the festival, the performances were also stellar. Lion Dances were performed by Eastern Ways Martial Arts. Hawaiian Hula by Pan Pacific Dance Studio, Japanese Dance by Sakura Minyo DooKoo Kai, Stockton Bukkyo Taiko Drums, Tai Chi by Master William Bi, Red Panda Acrobats by Wayne Huey, Japanese Dance by Susanna Soohoo, Chinese Fan Dance by Yulan Feng, Chinese Flute Sean Wu and music from the Chinese Music Capitol Chinese Orchestra.

Non-profit organizations were there as well to support their good causes. Restore the Delta had a booth selling the documentary film Over Troubled Waters for just $10, a worthy purchase to support the real restoration of the Delta. Volunteers Stina Va and Javier Padilla were manning the booth and providing information to attendees that were interested in learning more about the fight to save the Delta.

Va, from Stockton studied water policy at UC Berkeley and is dedicated to preserving the estuary that she grew up around through environmental justice by volunteering with Restore the Delta. She attended the Delta tour along with Padilla and was very impressed with how many people are involved in stopping the “boondoggle” tunnels plan that is BDCP.

“It was great to see how enthusiastic the activists were,” she said.

Padilla, also from Stockton has started a collective with artists called the Stockton Aesthetic Initiative. Through the arts, Padilla and friends are focused on tackling issues head on through art, music, poetry, writing, photography and graphic design.

“I really enjoy doing this as a community organizer,” said Padilla. “Going on the tour made me realize how big the Delta really is, and how important it is to Stockton. It was a really inspiring trip.”

Sierra Donor Services had a booth and was signing people up to become donors. Senior Public Education Coordinator Nicki Carrillo spoke about the importance of signing up for the program to provide those in need of transplants healthy organs.

“This is great to be in such a historical place,” said Carrillo. “Currently, 3,793 Asian Americans are looking for organ transplants in California. It is important to have people of all different ethnicities sign up for the program because the transplants can be better matches.”

The Chinese American Council of Sacramento had a booth, along with the Jinan-Sacramento Sister Cities Corporation, represented by Gloria Espejo. Jinan, Sacramento’s sister city in China has been so since 1984. The program, originally sponsored by President Dwight D. Eisenhower is designed to enable citizens of both communities to become directly involved in international relations through unique and rewarding exchanges at the City level. The mission statement is “promote peace through mutual respect, understanding and cooperation.”

Espejo works in the William Land School Immersion Program, teaching students to be bi-lingual in Mandarin and English, which is part of the Sister Cities Corporation. Others in attendance were long-time lovers of the town of Locke.

“I’m mostly here to see how they’ve changed things,” said Alex Lock, a member of the Chinese Historical Society of America. “I came about a year ago – there is a lot of history and heritage here. It is something that shouldn’t be forgotten. People are trying to preserve it as a historical place.”

Cathy Wei, who has been involved with Locke for a long time set up a booth selling jewelry. She is involved with the Chinese American Council of Sacramento and was very interested in attending the event.

“I strive to support Locke always,” she said.

While the festival is over in 2013, anytime one visits Locke there is something new to learn and see – no matter what day it is.


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