On a February day in 1886, angry mobs headed to the heart of Seattle's Chinatown and rounded up anyone who looked Chinese, driving hundreds of immigrants out of their homes. The bands of rioters ordered the immigrants to either walk or board wagons for a ride to a waterfront dock, where they were forced to board ships bound for San Francisco.
The Chinese were perceived to be taking away jobs from the majority. Similar expulsions of Chinese happened throughout the Puget Sound region, from Tacoma to Bellingham. The Chinese Expulsion Remembrance Project (CERP ) formed to remember those unjust days and highlight the important role played by Chinese immigrants, and immigrants in general, in our region. CERP organized two events—speaker panel and music performance, and a march and rally. Marchers traveled from the waterfront to the Chinatown/International District, the reverse route the Chinese immigrants were forced to walk 125 years ago, ending at The Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience.
"The Chinese played an important role in building Seattle," said Bettie Luke, CERP chair and sister of the late Wing Luke. "In addition, there are parallels to today's debate about immigration. By fostering a wider awareness of the past, CERP provided a better context to understand immigration and the consequences of unchecked intolerance."
CERP received funding from the Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs' smART ventures program, a small-awards program ($500 to $1,000) that encourages innovation and widens cultural participation, particularly by individuals, organizations and communities that may not qualify for other funding programs. In 2011, we invested $31,650 in 36 projects. The program is flexible, inclusive and simple, proving that small investments can make big impacts. CERP also received funding from Seattle's Department of Neighborhoods.