Lecturing in a Museum Which Doesn’t Represent You

An Open Letter to Reverend Michael Yoshii, and Serena Chen, two of the lecturers set to speak in the Alameda Museum’s “Virtual Speakers Series”, for AAPI Heritage Month Lecture Series tomorrow, Monday, May 23, 2022.

Here’s the flyer:
Alameda Museum AAPI History Month Virtual Speak Series Flyer, links to AlamedaMuseum.org

Background: I tried to call Lillian Galedo, but I wasn’t able to reach her for comment. I sent letters to both Reverend Michael Yoshii, and Serena Chen.

Serena Chen responded by giving me a call, and we had a conversation that touched on this subject, as well as much more about Chinese-American History, Japanese-American History, Serena Chen’s work in passing smoking laws in the Bay Area, as well as her advocacy for the preservation of Angel Island Immigration Center.

Reverend Michael Yoshii hasn’t gotten back to me yet, re: the letter. But I know that he’s received it. And I actually asked him a lot of questions.

The reason why I wrote to these people, is because:

I am a researcher in the city of Alameda. And, my primary focus is on the Native American History of Alameda. However, it was impossible for me to research this topic and not notice the lack of representation of any non-white historical Alamedans at
the Alameda Museum.

This bothers me, because my interest in history is not bound to my own ethnic group; and I believe that history’s lessons are infinitely more important, and more valuable than hiding the misdeeds of a city. And that, the truth of what happened to us, Alameda’s nonwhite citizens, is better aired out, discussed, and reconciled. I think that hiding these chapters of our history only creates more animus, and sets us up for future conflicts we don’t even know why we fight.

05/18/2022 ANHP Letter to Serena Chen, and Rev. Michael Yoshii

In my letter to the Reverend Yoshii, I asked him specifically:

How does it make you feel that Alameda Museum does not have any permanent exhibits about the Japanese-American experience in Alameda?

Does it bother you that the businesses, homes, wealth, and anything valuable (like family photos, heirlooms, and other precious things), that you, your family, and your compatriots had to abandon, or have taken away, aren’t even mentioned at all in Alameda’s official history?

If the Alameda Museum were to create a permanent exhibit featuring Japanese-American History and Experiences in Alameda, what would you like to see reflected about your own history, heritage, culture, and contributions to the City of Alameda?

In my letter to Serena Chen:

I mention that I found things about the Chinese Pioneers in Alameda that I thought were really cool. And was excited to share with her, and people interested in Alameda History.

But, in both letters, I invited them to consider addressing the lack of representation of their history, heritage, and culture in the Alameda Museum.

After all, Serena Chen, Rev. Michael Yoshii, and Lillian Galedo, will all be lecturing at the Alameda Museum, which has no permanent exhibit to AAPI History.

So, as soon as their voices fade, so will any representation or mention of their histories, heritage, or cultures. Histories which are rich, interesting, and worthy of being shared just as much as the white, victorian-obsessed history that Alameda Museum chooses to share–at the price of excluding all BIPOC people.

I’d like to invite you tune in to watch and learn; support Serena Chen, Lillian Galedo, and Michael Yoshii, as they share their family history, and experiences with us; and advocate for meaningful representation of AAPI heritage, and history in the form of permanent exhibits in the Alameda Museum.

Alameda Museum
Virtual Speaker Series
AAPI Heritage Month
Feat. Serena Chen, Lillian Galedo, Reverend Michael Yoshii
Monday, May 23, 2022
7:00 – 8:30 PM
Event on Zoom
Link to Event Info @ AlamedaMuseum.org
Link to Event Registration @ Zoom.us