As we stepped out of the Canal Street station on Friday, May 5, the rain was pounding down on us so hard we could barely see the street corner ahead of us. If you stood above and looked at us as we walked those last few blocks, you would have seen a disorderly blob of umbrellas tightly huddled together and heard the loud clamor of youthful voices that served as the backdrop to most of our trip. We were headed to the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA), an institution that highlights the experiences of past Chinese immigrants coming to America and the contrast between their hopeful dreams and the dreadful reality they faced. The museum guide gave us an insightful view into the hearts and minds of the new arrivals.
One of the parts that stood out most to me about the museum was Angel Island. This small island in the San Francisco Bay was the first stop for many Chinese coming to America in the early 1900s, and from 1910 to 1940 processed more than one million Asian immigrants. Often the most common job for Chinese immigrants was working in factories. Some of the earlier immigrants played an important role in the Civil War by helping manufacture garments for the north. Later, many Chinese immigrants worked building railways and mining gold. The most surprising thing I learned at the museum was that Chinese people could not become citizens of America until 1952 and even then only a very small number of immigrants could become citizens each year. In the last room, a towering wall was covered in notes from recent immigrants sharing their thoughts of America and the direction she is headed. After a brief goodbye to the guide, we ventured to a Chinese food market where we were immersed in Chinese culture and language. With none of the servers able to speak English we had no option but to practice our Chinese.
—Ash, 9th grade