Happy Korean American Day!

On January 13, 1903, a group of 102 Korean laborers arrived in Honolulu from Japan aboard the steamship RMS Gaelic to work in the Hawaiian sugar cane fields. This date is traditionally regarded as marking the first Korean immigration to the United States and celebrated as Korean American Day — although several individual Koreans had immigrated to the United States earlier, including Philip Jaisohn (Seo Jae-pil), a journalist and medical doctor and a noted champion for Korea’s independence, who in 1890 became the first Korean to become a naturalized U.S. citizen.

At our City Council meeting on Tuesday, January 9, we issued a Korean-American Day Proclamation, celebrating “the long and prosperous journey of Korean Americans in the United States” due to their “strong family ties, community support, and hard work.”  Accepting the proclamation on behalf of the Korean American community were a number of Irvine Korean American civic leaders, including my friend and appointee to the Irvine Senior Council, Juneu Kim.

From these humble beginnings, a large and vibrant Korean American community has grown, now numbering nearly 2 million people of Korean descent in the United States, including nearly half a million people in California.

Irvine has had two Korean American mayors — Sukhee Kang and Dr. Steven Choi (who now represents part of Irvine in the California Assembly).

Our city has adopted the South Korean city of Seocho-gu as one of Irvine’s four “Sister Cities.

Irvine is proud to celebrate our thriving Korean American community each year in our annual Irvine Korean Cultural Festival, designed to share Korean culture with the entire community by showcasing its customs, heritage, arts and cuisine.

As the daughter of a Korean War combat veteran, the cousin of a United States Marine who was killed in action in the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir, and as a resident of Irvine, I feel a deep connection to Korea and a deep appreciation for the vital contributions that Korean Americans have made to our city, our state, and our nation.

I am proud to live and serve on the City Council in a city that celebrates and treasures our Korean American community and I join my Korean American friends and neighbors in celebrating Korean American contributions to our shared American heritage and way of life.

Happy Korean American Day!

Councilmember Melissa Fox with her father, Korean War veteran Stan Kay, and other Korean War veterans.

 

Celebrating Korean American Day!

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Today, January 13, has been designated by the City of Irvine as Korean American Day.

On January 13, 1903, a group of 102 Korean laborers arrived in Honolulu from Japan aboard the steamship RMS Gaelic to work in the Hawaiian sugar cane fields. This date is traditionally regarded as marking the first Korean immigration to the United States and celebrated as Korean American Day — although several individual Koreans had immigrated to the United States earlier, including Philip Jaisohn (Seo Jae-pil), a journalist and medical doctor and a noted champion for Korea’s independence, who in 1890 became the first Korean to become a naturalized U.S. citizen.

Korean American Youth Performing Artists mix colorful fans and clothing with graceful dance during the Korean Cultural Festival at Irvine City Hall on Sunday. ///ADDITIONAL INFO: - Photo by MINDY SCHAUER, THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER - shot: 051416 i.0514.koreanfestival Thousands attend the seventh annual Irvine Korean Cultural Festival, which commemorates Korean immigration to the United States since Jan. 13, 1903.

Korean American youth performing during the Korean Cultural Festival at Irvine City Hall. Photo: Mindy Schauer, OC Register

From these humble beginnings, a large and vibrant Korean American community has grown, now numbering nearly 2 million people of Korean descent in the United States, including nearly half a million people in California.

Irvine is proud to celebrate our thriving Korean American community each year in our annual Irvine Korean Cultural Festival, designed to share Korean culture with the entire community by showcasing its customs, heritage, arts and cuisine.

Our city has adopted the South Korean city of Seocho-gu as one of Irvine’s four “Sister Cities,” and has begun planning for the construction of a traditional Korean garden in Col. Bill Barber Park next to Irvine City Hall.

As the daughter of a Korean War combat veteran, and as a resident of Irvine, I feel a deep appreciation for the vital contributions that Korean Americans have made to our city (including two Korea-born mayors), our state, and our country.

I am proud to live and serve on the City Council in a city that celebrates and treasures our Korean American community and I join my Korean American friends and neighbors in celebrating Korean American contributions to our shared American heritage and way of life.

Future Chinese Leaders of America: KUCI Podcast with Oliver Ma and Melissa Fox

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This summer, I had the great pleasure of working with Oliver Ma, a 2015 graduate of Irvine’s University High School and now a history and political science student UC Berkeley, to create a new Irvine non-partisan student group called Future Chinese Leaders of America (FCLA).

Irvine Commissioner Melissa Fox speaking at Future Chinese Leaders of America about the Irvine Master Plan

FCLA “seeks to train young Chinese Americans in politics and inform the Chinese American community of the political issues it faces. During meetings, local leaders/elected officials will speak about a topic of their choice. Then, the students will have a discussion/debate where they are encouraged to think critically and to formulate their own arguments about American politics and society.”

In just a few weeks, Oliver and current Irvine Chinese-American high school students Marvin Li, Ted Xiang, Leo Krapp, Michelle Tang, Michelle Liu and others successfully created this extraordinary club through their own initiative and dedication.

My role in the formation of FCLA was encouragement, mentoring, and connecting Oliver to various California Chinese-American political leaders such as State Controller Betty Yee, California Board of Estimate Chair Fiona Ma, and State Treasurer John Chiang, who spoke at an early FCLA meeting.

Oliver and I recently discussed the formation and future vision of the Future Chinese Leaders of America with KUCI’s program “Ask a Leader” with Claudia Shambaugh.

Please listen here.

Our discussion begins at 1:42 and continues to 29:38.

Remembering the Anniversary of Black April and Honoring Those Who Fled to Freedom

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April 30th is the anniversary of the Fall of Saigon.  It is a time to remember and honor our more than 58,000 fallen and missing soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines, our half a million Vietnam War veterans, and a million and a half South Vietnamese allies, as well as our allies from Australia, South Korea, Thailand, New Zealand and the Philippines, who fought and died in the pursuit of freedom and democracy.

Rescued refugees fly the flag of the Republic of Vietnam, 1980.

We must never forget their sacrifice.

This anniversary is also a time to recognize and celebrate the tremendous contributions that Vietnamese Americans have made to our nation and to our shared American way of life.

We must also use this anniversary to renew our commitment to ensure that human rights and freedom are one day respected in Vietnam.

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Honored to stand with our Vietnamese friends and the Vietnamese community at Black April ceremony in Westminster.

Like many people in Orange County, I have been moved to tears by the heartbreaking stories of the suffering of many of my Vietnamese friends and their families — stories of their tremendous struggles and their remarkable strength in coming to this country as refugees in one of the largest mass migrations in modern history.

We must never forget the incredible hardships they endured and never cease to admire their courageous determination to live in freedom.

A ‘Photographic Act of Justice’ for Chinese Laborers at Golden Spike: Chinese Citizens, Asian-Americans Honor the 11,000 who Built the Railroad

Chinese-Americans at Golden-Spike, melissafoxblog.com, Melissa Fox, melissajoifox, Irvine Commissioner Melissa Fox

by Kristen Moulton, The Salt Lake Tribune, reposted with permission.

In what an organizer called a “photographic act of justice,” some 200 Chinese Americans, Chinese citizens and other Asian American friends posed here Saturday on the 145th anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad.

1869-Golden_Spike (1)They were going for an iconic photo of their own, one to match the “champagne” photograph that has come to symbolize the celebration that day long ago when the Central Pacific from the West and Union Pacific from the East met on the windswept desert north of the Great Salt Lake.

The meeting of the rails on May 10, 1869, after nearly five deadly, costly years, linked together the industrial East and the resource-rich West for the first time. A journey that previously took six months by ox-drawn wagon was reduced to six days. The most famous photograph from that day shows hundreds of railroad employees, executives and other celebrators — but none of the more than 11,000 Chinese workers who laid track over the Sierra Nevada, across the desert and into Utah. The Chinese workers’ contribution, said New York City photographer Corky Lee, is “a neglected and forgotten,” piece of American history.

Saturday’s visit and photograph, he said, “is as an act of photographic justice.” The photographer worked with a Utah-based coalition, the Chinese Transcontinental Railroad Commemoration Project, to bring the group together on Saturday. He had the 200, including visitors from China’s Guandong Province, pose in front of the replica locomotives, as he did when a similar group came to the anniversary celebration in 2002.

The group also walked to Chinese Arch, a limestone span several miles from the Golden Spike National Historic Site’s visitor center.

railroad.chineseworkers.01Two of those participating Saturday, brother and sister Michael and Karen Kwan, in 2005 successfully petitioned the U.S. Board on Geographic Names to change the arch’s name from Chinaman’s Arch. Their great-great-great grandfather worked on the Transcontinental Railroad.

Margaret Yee, whose great-great grandfather was a chef for the Chinese work crews, said she felt the presence of the laborers as she and a New York dancer and actress, Wan Zhao, walked together along the rail.

“We came to pay them respect,” said Yee, a former head of Asian American affairs for two Utah governors. “One-hundred-forty-five years ago, nobody recognized them.”

Zhao, an immigrant from Mongolia, has been immersing herself in the history of the Chinese workers and immigrants, and performed a dance of prayer Saturday on the rails.

It’s a bit of sore spot for some in the Chinese American community that they had never been invited to help reenact the driving of the rails.

Norm Nelson, the president of the Golden Spike Association, said members of the Chinese community have long been involved in other parts of the celebration, including the act of laying a wreath on the rails to remember those who died working on the railroad.

But they have not been invited to re-enact the placement of the last spikes. “They weren’t part of that [original] ceremony,” Nelson, of Perry, said.

Lee, however, notes that women also were not part of the original ceremony, although some were present that day in 1869. He notes there are no women in the iconic champagne photo, although women and children in costume are always included in the re-enactment photos.

On Saturday, after Lee took photos of the Chinese American group, those in period costume were photographed.

And then the two groups and hundreds of other celebration attendees were photographed together.

Ze Min Xiao, the main organizer of Saturday’s visit to Golden Spike, said the coalition wants to steadily increase the number of Asians who participate each year.

It also wants more recognition from political leaders, to create a supplemental curriculum for Utah classrooms, and to archive the oral history stories of Asian Americans.

It’s interesting, she said, that the descendants of the Chinese laborers, who were forced to return to China by American law, later immigrated to the United States.

Karen Kwan, who teaches psychology at Salt Lake Community College and is running for the state House, said the railroad workers’ contributions deserve a more prominent place in Utah’s historical consciousness.

“Utah was built by a great diversity of people. We belong to Utah. Utah belongs to us.”

Remembering Black April, the Fall of Saigon and Honoring Those Who Fled to Freedom

Black April, Vietnamese boat people, Melissa Fox, Melissa Fox for Irvine, melissafoxblog.comApril 30, 2014, is the 39th anniversary of the Fall of Saigon.  It is a time to remember and honor our more than 58,000 fallen and missing soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines, our half a million Vietnam War veterans, and a million and a half South Vietnamese allies, as well as our allies from Australia, South Korea, Thailand, New Zealand and the Philippines, who fought and died in the pursuit of freedom and democracy.

We will never forget their sacrifice.

Rescued refugees fly the flag of the Republic of Vietnam, 1980.

Today is also a time to recognize and celebrate the tremendous contributions that Vietnamese Americans have made to our nation and to our shared American way of life, and to renew our commitment to ensure that human rights and freedom are one day respected in Vietnam.

Like many people in Orange County, I have heard heartbreaking stories of the suffering of many of my Vietnamese friends and their families, of their tremendous struggles and their remarkable strength in coming to this country as refugees in one of the largest mass migrations in modern history.

We will never forget the incredible hardships they endured and never cease to admire their courageous determination to live in freedom.

新年快樂 Happy Year of the Horse!

year-of-horse_112036

The Year of the Horse

The Chinese New Year, or Spring Festival, which begins on January 31, 2014, is the most important holiday in China, as well as for many people of Chinese origin throughout the world – including the nearly 30,000 people of Chinese heritage living in Irvine.

The Chinese zodiac, the cycle of twelve stations or “signs” along the apparent path of the sun through the cosmos, plays an important part in the calendar, and each new year is marked by the characteristics of one of the 12 animals of the zodiac: the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig.

This year is a Year of the Horse.

A Year of the Horse is considered to be fortunate and filled with luck, as well as a time of adventure and an excellent year for travel.

Those born in the Year of the Horse are said to be extremely confident and independent.

The Chinese New Year holiday was traditionally a time to honor household and heavenly deities as well as ancestors. It was also a time to bring family together for feasting.  Today, the holiday remains a time for family, food, and the celebration of traditional Chinese culture.

My friend Albert Wu, a young Irvine-based violinist, violin teacher, and founder of Irvine Young Concert Artists (IYCA), explains his family’s traditions:

“Get ready for Jan. 31 to welcome the Year of the Horse!  The Chinese New Year is the most important holiday for the Chinese, in which they celebrate family and a new beginning.  The New Year begins on the first day of the first month in the traditional Chinese calendar, which is different from the Western calendar.  Before the holiday arrives, people will completely clean the house in order to get rid of the old and prepare to welcome the new. After the cleaning comes the decorating, and most of the decorations are red in color because that color signifies good luck. The New Year’s Eve meal is the most important meal of the year where families get together for a dinner reunion. They may choose to eat at home, go to a restaurant (which often has to be booked months in advance), or hire a chef to cook at their house. The Chinese New Year lasts for 15 days, during which families often rotate which relative’s house they will eat at.  Fish is normally served at the New Year’s Eve dinner, and dumplings, because fish and dumplings are thought to be good luck and to bring a family prosperity in the New Year.  Wait… Who wants to celebrate with me for next 15 days?”

I do!!

Chinese New Year Events in Irvine this Weekend

chinese school new year horseThis weekend I will be celebrating the Chinese New Year at two special events in Irvine.

First, I will be attending a special “Lunar New Year Celebration”  at the at the Irvine Metrolink  Station, 15215 Barranca Parkway, Irvine, CA 92618, at 8:00 a.m.

The first 100 people there will receive a free round-trip Metrolink ticket to Los Angeles Union Station (first come, first served) to join Celebrate the Year of the Horse by visiting the 115th Annual Golden Dragon Parade and Festival in Los Angeles’ Chinatown, one of the premier cultural events in southern California.  Enjoy a special Lunar New Year program with traditional Lion Dancers. Bring your family to taste the delicious free refreshments provided by Champagne Bakery and 85° Bakery Cafe.  For a chance to spin the OCTA prize wheel, bring a non-perishable food item to donate to Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County. After the fun at the Irvine Station, take Metrolink to Los Angeles for the popular Golden Dragon Parade. Train departs from Irvine Station at 9:00 a.m.

I will also be celebrating the Year of the Horse at the “Chinese New Year Exhibition and Performance” at the Irvine Chinese School, located at 9 Truman, Irvine, 92620, on Saturday, February 1, 2014, at 5:30 and 6:30 PM.

This performance has been a tradition for over 35 years. The school lobby will open to the public from 5:30 PM for the exhibition. The performance starts from 6:30 PM.

Here are the details:

What: Lunar New Year Celebration (and chance at a free round-trip to the Golden Dragon Parade in LA’s Chinatown
Where: Irvine Metrolink Station, 15215 Barranca Parkway, Irvine, CA 92618
When: Saturday, February 1, 2014, at 8:00 AM
Info: 714-560-6282.

What: Chinese New Year Exhibition and Performance
Where: Irvine Chinese School, 9 Truman, Irvine 92620
When: Saturday, February 1, 2014, at 5:30 PM (Exhibition) and 6:30 PM (Performance)
Info: For tickets, contact Rachel@sccca.us or call 949-554-6868 ex.502

新年快樂

Happy New Year!