Despite the longtime presence of ASPA individuals and families in Evanston, there is no archive or documentation of the city’s ASPA history. Today, well over 10% of Evanston's population identifies as Asian, South Asian and/or Pacific Islander, but the ASPA community cannot be found in any historical record. This absence reinforces the perpetual “foreigner” myth which has often and historically been associated with ASPA identities, and contributes to the erasure of a community.
In 2021 the TEAACH Act was passed in IL mandating the teaching of Asian American history and the Asian American experience in K-12 public schools. In Fall 2022 this curriculum will begin in D65 and D202 schools. How do we teach about ASPA history and the ASPA experience without any local resources about the ASPA community here in our own city? Without being able to integrate local history, point to local resources, and contextualize the curriculum for students, they are unable to connect with ASPA history in any meaningful way.
The Kitchen Table Stories Project is partnering with the Evanston History Center to engage in an ongoing project to research local ASPA history, to gather stories from the local ASPA community, and to preserve and share this history today and into the future. From artifacts, biographies, and stories to accounts of immigration and refugee journeys and personal testimonies, this collected history will be housed in the Evanston History Center and shared as part of the Kitchen Table Stories Project.
This project is about increasing the visibility and representation of Asian, South Asian and Pacific Islanders in our community in an effort to shift society’s collective consciousness towards a more empathetic and antiracist view of people working towards equity and justice. Most importantly it is about creating a community where ASPA people see themselves reflected in history and stories, and experience Evanston as a place where they belong.
Click here for the Press Release
Unless we know ourselves and our history, and other people and their history, there is really no way that we can have the positive kind of interaction where there is real understanding.
- Yuri Kochiyama
A Portrait of Wong Aloy: A Chinese Immigrant's American Journey
By Jenny Thompson, PhD
Director of Education, Evanston History Center
Wong Aloy was many things; a man of letters, a merchant, a playwright, an immigrant, an interpreter,
a brother, an uncle, a husband, a son. His life and career in the United States provide a fascinating portrait of an immigrant from China; his experiences, triumphs, and tragedies constitute a significant narrative. His life was woven by the multiple threads related to numerous issues facing immigrants from China in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. After he came to the U.S., he lived in San Francisco, the territory of Montana, Evanston, Chicago, New York, and El Paso. He was deeply impacted by white Americans’ attitudes toward and treatment of Chinese immigrants - both positively and negatively - and he was fully enmeshed in the Chinese immigrant community.
Wong lived in Evanston for about five years and the experience had a major impact on his life. Wong’s life after he left Evanston was so compelling that I could not help but trace the larger events that constituted that portion of his life, astonished as I pieced together the range of his experiences.
More research into Wong Aloy’s biography is needed. But for now, here is part of his story.
Language warning: Some of the language reproduced here is racist. It is quoted here in its original context only and in order to preserve the historical context in which it was originally used.
Wong Aloy, Chicago Record, November 21, 1894
Wong Aloy (1868-1922) was one of the earliest recorded ASPA residents in Evanston
In 2021, Mayor Steve Hagerty proclaimed the month of May Asian, South Asian, Pacific Islander Heritage Month in Evanston, IL. That Spring, the Kitchen Table Stories Project collaborated with the City of Evanston, local organizations and Evanstonians to uplift ASPA artists, businesses, community leaders and members in its first annual Evanston Asian, South Asian, Pacific Islander American Heritage Arts Festival, later called the Umbrella Arts Festival.
Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (AAPI Heritage Month) is an annual celebration that recognizes the historical and cultural contributions of individuals and groups of Asian and Pacific Islander descent to the United States.
ASPA Heritage Month