BY CHARYSSE REASER
The Chinese Reconciliation Project Foundation (CRPF) will break ground for its historic Chinese Reconciliation Park on Aug. 19 in Tacoma.
The park – overlooking Commencement Bay – will be very close to where the first Chinese settlements were located.
The commemorative park will serve as a remembrance of the 1885 expulsion of Tacoma’s 600 Chinese residents due to what is known as “The Tacoma Method” which forced them out of their homes on Commencement Bay according to the CRPF Web site.
Several circumstances brought about the CRPF. When Dr. David Murdoch and his wife moved to Tacoma in 1982, they felt that the community was somehow not whole.
According to the CRPF Web site, after learning about the Chinese expulsion Dr. Murdoch said, “Then it clicked because…if a family member has been hurt, ostracized or embarrassed, that has an effect on the family for years.”
He then went on to join Tacoma City Councilman Robert Evans and former State Rep. Art Wang and other community activists – including the current CRPF president Theresa Pan – to create a citizen’s committee in 1992 to right the wrong that scarred the memory of the City of Tacoma.
Then on Nov. 30, 1993, Resolution No. 32415 was unanimously approved which acknowledged that the 1885 expulsion was “a most reprehensible occurrence” and the concept of creating a commemorative park was set into gear.
More than a decade later the park is finally gaining life.
Today the foundation has brought together many people dedicated to tolerance and cultural diversity. Some have been there from the beginning of the citizen’s committee while others are new like Saba Siddiki, who served as a student intern this past year.
“I don’t think people are educated enough about it,” Siddiki said, indicating that this park would serve as a way to remember the past and prevent similar events from happening in the future.
The park will also serve as a community center where visitors can see cultural diversity and tolerance in action.
Suzanne Barnett, a history professor at the University of Puget Sound, has been with the organization since the beginning of the citizen’s committee. She sees intolerance of Asian American cultures as an ongoing problem, one that is not often addressed.
Although each Asian American group have their own histories of prejudice, Barnett said she believes the Chinese motif is intended and necessary. By focusing memory on a specific event and the effects of that event, people will more easily see the importance of tolerance and diversity.
Another board member, Lotus Perry, sees the project as multifaceted and in need of interns and more volunteers to go along with the funds.
She hopes that more people will get involved in the project to further the education of the community.
The groundbreaking on Friday will begin Phase I of the project, which is the creation of the park itself.
The second phase is the community center, the pavilion that will be inside the park and open for community events. This second phase will take more time and money.
The funds come from different sources, mainly the City of Tacoma, but also many different private corporations and donors.
Susan Perong, a grant writer for the City of Tacoma, said she helped the City apply for grants that would allow the CRPF to begin on Phase I of the park.
CRPF was awarded three state grants totaling nearly $1.2 million.
There are many Chinese gardens, but Perry specified, “This is one of a kind; this is about what happened.” The garden will serve as a park and a museum, something that will allow community involvement and action as well as remembering the past, — things that all add up to reconciliation.
The groundbreaking ceremony will be held on Friday, Aug. 19 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Chinese Reconciliation Park on Ruston Way next to Hyde Park. Visit www.crpftacoma.org. Call (253) 572-4248 or e-mail: [email protected].