It’s the first day of May, and with the new month comes the beginning of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Throughout May, organizations and individuals throughout the country are celebrating the contributions, stories, and lives of AAPI individuals. One such celebration is happening here in Trenton, thanks to the New Jersey State Library team. Join the NJSL for a fascinating discussion with documentarian Yoland Skeete-Laessig to explore when Newark had a Chinatown.

On Sunday, May 8th, you are invited to join the New Jersey State Library for a fascinating webinar exploring the history of Newark’s former Chinatown. The conversation will be virtual via Zoom from 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm. If you’re interested in participating in the discussion, registration is available here: RSVP – NJSL. Throughout the afternoon, attendees will have the opportunity to learn more about the history of Chinese immigration, how the Chinatown enclaves came to be, and how these districts played an integral role in shaping the communities they called home.

When people think of Chinatown, they often think of the districts in major cities like New York, San Francisco, and Philadelphia. However, many cities, including Newark, were home to one of these unique cultural districts over the years. Newark’s Chinatown was more significant than New York’s at the turn of the 20th century. For New Jersey specifically, many Chinese immigrants settled in Bellville and later Newark, as these districts were close to New York City. Yoland Skeete-Laessig will highlight the history of Newark’s lost Chinatown and how the community came to be. Yolanda will also share how her experiences growing up as a mixed-race child in Trinidad influenced her identity, especially her Chinese grandfather and relatives.

Yoland Skeete-Laessig is a documentarian whose photographs have been featured in a variety of world-renowned institutions, including the Museum of Modern Art, African American Museum of Life and Culture in Dallas, Texas, the Alexander Bonin Gallery in Chelsea, the American Express Corporation, The Bilha Museum in Portugal, and The Zimmerli Museum in New Jersey. In addition to these impressive feats, Skeete-Laessig also serves as director and co-founder of the Sumei Multidisciplinary Arts Center in Newark, one of Newark’s leading artist-run alternative spaces from 1993 to 2015. She has received the Glide Memorial Grant, The Graff Travel Grant, The New Jersey Council on the Humanities Grant, and the Melon Grant distributed through New Jersey Performing Arts Center’s Humanities program and The Chinese American Museum in Los Angeles.

One of the greatest assets of the Garden State is the abundance of different cultures converging in our state, and the AAPI community plays a fundamental role in shaping the places we all call home. The history of Newark’s Chinatown tells a story of the bravery, tenacity, and ingenuity of immigrants seeking to forge a better life for themselves and their families. Any questions before attending may be directed to the New Jersey State Library at (609) 406-7179 for additional details. If you’d like to learn more about this fascinating time in our state’s history, RSVP today.

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