SANTA BARBARA, Calif.—Japanese tone chimes captivated visitors at the Santa Barbara County Genealogical Society during the celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander heritage.
Sunday marked a journey of discovery for both the local Asian community and those interested in learning about their rich history in Santa Barbara.
“We all came from somewhere. And when we when we come to events like this, you feel a sense of awe that people overcame all of these challenges, these obstacles, both legal, social, economic and were able to survive, not only survive, but then also succeed,” said President of Chinese Historical Society of Southern California Eugene Moi.
Visitors browsed through historical accounts, photos, and artifacts from local families.
Each interaction told a different story.
At 104 years old, local legend Miye Tachihara Ota is revisiting her legacy.
“I'm really honored, I can’t believe they dug up all the stuff about me I forgot about,” said Tachihara.
Her story was one of dozens at the event.
Historians like Eugene Moi emphasize looking at these stories within the cultural and historical framework of the times and redefining what it means to be American.
This includes understanding how laws like the Chinese Exclusion Act and Alien Land Law impacted asians for generations.
“I was born here. And my my family has been here for generations. …But because of our appearance, your skin color, the language that you speak, your food ways, all of this result in the questioning of your Americanness,” said Moi.
It also includes acknowledging the psychological impact of the Japanese internment camps.
“ In spite of the difficulties in life, in spite of the injustices that happened, that we can go forward and we can find justice ultimately. And is there a better story than that?” said Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation Asian American Affinity Group Paul Mori.
Locals here share how much Santa Barbara has changed in the last few decades.
“The Chinese and the Japanese used to be side by side or across the street from each other. I can improve Ito, but now we're sort of scattered,” said Susan Ohashi Kuroda who has lived in Santa Barbara since 1960.
“You see, really very little, almost no traces of the former Santa Barbara, Chinatown and Japantown. And yet some of those families are still here or still alive. And so we are trying to share those stories,” said Santa Barbara County Genealogical Society Librarian Melinda Yamame Crawford.
The Santa Barbara County Genealogical Society aims to help people discover, document, preserve, and share their family histories not only in California, but also around the world.