Making history: conference banquet tribute to Philip P. Choy and Him Mark Lai.

Author:Hom, Marlon K.

Good Evening Friends,

As shown on the screen, these two gentlemen are "most wanted"--but not by the FBI. They are most wanted in the field of Chinese American history. They are our elders, in both age and knowledge. They are Chinese America's venerable pioneers, not vulnerable pensioners. They are armed with wisdom, not weapon; they are generous, not dangerous. They have dedicated themselves to research, preserve, advocate, and disseminate Chinese American history They are Philip P. Choy and Him Mark Lai, lifetime members and leaders of the Chinese Historical Society of America and Adjunct Professors in the Asian American Studies Department at San Francisco State University.

When Chinese American Studies began at San Francisco State after the 1968 Third World Student Strike, it was a time of desperation to find support to build and develop this new academic program in higher education. However, most of the Chinese scholars in American university campuses would not touch, let alone lend their professional support to this new discipline because of the societal perception of it being a short-lived, radicalized, political movement which would eventually disappear in no time. Yet, Phil and Him Mark were there, offering themselves to teach the first Chinese American history class in the country. With that beginning, Chinese American history began its existence and has become a pivotal course in the Asian American Studies curriculum.

Their class syllabus became a 1971 publication entitled, Outlines: History of the Chinese in America. This publication, with its yellow cover, didn't make them rich--no tenure, no promotion. But ever since its publication, Outlines has defined the direction on how to study Chinese American history. As of today, teachers and scholars still follow the framework of Outlines for their lectures and research. As I see it, Mao Zedong had his little "Red Book" for China's Cultural Revolution. Phil and Him Mark have their "Yellow Book" for our Chinese American history restoration. By the way, both books were extremely popular during the 1970s in Asian American Studies.

Phil and Him Mark are role models for Chinese American Studies' paradigm of community service and involvement. Many younger scholars in the Asian American Studies arena know about their research, but they hardly know that both men have been active in the community since the 1950s. As a leader of the Mun Ching Club in San Francisco Chinatown, Him Mark helped...

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