Historical reenactment and photo by Corky Lee
A Film, a Railroad & a Church —
History Is Alive!
As I begin, I am proud to express gratitude to Eli Siegel, founder of the education Aesthetic Realism, for explaining the central fight in the mind of every person of the past of and every person right now: between respect and contempt for reality and people. Our choices determine how our lives go and what kind of world we'll have.
Ellen Reiss writes about this in #1335 of the international periodical The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known:
Corky Lee & the Transcontinental Railroad
Photographer Corky Lee describes himself as an ABC from NYC – an American-born Chinese from New York City. For decades, he has been documenting the history, culture, daily lives, activism, and contributions of Pan
Asian Americans from over 40 countries including China, Japan, Korea, the Philippines, India, and Vietnam. His works appear in hundreds of newspaper stories, magazines, videos, and exhibitions.
For now. I'll mention one aspect of Mr. Lee's work – the history he has dedicated his life to uncovering: the labor of Chinese immigrants in building America's massive Transcontinental Railroad. Beginning in 1863, two railroad companies, one in the East, one in the West, began dynamiting and laying track over the Sierras and across the prairies, finally meeting at Promontory Point, Utah in 1869. Many thousands of immigrant workers, two-thirds Chinese, one-third Irish, lost their lives to illness and dangerous, backbreaking work. Yet, photographs of the Transcontinental Railroad opening celebration and later commemorations pictured only white workers. When Corky Lee saw one of these photos in his high school textbook, he made a choice to use his disappointment and anger as a beginning point for seeking justice.
At that early age he dedicated himself to some day being able to take a photograph that was fair to the true story. After years of research, he found descendants of original Chinese railroad workers, and brought these families, at his own expense, to the exact spot where the historically false photograph had been taken. As I see it, the coming to be of this photograph which shed new light on, and brought needed recognition of, the long suppressed role of Asian immigrants in American history, is part of the force of ethics working in the world. Look for more about my interview with Corky Lee in an update – including his father's interest in civil rights and respect for Dr. Martin Luther King.
Haiti, Pierre Toussaint, and St. Patrick's Old Cathedral
Because my next subject is so big, taking in life and history on two continents during four centuries, a brief outline cannot do it justice. And so, I promise to write with some richness very soon about Pierre Toussaint (shown right), born a slave in 1776 in the French Colony of Saint-Dominique (now Haiti) and how my colleague, early childhood educator Monique Michael (born in Haiti) introduced me to his history, which led to a remarkable interview with James Garrity, church historian of St. Patrick's Old Cathedral on Mott Street in New York City, shown at left with Monique Michael and Alice Bernstein.
For now, I quote these sentences by Eli Siegel, from his great lecture, "Poetry and History," relating the largeness of every person's life to feelings in history:
With best regards,
Alice Bernstein, Director