CSUMB faculty members land humanities grant

A grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities will help move the Salinas Chinatown Cultural Center and Museum another step closer to reality.

The $40,000 grant will be used to plan and design three public programs for the future museum.

The Republic Cafe will house the Chinatown Cultural Center and MuseumThose programs are:

• A core historical exhibition for the museum, which will be housed in the former Republic Café on Soledad Street

• A virtual oral history walking tour of Chinatown

• A series of intercultural dialogues involving the communities that have made Chinatown their home over the last 150 years.

All three programs are part of “Imaging Salinas Chinatown: Intercultural Dialogues of History and Meaning.” CSU Monterey Bay professors Rina Benmayor, Amalia Mesa-Bains and Seth Pollack are co-directors of the project and are working in partnership with the Asian Cultural Experience, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving Chinatown.

The grant will bring national scholars to the planning process, including Jack Tchen of New York University; Dorothy Fujita-Rony of UC Irvine; and Tomas Ybarra-Frausto, formerly of the Rockefeller Foundation. It will also support local scholars from the Chinese, Japanese, Filipino and Latino communities in Salinas.

In 2010, Dr. Tchen was the keynote speaker at CSUMB’s symposium, Salinas Chinatown: Once and Again.

Chinatown has been a refuge for the hungry and homeless for decades. Almost from the beginning of the university, students performed service learning at Dorothy’s Place, a soup kitchen and shelter on Soledad Street. In 2005, the university and Chinatown stakeholders formed a partnership for renewal. The next year, the Soledad Street Unity Garden and a community center opened. In 2011, a computer lab and digital literacy classroom was added to the center.

Over the years, hundreds of service learning students in a variety of academic disciplines have worked in the area. 

Three grants have been awarded for Chinatown historical and cultural preservation efforts this summer. In addition to the NEH grant, the Community Foundation for Monterey County made an award to the Asian Cultural Experience to collect and archive historical photographs, and Cal Humanities gave $10,000 to create an interactive website and the walking tour based on work by Professor Benmayor's students. Since 2007, her service learning students have gathered more than 125 hours of Chinatown stories.