Kitchen Table Stories uncovering Asian American history

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Kitchen Table Stories

It didn’t sit right for Melissa Raman Molitor when she went to a local history center and discovered it did not have an Asian American archive.

Molitor had been living for ten years in Evanston, Illinois- a city where Northwestern University is located and a city where one out of 11 residents identify as Asian American or Pacific Islander.

Molitor went on to launch the Kitchen Table Stories Project, a website designed to educate the community about its Asian American history, reported the Evanston Roundtable.

Illinois this school year became the first state in the nation to require the teaching of Asian American history in grades k-12.

“How do you teach Asian American history and the Asian American experience,” she said, “without having that rooted and grounded in your own community?”

The Daily Northwestern reports the Kitchen Project has teamed up with the Evanston History Center to compile an archive of Asian, South Asian and Pacific Islander American histories from the Evanston community. 

The project is a combination of oral and data history which can be used by teachers to enhance their curriculum.

Molitor herself has struggled to share personal experiences based on her Filipino and Indian identities.

“The Asian South Asian Pacific American community has been considered foreigners in the United States regardless of how long they’ve been here,” she said. “This project is one way to disrupt that narrative.”

Patti Delacruz is Korean and Japanese and she grew up in Chicago. She learned very little about Asian American history in school.

“I don’t have the knowledge about the Indian and the Indian American community, for example,” said Delacruz. “I would have to go to my colleagues and ask: ‘Can you tell me more about that history?’ They have a rich community history to tell. It’s just not documented.”

English professor Michelle Huang can identify with that.

“The Midwest is seen as predominantly White in our imaginations,” Huang said to the Daily Northwestern. “(Yet) It is a particular site of importance for working-class Asian Americans rather than the populations concentrated in the financial sector or engineering on the coasts.”

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