SAVE THE DATE! Year of the Rabbit
January 28, 2023, at the Spokane Convention Center
Unfortunately, it took the Anti-Asian Hate Crimes during the pandemic to wake up Spokane's Asian Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander communities to stand united and work together.
Part of the course is discovering Spokane's Asian heritage that spans 171 years starting with the Chinese, followed by the Japanese and the Filipinos. One of the stories we uncovered was Spokane once had a vibrant Chinatown/ Japan Trent Alley or to be more accurate, an international district from the from the 1880s through the 1940s.
The first Chinese Lunar New Year was celebrated in 1888 followed by a midnight raid by the Spokane Police who were alarmed by the fanfare and revelry. The following year 1889, “Thousands of crackers were fired, bombs exploded and Chinese rockets were sent heavenward," wrote the reporter. "Hundreds of people, attracted by the noise, blocked the streets" (The Morning Review, "The Fusillade of Fun").
He reported that guests, "no matter what race," were invited into the rooms of Chinatown residents and "made welcome with viands and liquors." Roast pig or chicken were the favorite foods; Chinese whiskey, or "Sam Shu" the favored liquors. "Before the food is eaten it is set out before a picture or image of Joss (an idol)," wrote the correspondent. "Punk or Joss sticks (incense sticks) are lighted and set near. As the pale blue smoke ascends to heaven, each guest breathes a prayer and sends it up in the smoke to the spirits of departed friends and relatives to partake of the feast" (The Morning Review, "The Fusillade of Fun").
In a merchant's store on Front Street, a Chinese band "sawed and hammered away with all their might" on three fiddles, a tom-tom, and a cymbal.
The last Chinese New Year event was held in 1933. During the Depression, Chinatown began its slow decline in the 1920s when Japanese immigration was curtailed and then banned. Many Japanese immigrants went back to Japan, after losing hope that their families would ever be able to join them.
Frequent police raids, new ordinance forbidding them to work at night, racism, the incarceration of Japanese Americans after WW2 made it difficult for the Asian community to thrive.
With no new influx of immigrants, Chinatown/ Trent Alley began to lose its Asian identity. Because of its blighted nature, Trent Alley was razed in the early 1970s as part of the massive urban renewal project for Expo '74, Spokane's World's Fair.
Hosting a Chinese Lunar New Year event in downtown Spokane will bring attention to places and events that our community members might not know about otherwise. But more importantly; it provides healing, a sense of community & belonging to Spokane’s Asian residents whose contributions have been erased & buried for the last 171 years.
It's not about forgiveness or reconciliation. It's about memory -- the fact that we can finally talk about these people who have always been forgotten in the narrative. We just want to tell the story as it was, because it is also a beautiful story, of how their descendants & community is presently coming together to share their stories, which includes bringing back Spokane’s Lunar New Year event after 89 years.
More importantly, it provides healing, a sense of community & belonging to Spokane’s Asian residents whose contributions have been erased & buried for the last 171 years.
Spokane's St. Patty's Day Parade is 47 years old
Spokane's Lilac Festival is 83 years old
If the Asian Community didn't face persecution and racism - Spokane would have celebrated its 134th Anniversary of the Lunar New Year in 2022.