Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Antioch celebrates Independence Day with parade, fireworks on the river and more

Monday, July 5th, 2021

Another great event by the Celebrate Antioch Foundation! All photos by Allen Payton, Antioch Herald. If you wish to use them, please give attribution when posting or publishing. Thank you!

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The Declaration of Independence – signed 245 years ago which we celebrate today

Sunday, July 4th, 2021

A copy of the Declaration of Independence.

Following is the text of the Declaration of Independence in celebration of Independence Day, July 4th, 2020:

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.


The 56 signatures on the Declaration appear in the positions indicated:

Column 1

Georgia:

Button Gwinnett

Lyman Hall

George Walton

Column 2

North Carolina:

William Hooper

Joseph Hewes

John Penn

South Carolina:

Edward Rutledge

Thomas Heyward, Jr.

Thomas Lynch, Jr.

Arthur Middleton

Column 3

Massachusetts:

John Hancock

Maryland:

Samuel Chase

William Paca

Thomas Stone

Charles Carroll of Carrollton

Virginia:

George Wythe

Richard Henry Lee

Thomas Jefferson

Benjamin Harrison

Thomas Nelson, Jr.

Francis Lightfoot Lee

Carter Braxton

Column 4

Pennsylvania:
Robert Morris

Benjamin Rush

Benjamin Franklin

John Morton

George Clymer

James Smith

George Taylor

James Wilson

George Ross

Delaware:
Caesar Rodney

George Read

Thomas McKean

Column 5

New York:

William Floyd

Philip Livingston

Francis Lewis

Lewis Morris

New Jersey:

Richard Stockton

John Witherspoon

Francis Hopkinson

John Hart

Abraham Clark

Column 6

New Hampshire:

Josiah Bartlett

William Whipple

Massachusetts:

Samuel Adams

John Adams

Robert Treat Paine

Elbridge Gerry

Rhode Island:

Stephen Hopkins

William Ellery

Connecticut:
Roger Sherman

Samuel Huntington

William Williams

Oliver Wolcott

New Hampshire:

Matthew Thornton

From the website: www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration.html

Happy Independence Day from the Antioch Herald!

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Antioch mayor, council members sign resolution apologizing for city’s past anti-Chinese hate during public ceremony

Thursday, June 17th, 2021

Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe signs the council adopted resolution as other council members and representatives of Chinese and Asian American organizations look on, during the ceremony, Wednesday morning, June 17, 2021.

Joined by representatives of Chinese and Asian American organizations in Bay Area, State Controller Yee; APAPA donates $10,000 for exhibit at Antioch Historical Society museum

“It took 145 years to come to this day, to come to this reconciliation.” – Betty Yee, California State Controller

By Allen Payton

During a ceremony in what was once the location of Antioch’s Chinatown, Wednesday morning, June 17, 2021, Mayor Lamar Thorpe and council members signed the resolution they adopted in May, apologizing for the city’s residents for their racism against Chinese immigrants in the late 1800’s. That included the burning down of the city’s Chinatown in 1876.

During the May 18, 2021 meeting, the council voted 5-0 to pass the resolution entitled “Resolution of the city council of the City of Antioch apologizing to early Chinese immigrants and their descendants for acts of fundamental injustice, seeking forgiveness and committing to rectification of past misdeeds.” (See related articles here and here)

The council members were joined by representatives of Bay Area Chinese and Asian American organizations, as well as State Controller Betty Yee who participated by Zoom. The signed resolutions were presented to each.

Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe is joined by fellow council members and representatives of Chinese and Asian American organizations for the Wednesday morning resolution signing ceremony in Waldie Plaza.

Yee was the keynote speaker, noting the fact that her parents are from the same Guangdong Province in China as were many of Antioch’s Chinese residents of the 1800’s.

Thorpe welcomed those in attendance “to the new Antioch, where opportunity lives for all of the world’s people, cultures, and more.”

“I know for some cultures and ethnic groups Antioch hasn’t always been a place of opportunity, hasn’t always been a place of open arms, and hasn’t always been a place of acceptance. And, we still fight through some of those issues today,” he continued. “But as we mature as a city, we gain perspective, build understanding, and, most importantly, increase our capacity to seek forgiveness.”

“Today, we ceremoniously begin that process of reconciliation with our early Chinese American residents, their descendants, and the larger AAPI community for our past misdeeds that helped build a culture in our country that led to the rise in hate crimes stemming from the COVID 19 pandemic,” Thorpe stated. “Like the ending of the pandemic, today, we, the City of Antioch, take our dose of humility by acknowledging our troubled past and seeking forgiveness.”

“I recognize there are many groups in our community who are just as deserving of an apology from their local, state and national government. I know, I am a member of such groups,” the mayor shared. “However, given the national awakening that has spun out of anti-Asian American and Pacific Islander hate, it’s critically important that we do this, now.”

Contra Costa Community College District Board President Andy Li, the first Asian American elected to the board, spoke next, thanking the mayor and council for their action “to make Antioch the first to apologize to early Chinese immigrants. Today is an historic day…for the resolution to be signed. I hope our ancestors in heaven can now rest in peace.”

“It sends a very clear message to the people of the United States that this is a country for all,” he continued. “145 years have passed, and the lives of Chinese Americans have improved. But today…we are told to go back to our country. Let’s be clear. This is my country.”

Li then cited the pledge of allegiance.

Edward Tepporn of the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation said, “what happened in Antioch happened in other cities across the country.”

He spoke of how Chinese immigrants were treated differently than other immigrants, with many having to strip naked and answer hundreds of questions.

“Today, we add Mayor Lamar Thorpe and the City of Antioch to the list of those shining bright and standing shoulder to shoulder in solidarity,” Tepporn added.

Thorpe, who was joined by Mayor Pro Tem Monica Wilson, District 1 Councilwoman Tamisha Torres-Walker and District 2 Councilman Mike Barbanica, then said, “I thought I would have the other council members who voted for the resolution sign it.”

Her shared that District 3 Councilwoman “Lori Ogorchock couldn’t be here. Her grandson is visiting so her time is tied up.”

We have made commitments to fund the Antioch Historical Society and to designate this area as Antioch’ historic Chinatown,” Thorpe shared, speaking of Waldie Plaza in the city’s historic Rivertown District, where the ceremony was held.

As Thorpe reads the resolution, Douglas Hsia of the Locke Foundation in the California Delta bowed his head as a sign of reverence and respect.

Thorpe Reads Resolution, Representative Bows

As Thorpe read the resolution, Douglas Hsia of the Locke Foundation in the California Delta bowed his head in a sign of reverence and respect.

RESOLUTION OF THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF ANTIOCH APOLOGIZING TO EARLY CHINESE IMMIGRANTS AND THEIR DESCENDANTS FOR ACTS OF FUNDAMENTIAL INJUSTICE, SEEKING FORGIVENESS AND COMMITTING TO RECTIFICATION OF PAST MISDEEDS

WHEREAS, on January 24, 1848, gold was discovered in Alta California, Mex(ico) and by 1849, people were coming to the region from all over the world to look for gold;

WHEREAS, the Gold Rush caused a huge increase in the population by migrants from the eastern United States and other parts of the world including China;

WHEREAS, between 1849 and 1853 about 24,000 young Chinese men immigrated to Alta California, Mex(ico) (which in 1850 became the United States, State of California) and by 1870 there were an estimated 63,000 Chinese in the United States, 77% of whom resided in California;

WHEREAS, many Chinese immigrants were met with racism, scapegoating and anti-Chinese sentiment also known as xenophobia, which was at its highest between 1850 and 1870;

WHEREAS, Antioch in its early years was not exempt from xenophobia;

WHEREAS, this period in Antioch’s history, like in most of America, is now known as the “The Driving Out” with forced removals of Chinese immigrants;

WHEREAS, during “The Driving Out” period, Antioch officially became a “Sundown Town” when it banned Chinese residents from walking city streets after sunset;

WHEREAS, in order to get from their jobs to their homes each evening, these Chinese residents built a series of tunnels connecting the business district to where I Street met the waterfront;

WHEREAS, in 1876 Chinese residents were told by white mobs that they had until 3 p.m. to leave Antioch— no exceptions;

WHEREAS, after Chinese residents were forced out, Chinatown was burned to the ground and Antioch made headline news: “The Caucasian torch,” wrote the Sacramento Bee, “lighted the way of the heathen out of the wilderness,” and “The actions of the citizens of this place will, without doubt, meet with the hearty approval of every man, woman and child on the Pacific coast” wrote the San Francisco Chronicle;

WHEREAS, Antioch’s early period helped negatively contribute to the Nation’s xenophobic discourse, which led to legal discrimination in public policy with the establishment of the Chinese Exclusion Act;

WHEREAS, the system of “The Driving Out” and the visceral racism against persons of Chinese descent upon which it depended became entrenched in the City’s, the State’s and the Nation’s social fabric;

WHEREAS, the story of Chinese immigrants and the dehumanizing atrocities committed against them should not be purged from or minimized in the telling of Antioch’s history;

WHEREAS, the City of Antioch must acknowledge that the legacy of early Chinese immigrants and Xenophobia are part of our collective consciousness that helps contribute to the current anti-Asian American and Pacific Islander hate;

WHEREAS, a genuine apology and seeking forgiveness are an important and necessary first step in the process of racial reconciliation;

WHEREAS, an apology for dehumanization and injustices cannot erase the past, but admission of the wrongs committed can speed racial healing and reconciliation and help confront the ghosts of the City’s past;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the City Council of the City of Antioch:

1) Apologizes to all early Chinese immigrants and their descendants who came to Antioch and were unwelcome;

2) Seeks forgiveness for acts of fundamental injustice, terror, cruelty, and brutality; and

3) Expresses its commitment to rectify the lingering consequences of the misdeeds committed against early Chinese immigrant under, before and during “The Driving Out.”

* * * * * * * * *

I HEREBY CERTIFY that the foregoing resolution was passed and adopted by the City Council of the City of Antioch at a special meeting thereof, held on the 18th day of May, 2021 by the following vote:

AYES: 5

NOES: 0

ABSTAIN: 0

ABSENT: 0

Mayor Pro Tem Monica Wilson and Councilmembers Tamisha Torres-Walker and Mike Barbanica sign copies of the resolution as representatives of the Chinese and Asian American organizations look on.

Council Members Sign Copies of Resolution

The mayor and council members then signed eight copies of the resolution which were presented to representatives of each of the organizations in attendance, including Tepporn, Justin Hoover, Executive Director of the Chinese Historical Society of America, C.C. and Regina Yin, and Joel Wong of the Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs Association (APAPA), Douglas Hsia of the Locke Foundation in the California Delta, as well as Hans Ho and Linda Walgren of the Antioch Historical Society.

Mayor Thorpe presents a copy of the signed resolution to Antioch Historical Society representatives Linda Walgren and Hans Ho.

“I just want to say how important it is to have solidarity with other groups…to be with this amazing event today to honor those who were wronged,” Hoover shared. He then thanked the mayor and council for the resolution.

Walgren, Secretary of the Board of Directors on behalf of president Dwayne Eubanks spoke next saying, We are interested in all the people’s history in Antioch.”

“I want to thank the mayor and city council for an extremely brave act in signing this proclamation” Ho said as he got choked up and had tears come to his eyes.” It is an uncomfortable part of our history.”

Hsia said he was glad to be part of the ceremony and thought it appropriate his organization was represented since “San Francisco marked the beginning and Locke marks the beginning of the end of the Chinese immigration.”

“I thank Mayor Thorpe,” Hsia continued. “His actions today, have made America better for everyone.”

State Controller Betty Yee participated via Zoom.

Yee offered her keynote address for the ceremony saying, “This is such an important, historic day. It is a personally meaningful day for me. I have to harken back to some of the sentiments of the day…which was the anti-Asian sentiment. We are standing locked arm in arm fighting this virus of hate.”

“Today, we’re recognizing the stains of Antioch…and look at how we are going to model reconciliation…so our community can heal from all the dark chapters of the Chinese American experience,” she continued. “The Asian hate, today, has its roots in what happened, here in Antioch.”

“I want to thank the City of Antioch for not just making this a one-day occasion…but that we will be reminded of it in our museums. It’s only through understanding that we truly understand our place in time, today,” Yee stated. “It took 145 years to come to this day, to come to this reconciliation. The number of the resolution, 88 is a very important number in Chinese culture…of good fortune.”

“This is a day of celebration, but a day to remember our work is not done,” she said. “It is so significant when it happens in cities like Antioch. It’s so easy to sweep it under the rug. We know this is a hopeful day of a new chapter of relations.”

“I’m so thankful to be part of this historic day,” said Antioch School Board President Ellie Householder, who served as Mistress of Ceremonies for the event.

C.C. Yin founder of APAPA speaks, as his wife, Regina (left) Joel Wong, Edward Tepporn, Andy Li, Councilwoman Torres-Walker and Mayor Pro Tem Wilson listen.

APAPA founder C.C. Yin said, “this is a very important historic moment. The first time in California history for a city to stand up.”

He presented the mayor and council members with APAPA logo shirts as gifts, as well as McDonald’s logo hats from he and his wife’s franchise.

He shared that “Regina Yin is donating $10,000 from the APAPA foundation to the City of Antioch.”

“Andy told us to do that,” she said with a smile.

“I was very moved by the mayor’s comments,” Regina Yin stated. “This country gave C.C. and me the opportunity to open a McDonald’s franchise. I have had the opportunity to open a business and to give back.”

She thanked the mayor for “A sincere apology.”

“Sixty years ago I came as an immigrant,” C.C. Yin stated. “This is our country. We love it. We have fulfilled our dreams ten times. The past is learning for tomorrow. We have double responsibility to build a better country, a better government. Antioch…this is what I call American spirit.”

Street Renaming and Reparations

Asked about the idea of renaming First Street to Chinatown Way, as proposed by a Rivertown business owner, Thorpe said he was not familiar with that but the council would consider it.
Asked about reparations for the descendants of the property owners who were burned out, and if there had been any research done  on that,  yet, he said “we are working with City Manager Ron Bernal and the historical society in the process of securing a consultant.”

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Antioch School Board to consider creating new K-8 virtual academy named for city’s first Black resident

Friday, June 11th, 2021

Antioch’s first Black resident, Thomas Gaines. Photo: City of Antioch

Special Friday noon meeting on Thomas Gaines K-8 Virtual Learning Academy, if approved will open Monday, June 14

By Allen Payton

During a special meeting, today, Friday, June 11, 2021, at noon the Antioch School Board will consider approving a new virtual learning academy and name it for the city’s first Black resident, Thomas Gaines (1821-1896). (See presentation, here)

In 2016 the City Council declared Feb. 9th as Thomas Gaines Day for the emancipated slave and Antioch’s only Black resident between the 1860’s and 1940’s. (See related article)

According to the staff report on the item, “The District is seeking approval to form and establish the Thomas Gaines Virtual Learning Academy as an Alternative School of Choice (ASOC) to open in the fall of 2021. The Thomas Gains Virtual Learning Academy will provide a virtual learning option for students and families who would benefit from such an instructional model. The Thomas Gaines Virtual Learning Academy will serve students in grades K-8. Enrollment is entirely voluntary. The school will be virtual in instructional delivery but will include opportunities for in-person experiences as well. The Thomas Gaines Virtual Learning Academy will be housed in a currently existing school location. Enrollment will open on June 14, 2021, and staffing will be assigned based on enrollment numbers. All families who wish to enroll their student(s) in the Thomas Gains Virtual Learning Academy will be able to do so.

Alternative schools of choice (ASOC) were established under California Education Code (EC) sections 58500—58512. Each ASOC must meet all the requirements of the law, including:

  • All students and teachers are selected entirely from volunteers (EC Section 58503).
  • The school is maintained and funded by the school district at the same level of support as other educational programs for the same age level operated by the district (EC Section 58507).
  • The district annually evaluates the school and forwards the evaluations to the State Superintendent of Public Instruction (EC Section 58510).

From presentation. Source: AUSD

“I think it’s a phenomenal idea honoring the history of Antioch,” Board Vice President Dr. Clyde Lewis said when reached for comment. Asked if this is just for the summer, he replied, “It will be an ongoing academy.”

“It’s a perfect marriage between past and present, connecting Antioch’s history with the current state of student learning through a virtual learning space,” he continued. “Thomas Gaines was an upstanding African American who contributed to our city. I’m hoping our students will follow in his footsteps and contribute to the future of Antioch.”

An effort to reach Board President Ellie Householder, asking her what the focus of the academy will be, was unsuccessful before publication.

However, Trustee Mary Rocha was reached and said, “In the past three years, they’ve been working to change Black Diamond Middle School into an academy. At this time that distance learning has become a big issue, many students do well, but not everyone. We’re going to put a piece of that in there. The school will be both online and in person. They will work on the curriculum and part of it will be distance learning. Since it’s opening Monday, it’s just the distance learning that will be tied to it. We need to accommodate our students who want to learn that way.”

In addition, Superintendent Stephanie Anello said, “the focus isn’t going to be on a specific discipline, but because some of our students really thrived in distance learning and some of our parents want to continue their educational experience in that manner. We want to continue offering that choice. It’s completely by choice.”

The meeting begins at noon and will be livestreamed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QspiIc_NPME. Those wishing to make a public comment on the agenda item can submit their comments until 11:00 a.m. on the day of the meeting. Comments can be submitted via an online form at https://tinyurl.com/ausd-public-comment-card or by email tokelliecavallaro@antiochschools.net. Comments received by 11:00 a.m. will be read to the public during the meeting.

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Grace Arms seeks vendors, sponsors, volunteers for Juneteenth event in Antioch June 19

Friday, May 28th, 2021

JUNETEENTH

A Celebration of Freedom day.

A day to celebration the progress of the African American community and remember the struggles past and present.

Note: It is the final weekend to sign up for vendor booths. Deadline is May 30th. We are also looking for volunteers and sponsors. Please see below. For General Donations click on the Read More Button.

All proceeds will go to support our Grace Arms Community Programs.

BECOME A SPONSOR

** There are three levels **

Gold level is $350, Silver level is $250 & Bronze level is $180

Click here for all the details

BECOME A VENDOR

** There are two types **

“For Profit” $120 or “Non-Profit” $75

Click here for all the details

VOLUNTEER TODAY!

This event can’t be successful without the support of volunteers and your role is vital.  We welcome you to join with us and volunteer.

Click here for more details

 

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Antioch Juneteenth Celebration in Waldie Plaza June 19

Friday, May 28th, 2021

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Antioch Council officially apologizes for racism against Chinese immigrants in 1800’s, makes national news

Saturday, May 22nd, 2021

Early map of Antioch showing the area where Chinatown was located in the 1870’s. Source: Oak View Memorial Park

Supports plans to establish Chinese historic district in downtown, museum exhibit, but no discussion yet on reparations to descendants for land City now owns; no apologies for last year’s effort to devalue without compensation current Chinese American landowners’ property in Antioch 

By Allen Payton

During their special meeting on Tuesday, May 18, 2021, the Antioch City Council unanimously passed a resolution officially apologizing for the acts of racism against Chinese residents in the 1870’s, including the burning down of the city’s Chinatown in 1876. In addition, the council agreed to pursue establishing a Chinese historic district along Antioch’s waterfront from G Street to I Street, north of W. 2nd Street where Chinatown was located. The council also agreed to pursue funding for the planning and design of potential Asian museum exhibits and murals.

The council’s actions made national news with the New York Times publishing an article about it on Thursday. Mayor Lamar Thorpe posted a link to the article on his official Facebook page, writing, “We don’t always make headlines news in The New York Times but we did today. On Tuesday, Antioch became the only known city in the US to officially apologize for the historic mistreatment of early Chinese immigrants starting in the 1840s.” However, that is incorrect, since the town wasn’t founded until 1849 as Smith’s Landing by the twin Christian reverend Smith brothers and wasn’t until December 24, that year that they each broke ground for the construction of their homes.

Also in his Facebook post, the mayor announced he is planning a public signing ceremony of the resolution, “with CA Comptroller Betty Yee in the coming weeks.” She was unable to attend Thorpe’s April 14th press conference on the matter.

Demolition of the Palace Hotel revealed some of the Chinese tunnels beneath Antioch’s downtown. Source: Antioch Historical Society

According to an article by the Antioch Historical Society, “When Chinese groups arrived at the City of Antioch a small ‘Chinatown’ was established consisting of homes and stores on both sides of Second and First Street. In May 1876 the anti-Chinese sentiments of the Antioch community reached a boiling point. The Chinese were asked to leave and a resistance led to Chinatown being destroyed which was chronicled (May 2nd) in the Sacramento Bee and the Daily Evening Express.

Today, the only remnants remaining of Antioch’s Chinatown are the tunnels beneath downtown Antioch. The Palace Hotel demolition in 1926, to make room for the El Campanil Theatre, uncovered a large section of the Chinese tunnel.

An 1851 county law prohibited Chinese from appearing on the streets after dusk. The tunnels are said to have been used by Chinese service workers to travel to work without walking the streets. The use of the tunnels is one of the examples of the patience and endurance of the Chinese people to persevere and overcome challenges.”

There was no discussion on reparations for the descendants of the Chinese owners of the property, most of which is now owned by the City, including two parking lots and the Waldie Plaza park, to compensate them. A similar action is underway by the state to return Bruce’s Beach property in Manhattan  Beach, California to the descendants of Black owners it was taken  from 97 years ago. During his April 14 press conference about the matter, Thorpe said he would ask Antioch Historical Society President Dwayne Eubanks to include that in the organization’s research. Following Tuesday’s actions, asked if he was still open to considering reparations, Thorpe did not respond. When reached for comment Eubanks said, “We’ve done some research. We have some artifacts from that time period.” But his board has to decide on both hosting the display at the museum and any further research, he shared. (Please check back later for any updates to this report).

There was also no apology for last year’s actions by three of the current council members and a majority of Antioch voters for their attempt to devalue by over 97% the property owned by current Chinese American landowners in Antioch and without compensation, when they endorsed and passed Measure T. (See related editorial)

One idea for the location of the Chinese museum exhibit was proposed by a Rivertown business owner, following the council’s vote, was to use the Hard House on First Street. Another idea was to rename First Street, where the Hard House, Lynn House Gallery and Amtrak Station are located, to Chinatown Way.

Mayor Pro Tem Monica Wilson and District 1 Councilwoman Tamisha Torres-Walker were appointed to a council subcommittee to pursue the matters of establishing the historic district, exhibit and murals. Interested members of the public can contact them with their ideas and suggestions.

Following is the resolution adopted by the council:

RESOLUTION OF THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF ANTIOCH APOLOGIZING TO EARLY CHINESE IMMIGRANTS AND THEIR DESCENDANTS FOR ACTS OF FUNDAMENTIAL INJUSTICE, SEEKING FORGIVENESS AND COMMITTING TO RECTIFICATION OF PAST MISDEEDS

WHEREAS, on January 24, 1848, gold was discovered in Alta California, Mex(ico) and by 1849, people were coming to the region from all over the world to look for gold;

WHEREAS, the Gold Rush caused a huge increase in the population by migrants from the eastern United States and other parts of the world including China;

WHEREAS, between 1849 and 1853 about 24,000 young Chinese men immigrated to Alta California, Mex(ico) (which in 1850 became the United States, State of California) and by 1870 there were an estimated 63,000 Chinese in the United States, 77% of whom resided in California;

WHEREAS, many Chinese immigrants were met with racism, scapegoating and anti-Chinese sentiment also known as xenophobia, which was at its highest between 1850 and 1870;

WHEREAS, Antioch in its early years was not exempt from xenophobia;

WHEREAS, this period in Antioch’s history, like in most of America, is now known as the “The Driving Out” with forced removals of Chinese immigrants;

WHEREAS, during “The Driving Out” period, Antioch officially became a “Sundown Town” when it banned Chinese residents from walking city streets after sunset;

WHEREAS, in order to get from their jobs to their homes each evening, these Chinese residents built a series of tunnels connecting the business district to where I Street met the waterfront;

WHEREAS, in 1876 Chinese residents were told by white mobs that they had until 3 p.m. to leave Antioch— no exceptions;

WHEREAS, after Chinese residents were forced out, Chinatown was burned to the ground and Antioch made headline news: “The Caucasian torch,” wrote the Sacramento Bee, “lighted the way of the heathen out of the wilderness,” and “The actions of the citizens of this place will, without doubt, meet with the hearty approval of every man, woman and child on the Pacific coast” wrote the San Francisco Chronicle;

WHEREAS, Antioch’s early period helped negatively contribute to the Nation’s xenophobic discourse, which led to legal discrimination in public policy with the establishment of the Chinese Exclusion Act;

WHEREAS, the system of “The Driving Out” and the visceral racism against persons of Chinese descent upon which it depended became entrenched in the City’s, the State’s and the Nation’s social fabric;

WHEREAS, the story of Chinese immigrants and the dehumanizing atrocities committed against them should not be purged from or minimized in the telling of Antioch’s history;

WHEREAS, the City of Antioch must acknowledge that the legacy of early Chinese immigrants and Xenophobia are part of our collective consciousness that helps contribute to the current anti-Asian American and Pacific Islander hate;

WHEREAS, a genuine apology and seeking forgiveness are an important and necessary first step in the process of racial reconciliation;

WHEREAS, an apology for dehumanization and injustices cannot erase the past, but admission of the wrongs committed can speed racial healing and reconciliation and help confront the ghosts of the City’s past;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the City Council of the City of Antioch:

1) Apologizes to all early Chinese immigrants and their descendants who came to Antioch and were unwelcome;

2) Seeks forgiveness for acts of fundamental injustice, terror, cruelty, and brutality; and

3) Expresses its commitment to rectify the lingering consequences of the misdeeds committed against early Chinese immigrant under, before and during “The Driving Out.”

* * * * * * * * *

I HEREBY CERTIFY that the foregoing resolution was passed and adopted by the City Council of the City of Antioch at a special meeting thereof, held on the 18th day of May, 2021 by the following vote:

AYES: 5

NOES: 0

ABSTAIN: 0

ABSENT: 0

___________________________________

ELIZABETH HOUSEHOLDER

CITY CLERK OF THE CITY OF ANTIOCH

___________________________________

LAMAR A. THORPE

MAYOR OF THE CITY OF ANTIOCH

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East Bay Parks, local officials cut ribbon to open new coal mine exhibit at Black Diamond Mines in Antioch

Friday, May 21st, 2021

Parks District Board V.P. Colin Coffey (center) and President Dee Rosario (left) prepare to cut the ribbon for the new coal mine exhibit. They were joined by Pittsburg Councilwoman Shanelle Scales-Preston (far left) G.M. Sabrina Landreth (between Rosario and Coffey), Antioch Mayor Pro Tem Monica Wilson, Director Beverly Lane and representatives of Congressman Mark DeSaulnier and Assemblyman Tim Grayson.

Director Colin Coffey next to the coal car and miner inside the exhibit.

Opens Saturday for weekend tours

By Allen Payton

On Thursday, May 20, 2021 officials and staff of the East Bay Regional Parks District (EBRPD) were joined by local officials to celebrate the opening of the new coal mine exhibit inside the old Hazel Atlas sand mine at the Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve. Following speeches of gratitude and congratulations attendees held a ribbon cutting inside the mine in front of the entrance to the new exhibit.

It will take visitors back in time to a realistic 1870’s-era coal mine, complete with sights and sounds. The immersive educational experience will allow for greater understanding and appreciation of the area’s coal mining past.

Ira Bletz, Regional Manager, Interpretive & Recreation Services for EBRPD said the whole effort took two years, including carving out the area inside the mine and the development of the display. While the mine was being worked on to make room for the exhibit, the display was being developed at another location. It was then disassembled, brought to the mine and reassembled for the exhibit. The fake rock was bolted to the real rock.

Another part of the coal mine exhibit.

New district general manager, Sabrina Landreth said, about her staff, “it’s a joy to see the fruits of their labor”.

“The parks district has delivered wonderful amenities to the people of East Contra Costa County,” she added.

Board of Directors Vice President Colin Coffey, who represents East County, said, “the exhibit shows what it was like working in the mine in the early 20th Century.”

“You are the first public visitors in the mine since 2019,” he stated. “As of today, Black Diamond Mines is happy to welcome guests, here.

Coffey spoke of and thanked the Wayne and Gladys Valley Foundation which contributed $1 million to the Regional Parks Foundation for five visitor center projects, including the coal mine exhibit.

EBRPD Directors, General Manager Sabrina Landreth and Kevin Damstra (right) Supervising Naturalist in charge of the exhibit and park.

Director Beverly Lane and Board president, Dee Rosario were also in attendance for the event.

Antioch Mayor Pro Tem Monica Wilson and Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock, as well as city manager Ron Bernal, and Parks & Rec Commission Chair Marie Arce attended.

Wilson spoke, recognizing “the East Bay Regional Parks District for their commitment to the community” and thanked them for keeping parks open during COVID-19.

“Thank you for sharing our history and stories of our rich heritage,” she added. “I’m really happy this is going to be available to our residents, our youth.”

During her remarks, Pittsburg Councilwoman Shanelle Scales-Preston shared the fact that “Pittsburg was first named Black Diamond because of the coal mines.”

EBRPD staff with former General Manager Bob Doyle (blue shirt, right) at the entrance of the new exhibit.

Representatives from Congressman Mark DeSaulnier and Assemblyman Tim Grayson read letters from them and Assemblyman Jim Frazier, congratulating the parks district for the opening of the exhibit.

Former General Manager Bob Doyle spoke about the background of the new exhibit and his own experience in one of the now closed coal mines.

“It was John Waters’ vision. He came up with this idea,” Doyle stated.

According to the display inside the mine, “the Hazel-Atlas Mining Museum and Greathouse Visitor Center are two of the many accomplishments of Waters,” who “began his career with the East Bay Regional Park District in 1968 as a Park Ranger. Later, as Resource Analyst, he designed Black Diamond’s parking lot, picnic areas and water system. John eventually became Black Diamond Park Supervisor, and later served as the Preserve’s first Mine Manager, a position he held until his retirement in 2006.”

John Waters. Photo: EBRPD

“I was privileged in 1977 to actually go into the last open coal mine…in Nortonville,” Doyle shared. “The exhibit has the photos from the actual coal miners. No one had been in there for 110 years. It had the corral for the animals that were used to haul the coal. The middle of the track was worn out from the animals pulling the coal mine.”

“Our gas meters went off and we took as many photos, and got out. That has been permanently closed off. Four boys snuck in and died about four years, later,” he continued. “It’s important we recognize the safety by the parks district and the hard, hard life the early workers had, here.”

“This is an incredibly huge, 6,000-acre park and someday there will be an entrance from the Nortonville side, which was the largest town in the area,” Doyle added

“It’s a history that’s often hidden and one we take great pleasure in sharing with you,” said Kevin Damstra, Supervising Naturalist in charge of both the exhibit and the Black Diamond Mines park.

The exhibit includes background noise of coal mining including voices of Welsh and Welsh accented English,” he shared. “There were also Irish, Italian and Chinese miners, out here, for a while.”

The coal mining lasted from 1865 to 1908 and then the sand mining from 1920 to 1945,” Damstra shared.

A few photos of the coal miners who were as young as eight years old, coal train and trestle inside the exhibit.

The Black Diamond Mines Hazel Atlas Mine is located at the south end of the Somersville Road in Antioch. The exhibit is open for four tours each Saturday and Sunday beginning tomorrow, May 22. To schedule yours contact the parks district at (510) 544-2750 or toll free: 888-EBPARKS (888-327-2757), option 3, extension 4506, or visit www.ebparks.org/parks/black_diamond/. The sand mine will not be open until June. It’s cold inside the mine and wearing something warm is recommended.

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