A local artist in Olympia, Washington received the green light to paint a dragon mural commemorating the Chinatown that once thrived in her area.
Speaking to NextShark, the artist, who goes by the username @greasy.goldfloweron Instagram, described her town as predominantly White, adding that the Chinatown never made it to history books.
“My hometown just approved of a proposed dragon mural [that] I’m painting to commemorate the Chinatown that was driven out in the 1920s,” @greasy.goldflower said. “It’s not written in any of the history books.”
In her proposal, she described the dragon as a “silhouette” representing “a ghost of the past strength, intention and motion of Chinese immigrants who left their homes, crossed the widest ocean, and came to this place for a better life.”
The Chinatowns, which date back from the 1850s, died slowly in the following decades as the local Chinese population dwindled, partly due to restrictive immigration laws that prevented newcomers from replacing an aging community.
By the early 1940s, stores on Water Street — the third and final location of the city’s Chinatown — no longer operated. The fire department deemed them hazardous and eventually razed them in 1943, the same year the government repealed Chinese exclusion laws.
“This is where they built a community,” @greasy.goldflower said. “This is where they built laundries to wash other people’s clothes, gardens and restaurants to feed them, bars where all could relax at the end of a long day.”
“That was the immigrant experience brought to Olympia in the 19th century not by White settlers, but by people who spoke a different language, had a different history, and had different eyes, skin, hair,” the artist, a new immigrant herself, continued.
“As a new immigrant, I hear the echo of their experiences; I feel it in my bones. I share their gratitude for finding a home here. Like them, I have been welcomed by some, but felt the sting of prejudice and rejection. I share their sorrow for the displacement of community that thrived here starting in the 1880s, and was dispersed in the late 1920s. “
@greasy.goldflower hopes that her mural will help pave the way to resurrect the city’s Chinatown.
“What surrounds the incorporeal dragon are layers of meaning, of complicated lives, of the struggle and survival of people who persisted, survived, and left descendants in our midst. This mural is a tribute to them; a remembrance that mourns the absence of their lost community here, and honors their bravery.”
Many people might not know this, but NextShark is a small media startup that runs on no outside funding or loans, and with no paywalls or subscription fees, we rely on help from our community and readers like you.
Everything you see today is built by Asians, for Asians to help amplify our voices globally and support each other. However, we still face many difficulties in our industry because of our commitment to accessible and informational Asian news coverage.
We hope you consider making a contribution to NextShark so we can continue to provide you quality journalism that informs, educates, and inspires the Asian community. Even a $1 contribution goes a long way. Thank you for supporting NextShark and our community.