Top billing in the Local Artist Films Program organized by the Chinatown Community Land Trust 9/17/2020 part of the 29 Oak Street Wall Projections series.
My MaMa’s Back,” an excerpt from a longer story called, “Duck,” is a tribute to the Chinese immigrant women garment workers of my Boston Chinatown childhood. The text and the recording, done by me in 2020, the photograph, by my father, Walter Yee, c.1952. In the photo, I sit with my mother inside 133 Hudson Street, our first American home, located where the first American community of Taishanese immigrant families settled after the repeal of the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1945. The subjects are my mother, May-Soon Gee Yee, myself, and in the dark shadows, longing, unseen, my two left behind sisters. Due to the Chinese Exclusion Act, my parents were separated for 15 years before I was born. My mother and two older sisters, surviving the Japanese invasion of China, while my father, a US Army Corporal, fought in Europe. My mother entered Boston in 1948, under the War Brides Act of 1945, leaving two daughters behind. My parents’ granddaughter, Sarah Cheung, born in Guangzhou, emigrating to Boston in 1979, translated the text.
This piece tells the story of a childhood in a fragmented family, dominated by the ever present sound and rhythm of a sewing machine. Separated by socio-political upheaval, exclusionary laws, war and revolution, three generations meet across time and space in this artistic creation, centering on the sewing together of fabric.