Honoring the forgotten and nameless people who helped to build Sonoma

Posted on November 6, 2019 by Sonoma Valley Sun

October 22, was a big day for The Ting Project!  The Sonoma City Council approved the donor recognition bricks, which will allow us to move forward with the submission of plans for the issuance of a construction permit.  When the City Council voted 4-1 to block approval for the donor bricks, on August 19th, they left the door open to reverse that decision when they appointed a subcommittee to meet with the Penglai Sister Cities Committee to find a way to advance the project. 

As a result of thoughtful public and media communications supporting the Ting, the City Council subcommittee and the Penglai Committee reached an understanding that was ultimately adopted by the City Council approving the use of donor bricks. 

A majority of Sonomans, see the Ting as a gift to Sonoma and the San Francisco Bay Area.  During the controversy, community members approached Penglai Committee members to talk about this issue and express support for the Ting.  Media coverage was also supportive and favorable to the position of the Penglai Committee with respect to the need to allow donor bricks to be part of the project. Donor bricks were not only essential for fund raising, they reflected the voice of the community with respect to the essential rationale for the Ting, which was to honor the contribution of Chinese laborers in the 19th century and inform the public of systemic racism that caused Chinese residents to flee the city and county of Sonoma. 

Working together, we are on a path to build the Ting that honors the history of Sonoma Valley and shines a light on the forgotten and nameless people, who helped to build Sonoma. The story of these Chinese laborers is poignant, given that they did not have the opportunity to bring their families with them or to become citizens of the United States. 

My friend, Irene Morgan, who passed away recently, told me that during the expansion of Prestwood Elementary School, some Chinese remains were found along with Chinese clothing, broken porcelain and artifacts. This is a reminder of the Chinese past — they worked here, lived here and some of them died here. They could not find a place to be buried, simply because they were not white and Christian.  

Sonoma is strong because we are rich in history, and we are united in honoring our history.  The Ting and its message belong to all of us! Sonoma is looking forward to a bright future with love and inclusiveness.  

— Jack Ding, Sonoma, member of the Penglai Sister Cities Committee



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