[Source: Angela Cara Pancrazio, Arizona Republic] -- If Mary Lum's Mesa house ever caught fire, she would grab the only thing she cares about: a plastic storage box overflowing with photos and documents, her great-grandmother's green card and a hand-colored photo of herself with her sister Suzie taken in Hong Kong before they came to America, a place the Chinese called Gold Mountain. These are some of the traces of the earliest Chinese families that are scattered and stacked inside homes across the Valley. A grandfather clock hanging on a wall, yellowed Chinese newspapers folded inside a cigar box, faded photos of family grocery stores crammed into dining room buffets.
Many Chinese-Americans, like Lum, are no longer willing to remain quiet about how their families, the first wave of Chinese immigrants, helped shape Arizona. Last fall, hundreds rallied to save the last remnant of Phoenix's Chinatown, known as the Sun Mercantile, when developers proposed building an 11-story condo and office tower atop the brick warehouse. But they weren't just trying to save the Chinatown landmark; they were trying to save their Chinese and Asian-American heritage here. The old grocery warehouse is the perfect place, they say, to tell their story. A place they plan to call the Arizona Asian-American Museum. And what story do they want to tell?
[Note: To read the full article, click here. To view the slideshow related to this article, click here. Photo of several of Mary Lum's family photographs by Angela Cara Pancrazio, Arizona Republic.]