Stories from Pittsburgh’s Chinatown
Join the History Center for a rich celebration of stories from Pittsburgh’s Chinatown.
Featuring two short film screenings and a panel discussion, this event will vividly explore family and communal narratives from this long-overlooked neighborhood. Panelists (including community members, artists, and experts) will share their memories and research reflections on the history and legacy of Pittsburgh’s Chinatown.
Attendees will learn how Chinese Americans established businesses, started families, and created community despite the racism and discrimination that they faced. Participants will also garner insights into the decades-long partnerships and advocacy within the Chinese American community that has resulted in broader recognition of this history.
The program will take place in the Mueller Center located on the fifth floor of the Heinz History Center. Attendees can participate either online or in-person at the Heinz History Center. Space is limited.
ᶜᶜ Live captioning will be provided at this program.
About the Panelists
Lena Chen (b. 1987, San Francisco) is a Chinese American artist, writer, and scholar. Awarded Mozilla Foundation’s 2022 Creative Media Award and Best Emerging Talent at the 2019 B3 Biennial of the Moving Image, she has performed and exhibited internationally. She is a co-founder of JADED, Pittsburgh’s first Asian American artist collective. She earned a BA in sociology from Harvard University and a MFA from Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Art. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Performance Studies at UC Berkeley, where her research examines race, sexual labor, and feminist performance.
Lydia L. Ott
Lydia L. Ott is a nonagenarian blessed with posterity which includes four great grandchildren. She earned a BSN from the University of Pittsburgh. She currently works part-time in her son’s dental office. She enjoys gardening, sewing, and serving in church especially with children.
Lydia Y. Ott
Lydia Y. Ott is a recent graduate from the University of Pittsburgh studying Occupational Therapy. She is a 4th generation Chinese American whose family has lived in Pittsburgh for over 100 years. She grew up in the Wexford area and now currently resides in Squirrel Hill. In her free time, Lydia actively participates in her local church, Pittsburgh Chinese Church, located in the North Hills.
Jacqueline Wu is a PhD student at Yale University studying race and migration in the United States. She received a BA in history and BS in business administration from Carnegie Mellon University, where her senior thesis on Chinese labor in the northeastern US won the Dietrich Humanities Prize and the Pennsylvania Historical Association’s William A. Pencak Award. Her current research projects center on Chinatowns and the politics of Chinese exclusion.
Arriving as a child immigrant during the Depression years, Shirley’s father Yuen Yee later became a leader for the Chinese community of Pittsburgh and the unofficial Mayor of Chinatown. He served the community through the mid-1980s by supporting the newcomers with bilingual translation, immigration matters, caregiving for elders, business advising, and public outreach with the local media. Shirley has archived artifacts of her father’s life and compiled his handwritten memoirs that tell the triumphs and tribulations of early Chinese settlers in a once-vibrant urban Pittsburgh neighborhood. Shirley teaches Visual Interaction Design at CMU.
About the Films
The Last Mayor of Chinatown
The Last Mayor of Chinatown tells the story of Yuen Yee, who served as the last honorary mayor of Pittsburgh’s Chinatown and collected one of the largest known archive of local Chinese history. Told through images, documents, and artifacts, the film interweaves excerpts from Yee’s memoir with his daughter Shirley’s contemporary commentary to show his instrumental role in supporting newly arrived immigrants and establishing mutual aid initiatives. Through the Yee family’s story, we learn about the rise, decline, and rediscovery of Pittsburgh’s Chinatown.
Pittsburgh’s Lost Chinatown
In the documentary, Pittsburgh’s Lost Chinatown, Lydia Y. Ott tells the story of her grandmother, Lydia L. Ott, who grew up in Pittsburgh’s Chinatown on Third Avenue in the 1930s. She hopes to continue to pass down the story of Pittsburgh’s Chinatown for generations to come.
For more information or to request additional accommodations, please contact Sierra Green at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image caption: From front center (counter-clockwise): William Yot Jr., three unidentified men, Chew Soo Lim Yee (owner of Chinatown Inn restaurant), Harry Chew, Tong Yee, Jon Yee, Toy Yee, William Yot (first mayor of Chinatown), and Genevieve Yot at Chinatown Inn in 1949. Additional members of Yee and Lee families in background. Courtesy of Shirley Yee, from the collection of Yuen Yee, the last mayor of Chinatown and an avid amateur photographer.