A Tribute to Him Mark Lai
by Felicia Lowe
Noted scholar, historian, writer and advisor to the Angel island immigration Station Foundation, Him Mark Lai, passed away on May 21, 2009. A memorial program will be held on Saturday, June 22 from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Chinese Culture Center in San Francisco. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to the “Him Mark Lai Digital Archive Project” of the Chinese Historical Society of America (CHSA), the “Him Mark Lai Heritage Fund” of the Chinese Culture Foundation (CCF), or Chinese for Affirmative Action (CAA).
Former AIISF Board President and Producer of “Carved in Silence,” Felicia Lowe shares these thoughts about Him Mark Lai.
I send this missive from Uganda and imagine what I would learn from Him Mark Lai if I were able to ask him about Chinese in East Africa. I’m sure he’d have an answer because the man was a walking encyclopedia and always generous in sharing what he knew. His curiosity, intellect and particularly, his Chinese literacy gave birth to much original research. Information that formed a solid foundation from which others, like myself, built upon and will continue to do.
Island: Poetry and History of Chinese Immigrants on Angel Island, 1910 to 1940 co-written with Judy Yung and Genny Lim is but, one of his legacies. Published in 1979, the authors were at the forefront of recovering this long lost chapter in American history; virtually unknown even within our own community. Momentum to save and preserve the site grew over the years and eventually, the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation (AIISF) was established to raise awareness and funds to do exactly that. Him Mark agreed to serve on our advisory board and as usual, was only a phone call away with answers to any questions. He was well aware of the organizational work that made it possible to achieve what we see on the site today and he relished our successes in his own quiet way. I only wish he had been well enough to see it with his own eyes.
Him Mark Lai will be greatly missed. We say goodbye with deep gratitude in our hearts and send our deepest condolences to his wife, Laura Lai, his extended family and friends.