Roots is a year-long program for young adults ages 18 to 30. After exploring their Chinese roots in America, participants explore their roots in China through visits to their ancestral villages and other historical and cultural sites in Guangdong Province. The overarching intent of the program is to provide the participants with an awareness and appreciation of the totality of the Chinese American experience. They gain a better understanding of their heritage, which ultimately helps them to better understand their identities as Chinese Americans.
Program interns are required to: construct a family tree and related family history; journal their experiences and write an essay discussing their experience in the program; design and install an exhibit of writings, photographs, and artifacts documenting their research and travels; and, conduct a multi-media presentation summing up their year for their family, friends, and the community.
Structure and Curriculum
Roots interns (usually about a dozen) are selected in January. In February, an informal meeting is held so that the year’s interns can meet each other. A series of Saturday seminars and activities is conducted from March through June. Interns tour San Francisco Chinatown, conduct research at the National Archives, and tour the Angel Island Immigration Station. Interns attend seminars on China’s history and geography and the Chinese American community. Scholars and writers such as Judy Yung and Ruthanne Lum McCunn serve as guest speakers. The final pre-trip seminar is held in June, and includes final preparations and a briefing for the trip to China. In July the group goes on a guided trip of about two weeks in China to visit ancestral villages.
The Overseas Chinese Affairs Office of Guangdong Province provides key logistical support in the search for villages and with arrangements for travel and accommodations in China. The group visits key historic and cultural sites, such as the Meiguan Pass (through which early Chinese migrants arrived in Guangdong), Zhujixiang (a mountain village in which the ancestors of many Pearl River Delta clans settled), and the Overseas Chinese museums in Guangzhou, Jiangmen, and Taishan. In some years, interns attend Overseas Chinese youth festivals in Guangzhou or Beijing, where they meet young people of Chinese descent from other parts of the world, such as Southeast Asia, Europe, Latin America, Africa, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
Upon their return from China, the interns continue their work on their family trees and genealogical research, write essays regarding their experience in China, and prepare their exhibit and presentation. The program culminates in a Chinese New Year exhibit and presentation of the interns’ research, where participants share what they have learned with family, friends, and the community.