The competition to design a monument to victims of the 1871 Chinese Massacre in Los Angeles has selected a winner three months after publishing a six-finalist shortlist to envision what is by rights one of the most significant public memorials in the United States in recent memory.
Artist Sze Tsung Nicolás Leong and writer Judy Chui-Hua Chung’s proposal for a chilling assembly of petrified banyan trees will take hold along the 400 block of North Los Angeles Street, near the site of the massacre and current home of the Chinese American Museum, which is one of the strategic project partners for the memorial initiative.
LA Mayor Karen Bass said: “There are few things more important than knowing our full history, including, and maybe especially, when that history involves violent injustice, hidden out of sight. The City is taking these steps to honor the victims of the 1871 Chinese Massacre in order to better understand our past and build a better future. This important chapter in our history, long clear to our neighbors of Chinese descent, will now be known and considered by all Angelenos.”
The winners shared: “We are humbled by the historic significance of this memorial and honored that our proposal was chosen from a group of such talented finalists. While we are memorializing a massacre that reveals the long history of anti-Asian violence, we are also acknowledging that Asian Americans have been deeply rooted here since the beginnings of this city, state, and country. We are committed to commemorating the tragedy by honoring the victims and the diversity of this city they helped grow. We are grateful to the City of Los Angeles, the Department of Cultural Affairs, the 1871 Memorial Steering Committee, the panelists, and everyone who made this memorial process and this moment possible.”
The selection was made by an official steering committee that included Michael Pinto, Christopher Hawthorne, and Michael Woo, among others. Their process, which began in 2021, a year after America was gripped by racial strife surrounding the killing of George Floyd and others, drew on the recommendations of the Civic Memory Working Group to foster what Hawthrone called a “more productive and more honest relationship with the fraught, difficult, and painful aspects of the city's history.”
The result will also spread to two other sites — Union Station and the intersection of Broadway and 7th Street — and become a poignant testament to every American community that is today still grappling with the remains of history, a racist landscape inherited in its aftermath, and a rash of anti-Asian hate crimes that have regrettably been on the rise in recent years.
Learn more about the Memorial to the Victims of the 1871 Chinese Massacre here.
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