Bill Moyers' Becoming American: The Chinese Experience to Premiere

Becoming American: The Chinese Experience; a three-part television series, hosted by Bill Moyers, is set to premiere on PBS, March 25 to March 27. This will be the first time a television documentary series about Chinese Americans during prime time nationally. Moyers points out, "There have been a number of fine documentaries and specials done about the Chinese American experience. While Public Broadcasting has told the story of the Italians in America, the Irish in America, we've never told this story in prime time of the Chinese experience in America.

One reason is that it's been only in the last 40 years that the Chinese have come here in large enough numbers to become a significant -- cultural, economic and political -- force. In a very short period of time, the Chinese have risen to the top rungs of American life. They include Gov. Gary Locke in politics, in business as with Charles Wang (Chairman and CEO of Computer Associates) and in the cultural fields with people like I.M. Pei (architect), and Yo-Yo Ma (cellist)."

Moyers worked closely with Chinese Americans not only to get their reaction to the project but also to help raise the necessary funding. He credits Eugene Sit, a longtime friend, for introducing him to Henry Tang -- former co-chair and a current governor of the Committee of 100, a group of prominent Chinese American professionals -- to help get that process started. The group had released a report that revealed that many mainstream Americans question the loyalty of Chinese Americans and other Asian Pacific Americans and state they would not support such a person as a presidential candidate. The Committee of 100 itself did not financially support the PBS project, but a number of individual members that Tang introduced to Moyers did.

Each of the three segments -- which are filled with interviews with historians, immigrants and other prominent individuals -- is an hour-and-a-half long, followed by a half-hour discussion with Moyers interviewing, in-studio, icons of the Chinese American community.

The documentary series illustrates how the Chinese overcame adversity, racism and legal barriers, including the Chinese Exclusion Laws, to succeed in America and how those changes have impacted Chinese Americans today. (Source: Sam Chu Lin, Special to AsianWeek, Mar 07, 2003)

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