LONG BEACH - Although Long Beach is well known for having the largest Cambodian population in the U.S., there have been precious few resources to research how this has come to pass.
The Khmer Genocide Study and Resource Center, planned for Cal State Long Beach, will attempt to help fill that gap.
The first formal step in its creation starts tonight with a fundraising dinner at Sophy's Restaurant.
However, the idea has been a long time coming.
In the late 1970s, Long Beach became a hub for incoming refugees who escaped from the ravages of the genocide that engulfed Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge and left upwards of 2 million dead.
Since that time, a large Cambodian community has developed in Long Beach, with businesses, arts and social service agencies.
What hasn't evolved is a place where academics and the community can learn about the calamitous history and circumstances that led to Long Beach becoming the home of Cambodia Town.
Although the center will have a physical location on the Cal State campus, primarily it will be a virtual museum online with an array of information across multiple platforms.
"The intent is to develop an archive of the genocide experience," said John Fallon, one of those helping create the center.
"It will have three components," Fallon said. "An academic venue for information with oral histories; an electronic library; and third, an most important I suppose, an
Dr. Donald Schwartz, a Fulbright Specialist and retired professor at Cal State Long Beach, will be helping to head up the academic side and is hoping to link up with other universities, including Stanford, Yale and Pannasastra University in Phnom Penh, along with the Document Center in Cambodia, which has provided much of the information for the Khmer Rouge War Tribunals.
Schwartz will also be teaching in the spring at Pannasastra and hopes to get funding for videographers to do a project on the infamous Tuol Sleng, or S-21, security prison.
Schwartz is an expert on the Holocaust during World War II. He said one theme from survivors of that genocide was that they didn't tell their children what they endured. He sees parallels with the children of Cambodian genocide survivors and hopes this project can help answer their questions.
Fallon, who has been at the forefront of the refugee movement since the '70s and has helped place 22,000 families, said his inspiration comes from the words of a survivor he met: "He said, `My children must understand what happened to me, so the world will not forget."'
Schwartz said the primary purpose of the dinner, in addition to raising funds, is to invite the Cambodian community to be part of the process and inform them what's envisioned.
Or as Fallon says, "It's their life and their history."
Want to go?
What: Khmer Genocide Study and Resource Center fundraising dinner
When: Tonight, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Sophy's Restaurant,
3240 E. Pacific Coast Highway, Long Beach
Cost: Adults $30, children $15
Information: Lamarin Pan 562-394-5290, Peter Chhun 818-640-6191, Sophy's Restaurant 562-494-1763