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Yoland Skeete-Laessig Collection

Identifier:  MG Nwk Skeete-Laessig-(Main and Offsite)

Scope and Contents

This collection consists of various materials resulting from Yoland Skeete-Laessig’s work on the book “When Newark Had a Chinatown: My Personal Journey”, as well as her fight to save the historical area of Chinatown from being redeveloped as an arena. There is also some material from her career as one of the founders of the art gallery Sumei Multidisciplinary Arts Cente.

Scope and Contents

Much of Skeete-Laessig’s research was donated to NYU (see Related Materials). However, this collection contains some valuable oral histories and photographs of historical Chinatown (series 5). It also contains materials from Skeete-Laessig’s research (series 1, 2 and 4) on Chinatown and several events she was able to stage to honor Newark’s Chinatown (series 3, series 5). Another important subject of the collection is the fight to prevent the building of Prudential Arena in the area that was historically Chinatown (series 5, separated materials). Lastly, Series 3 touches on some of the other art events held at Sumei and in the wider Newark community


  • 1960-2017, photocopies of earlier material and artifacts from earlier period
  • Majority of material found within 2000 - 2008


Conditions Governing Use

Researchers wishing to publish reproduce, or reprint materials from this collection must obtain permission.

Biographical / Historical

Yoland Skeete-Laessig was one of the founders of Sumei Art Center. Sumei Multidisciplinary Arts Center was founded in Newark, NJ in 1993 by a collective of artists, musicians and writers. From its website, “Sumei Art Center hosts national and international exhibits, workshops for children and adults, lectures, cultural education, artist workshops, presentations, and programs and music from the many different cultures that make up our diverse country.”

While at Sumei, Skeete-Laessig became interested in Newark’s Chinatown and began the Newark Chinatown History Project which culminated in a book “When Newark Had a Chinatown : My Personal Journey” (2016). She also hosted many lectures and events for former residents of Chinatown. At its peak in 1922, Newark’s Chinatown was home to 3,000 residents but by the 1950s, they had dispersed as many families moved into New Jersey’s suburbs.

When Newark’s Prudential Arena was proposed (broke ground in 2005), Skeete-Laessig protested the fact that the construction would destroy the historical area of Newark’s Chinatown. She joined other protesters, some of whom were concerned about different issues such as cost to Newark residents. Skeete-Laessig also combed the area for historical artifacts from Chinatown which she saved and documented. Eventually, Prudential Arena was built in the area and continues to function as an arena for music and sports events.

Besides her work on Newark’s Chinatown, Skeete-Laessig is an artist and documentarian whose work has been exhibited internationally.


26.59 Linear Feet (6 Hollinger boxes, 6 Paige boxes, 1 oversize box, and a 16-foot long model of a street)

Language of Materials



Physical Location

Paige boxes are offsite.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Yoland Skeete-Laessig.

Related Materials

Some of the material in this collection was used to write the book “When Newark had a Chinatown : my personal journey” by Yoland Skeete-Laessig ; edited by Hal Laessig, which is held in the Newark Public Library collection (974.932004951 Sk3wh).

Much more material was donated to NYU. It can be found under TAM 614 with a finding aid at

For information on Newark’s Chinatown see:

 Newark Evening News Microfilmed Clipping File, Newark – Chinatown

 “Newark’s Chinatown” [CD of Newark History Society Program, 974.932004951 N42]

 Picture file: Newark – Nationality Groups

Separated Materials

A DVD entitled “Full reunion” was sent to be cataloged.

A CD of newspaper clippings from the same donor were previously catalogued under 974.932 N422ch, “Newark Chinatown & Newark arena”.

"Newark Arena District Redevelopment Plan" pt. 1 &2 “Appendix F Parking and Traffic” were cataloged as books

“Impact of the Proposed Arena Sites on the Development of Newark’s Ecomony” (Edison Properties) was cataloged as a book

Newark Museum Quarterly “Newark Long Ago” Fall 1975 was added to the Periodical Collection

Processing Information

Very minimal processing has been done. Photos and ephemera need more processing. Photographs were removed from binders and foldered. CDs and DVDs were placed in envelopes and numbered.

A donation of artifacts in August 2020 was divided into five Paige boxes and one oversized box. Minimal processing was performed on these items, many of which were retrieved from the basements of buildings demolished when the Prudential Center was being built.

Beth Zak-Cohen and Thomas Ankner
2017 and 2021
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Revision Statements

  • 2019: Box 4 and 5 added
  • 2021: Hollinger box 6, Paige boxes 2-6, oversized box, and 16-foot long model added

Repository Details

Part of the Charles F. Cummings New Jersey Information Center, Newark Public Library Repository

3rd Floor
Newark Public Library
5 Washington St.
Newark NJ 07102 United States