Chinese American Citizens Alliance, Oakland Lodge

The Chinese American Citizens Alliance (CACA) plays a significant role in the history of Chinese Americans. Chinese were brought to this country in great numbers as cheap labor to help build the railroads, later became this country's scapegoats when poor economic conditions and high unemployment became prevalent.

Against this backdrop, a small group of young Chinese Americans, born and raised in the United States, assembled in San Francisco and decided that they would have to take matters into their own hands if they were going to combat this sentiment and accelerate the process of assimilation. They found that they not only had to fight the hostile public opinion against their Chinese ancestry, but they also had to overcome the skepticism of their own elders who felt that these young upstarts were becoming too Americanized and were forgetting the ideals of the old country. Despite this opposition, this group of Chinese Americans believed in the importance of their American birth and felt that they nevertheless had a role to play in shaping this country.

Thus, the fraternal order of the Native Sons of the Golden State came into existence in San Francisco. First incorporated in the State of California by Chun Dick in 1895, the group was later reorganized in 1904 by Walter U. Lum, Joseph K. Lum, and Ng Gunn. By 1912, other Chinese Americans in communities outside of San Francisco learned of the organization and wanted to form local chapters. Membership in the organization was at first confined to Chinese males born within the State of California, but as more and more requests came to establish branches elsewhere, it became apparent that a complete reorganization was necessary. Therefore, in 1915 "Chinese American Citizens Alliance" was born.

The Oakland Lodge was the third lodge formed of CACA. It was founded in 1912 by Dr. Charles Goodall Lee, who was the first Chinese American dentist licensed in California and the first to practice in Oakland Chinatown. His wife, Clara Chan Lee, and another CACA member’s wife, Emma Hoo Tom, were the first Chinese American women registered to vote in the United States. Because CACA was strictly a brotherhood at that time, Mrs. Lee and Mrs. Tom were not members of CACA. Women were allowed to join CACA in 1977.

The current Oakland Lodge building officially opened in August 1921. With the financial support of multiple members, the building was actually purchased in May 1920. However, moving into the lodge was delayed because certain tenants with ties to the Tongs refused to move out unless paid “remodeling money”. It took eight months of diligent effort by Brother Wah Chiu Lee to resolve this dispute.

The Oakland Lodge occupies the top stories of the building and has mostly rented the ground level to local merchants. For many years, it was rented to Fong Get Moo, the first Chinese female barber in Oakland, who charged customers a dime for a haircut and lollipop.

For more information about the CACA Oakland Lodge, please visit their website: www.cacaoakland.org.

CACA Oakland Lodge installed officers, 2012