WORDS

Here are some excerpts of lyrics I wrote for Illegal. Pledge Allegiance, Interpreter Carter Lee’s swaggy introduction, is inspired by real accounts from Angel Island interpreters. In Thrown, the fictional martial artist Kee Lin narrates the heartbreaking aftermath of her fight. Keep Dreaming adapts lyrics from real Angel Island poetry; it finds our heroes in detention, remembering why they came to America in the first place. You can also read the lyrics from all the Yale workshop cast album songs in the Youtube video descriptions!


Excerpt from “Pledge Allegiance” (A song from Illegal)

LEE & ENSEMBLE
I pledge allegiance
to the flag
of the United States
for which it stands
one nation,
one job.
Indivisible, with liberty and justice for all

LEE
I got a job in the fog and a view of the Bay
I bet that you’d want it too if you knew ‘bout the pay,
and when the clock strikes four at the end of the day,
I got a little more honor to my name. I’m

ALL
Interpreter Lee!

LEE
or “Mister Lee.” I’m not in your history,
but it’s 1923 and my people exist. You need a
real quick wit to survive as a Chinaman
yeah, even if you’re born here.

It’s either laundry or cooking, if you’re a jook sing,
otherwise you hustle in a tong as a crook, singing
for your supper. Yeah, no opportunity
so I was shook when the government recruited me!

Eight in the morning I wake, and break a fast, make a splash, hop on board to Alcatraz
but my ferry ride’s a little bit more, commuting to the next best rock next door:

ALL
Angel Island!

LEE
A day of cases goes fast, interrogating immigrants and checking the facts.
I help do the dirty work that must be done: separating blood sons from paper ones.

ENSEMBLE
All Chinese are criminals!

LEE
But I uphold the law!
And I’ll show them that our courage
Runs miles deep
Prove my worth and I’ll move up in
Society…

So

I pledge allegiance
to the word
of the immigration station I serve:
Angel Island
And the law
Indivisible with liberty and justice for all.

ALL
All I need is
My allegiance
and I can make it out

I keep believing
my allegiance
will help me make it out

LEE
So

I pledge allegiance
to the flag
of the United States republic
for which it stands
Secure the border
Secure my job
indivisible with liberty and justice…

For all.


Thrown (A Song from Illegal)

KEE LIN
The following was a blur to me, a flood of parents’ worst grief
Their daughter killed their only son; plus, I’d hurt the police

But that wasn’t the worst they’d be, they spat over my words and pleas
Welling up my hurt from deep, I screamed “the cop tried to murder me”
For nothing, they wished my brother survived instead of a girl like me
At first it sounds absurd except, in retrospect, a certainty

The irony finally seared in my mind:
They’d be fine if I died; I’d decided to fight
Was there ever a choice? Nope. I’m taking it back.
Can’t stop my flow, be water and go, redirect the attack

So what? the world has forsaken me
Enough, it’s me and my agency
Let’s see how much more I got

Thrown–

PARENTS
OUT!

KEE LIN
Thrown from my home
Now the end is unknown
How do I go it alone?

Breathe in
Breathing
Leaving
Repeating this isn’t my–

KEE LIN
Breathe in
Breathing
Believing                        PARENTS
Believing                        Kee Lin,

This is my fault.            This is your fault.


Excerpt from “Keep Dreaming” (A song from Illegal)
Lyrics by Skyler Chin and Angel Island detainees

KEE LIN, FAT PORK, CHIN, & LEE
Keep dreaming and telling your story
Keep believing till it’s finally true, and we’ll
Break even, it’s all guts and no glory
Plant the seeds, someday the garden will bloom

Plant the seeds, someday the garden will bloom.

LAI WAH
Remember how you’d roam around your war torn home town, repeating that
you’d go to Gold Mountain, and promised to bring a piece back,
no matter how they’d beat back Chinese with these acts?
Cuz when you went to sea that day you couldn’t see that

days of wind and waves would place us in a cage for Asians,
Could angels really make a racist prison in the bay?
I saw our spirits floating out the slats of the cage,
humiliated, bodies dropping every day but…

Remember how you scraped together all you had, how you planned a clever farewell to your family but choked up first, your tears flowing together the last time you saw them
and you promised them the world?
Don’t you forget that.

Look out through these rigid steel bars, it’s Oakland.
Across those frigid green waters we soak in the sun,
the moment it comes, our moment to run, the morning will come, we’ve only begun
to shine.

Do not forget this day when you land ashore.