Vincent Chin 40th remembrance and rededication set for June 16-19

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Forty years after the murder of Vincent Chin and the subsequent “miscarriage of justice” that ignited the modern Asian American Civil Rights Movement, a coalition of national and local groups plans a four-day commemoration in Detroit.

The Vincent Chin 40th Remembrance & Rededication, planned amid a climate of anti-Asian hate and violence that dates back to 1982, will take place June 16-19, and features a national conversation on democracy and racial justice.  It also will launch the Vincent Chin 40th Commemorative Film Series in partnership with Freep Film Festival, with a special screening of the acclaimed, Academy Award-nominated film, “Who Killed Vincent Chin?” The commemoration also includes a first time Midwest convening of Asian American documentary filmmakers; community dialogues; cultural performances; and a motorcade to the graves of Vincent Chin and his parents for a remembrance ceremony.

“The horrific beating death of Vincent Chin in 1982 on the eve of his bachelor party led to a landmark civil rights movement led by Asian Americans,” said Helen Zia, executor of the Vincent and Lily Chin Estate and a co-founder of American Citizens for Justice (ACJ), which formed in 1983 to seek justice for Vincent Chin. “The present-day wave of anti-Asian hate violence has rekindled awareness of Vincent’s legacy. Our hope is that these events will engage present and future generations in the commitment to social justice and the fight against racism and hate.”

On June 19, 1982, Chin was beaten to death with a baseball bat by Ronald Ebens, a 43-year-old foreman at Chrysler. He was aided in the assault by his 22-year-old stepson Michael Nitz. Earlier that evening, Ebens and Nitz had been involved in a scuffle with Chin and several of his friends while they were at a Detroit strip club. According to trial testimony, part of their anger stemmed from the mistaken belief that Chin, a Chinese-American, was in some form responsible for the loss of auto jobs in Detroit.

For the killing, Ebens and Nitz were each fined $3,000, assessed $780 in court costs, and received three years of probation. Neither received any prison time, triggering national outrage, particularly among members of the Asian-American community.

The official Vincent Chin 40th Remembrance and Rededication events are being organized by the Planning Committee that includes the Vincent and Lily Chin Estate; ACJ; the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM); the City of Detroit Office of Arts, Culture, and Entrepreneurship (ACE); and Detroit Public Television (DPTV). The Kresge Foundation is the presenting sponsor for the landmark events.

“Detroit has been a major locus of the long-road struggle for a just America for all,” said Wendy Lewis Jackson, managing director of Kresge’s Detroit Program. “The Kresge Foundation is honored to support this milestone of the Asian American Civil Rights movement in the aftermath of Vincent Chin’s murder. We look forward to public education, essential conversations and rededication to our collective stand against hate and violence.”

Former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta and leading global advocate for women’s rights, Irene Natividad, will serve as honorary co-chairs of the four-day commemoration, which the Planning Committee hopes will unite forces around the country to stand against hate.

“Our movement is committed to equal justice for all and a stand against racism and discrimination of any kind,” said civil rights attorney Jim Shimoura, chair of the Vincent Chin 40th Planning Committee and co-founder of ACJ.

The comments were echoed by Roland Hwang, president and co-founder of ACJ and a member of the Planning Committee. 

“These events are about remembrance and rededication of a hate crime that defined our civil rights movement,” added Hwang.

The commemoration is designed to bring together original organizers and activists from the Vincent Chin movement and today’s racial and social justice leaders. Programming will examine the impact of Vincent Chin’s murder on America as well as celebrate the deep roots of Asian Americans in Detroit through arts, culture, and a history tour. Additionally, the committee will produce and distribute a teaching toolkit and discussion guide about why Vincent Chin’s legacy and the subsequent civil rights movement matter today. 

For a schedule of events and for more information, visit www.VincentChin.org.


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