On April 4, the Asian Pacific American Student Organization held the kickoff for Asian American History Month in Erickson Kiva. Although it’s not actually until next month, APASO always celebrates in April, as everyone is out of school by the time May rolls around.
This celebration is sponsored by the Office of Cultural and Academic Transitions and hosted by Meaghan Kozar. Attendees were treated to a spread of Asian cuisine, including spring rolls, crab rangoons and steamed dumplings. Kozar opened the programs with words of encouragement and the theme of the program: “I am, we are, history starts now.”
After her introduction, a slideshow of Asian American history with a spoken word poem began playing in the background.
APASO then screened a documentary about Vincent Chin. Chin was an Asian American from Michigan who was murdered in 1982 by two disgruntled auto workers, Ebens and Nitz, whom had just lost their jobs. Drunk and blaming Chin for the Asian takeover of the auto industry, they beat him to death in a back alley with a baseball bat. They were sentenced to three years probation and a $3,000 fine. They never served a day in prison for their crimes.
The murder of Chin led to a huge mobilization and unity within the Asian American community and even reached out to other ethnic minorities. When two boys, one black and the other from the Philippines, were murdered, the Korean American community reached out for justice. When the US government was trying to place Arab Americans in internment camps, the Japanese Americans protested with them.
“If we don’t stand together, we will always be divided,” said one of the testimonials.
One of the biggest issues with the Vincent Chin story is most Asian Americans don’t know about it. In the documentary, the cameraman walks around asking Asian Americans if they know who Chin is and most replied with, no. The APASO Executive Board did a similar experience and got the same results.
Curtis Chin, the brain behind the documentary and a member of Asian Pacific Americans for Progress, believes
there is still hope for the community. When he decided to make the film, he said he received an overwhelming amount of help and support from the outside. Someone even raised and donated all the money for the film.
The Asian culture is becoming more prevalent in American society and popular culture. Even President Barack Obama held an Asian Leadership Conference to commemorate and uplift. Together, we can honor the memory of Vincent Chin and maybe end all forms of racism.
By Devyne Lloyd