HIGHLAND PARK, Mich. (WXYZ) — This year will mark the 40th anniversary of Vincent Chin’s murder, which took place in Highland Park on the eve of his bachelor party.
The incident played a significant role in driving Detroit’s Asian American civil rights movement over the years. That’s why to keep the momentum going, a coalition of national and local groups announced plans for a four-day commemoration.
"We cannot talk about hate crimes and senseless killing without talking about Vincent Chin," said Rebeka Islam, director of Vincent Chin 40th Committee.
Politicians and Asian American community leaders joined hands on May 2 in Detroit’s historic Chinatown to honor Chin’s life and legacy.
"This is the place to really have these movements and educate people and what does that mean for tomorrow," Islam said.
Executor of Chin’s Estate Helen Zia says the current climate of anti-Asian hate spurred by COVID-19 has rekindled interest in the 1982 case.
"The horrific baseball bat killing of Vincent Chin on the eve of his bachelor party and the miscarriage of justice that followed, and allowed his two white killers to be freed without spending a single night in jail because the judge then said these are not the men you send to a Detroit jail," Zia said.
The assailants were sentenced to three years of probation and fined $3,000. Mayor Mike Dugan says the case impacted everybody and even brought reforms to Michigan’s legal system.
"The justice system changed the way cases were handled after that, and I think it’s a great thing to remember the impact the way the Asian American Community came together," Duggan said.
The four-day commemoration will kick off on June 16 and feature a national conversation on democracy, racial justice and Asian American culture. It will also launch the Vincent Chin 40th Commemorative Film Series along with two nights of cultural and art performances. Murals have also been commissioned for old Chinatown.
"There is just so much rich history here in Michigan of Asian American Activism that does not get talked about a lot. But a movement was born here and that needs to be respected and lifted up as well. And that could be something that brings us some more energy and enthusiasm for the fight that we need to continue to fight," Michigan Sen. Stephanie Chang said.