In 1982, the racially charged murder of Vincent Chin ignited the modern Asian American civil rights movement and offers powerful lessons to confront today’s pandemic of Anti-Asian violence

DETROIT Forty years after the murder of Vincent Chin and the subsequent miscarriage of justice launched the 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, which is being organized amid a climate of anti-Asian hate and violence that harks back to 1982, will take place June 16-19, 2022. It will feature a national conversation on democracy, racial justice and Asian American civil rights.

A highlight will be a special screening of the acclaimed, Academy Award-nominated film, “Who Killed Vincent Chin?”, which was co-produced in 1987 by Detroit Public TV. It was recently inducted into the National Film Registry, a testament to its lasting importance.

The commemoration also includes the Vincent Chin 40th Commemorative Film Series in partnership with the Freep Film Festival, a 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.

Detroit Public TV joins a coalition of civic and community organizations in planning this event, including the City of Detroit Arts, Culture & Entrepreneurship Office, American Citizens for Justice, The Vincent and Lilly Chin Estate and the Center for Asian American Media, among many others. The Kresge Foundation is the presenting sponsor for the landmark events.

Vincent Chin 40th - Protest in Detroit

Demonstration, April 1983, Courtesy of Helen Zia

One of the leaders spearheading this commemoration is renowned journalist Helen Zia, co-founder of American Citizens for Justice, which formed in 1983 to seek justice for Vincent Chin. She said, “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.

“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.”

At DPTV, our commitment to these issues extends back to the Vincent Chin documentary and was reinforced more recently by the wave of violence against Asian Americans at the outset of the pandemic in 2020. In response, DPTV produced a virtual town hall addressing a wide range of topics underscoring the many accomplishments of the Asian Americans in our community and the challenges they still face, working with the members of DPTV’s Asian American Pacific Islander Advisory Committee.

Ever since then, we have continued to meet regularly with this committee, composed of leaders from many Asian communities in our region, not only to combat the violence but to remember and resurface the multifaceted nature of AAPI life in our region.

In addition, DPTV has collaborated with public radio station, WDET-FM, to produce a series capturing the voices of individuals in Southeast Michigan’s AAPI community, inviting them to have meaningful conversations and share their personal stories. The range of topics these conversations cover has been as diverse as the AAPI experience itself.

The Vincent Chin 40th Remembrance & Rededication is another great step forward, uniting the entire region in the cause of Asian American civil rights. By doing so, we recognize that protecting the rights of one community protects the rights of us all.

The Vincent Chin 40th Remembrance & Rededication will be held June 16-19; for more information go to the event website.

Vincent Chin 40th - Protest in Detroit

May 9, 1983 demonstration in Kennedy Square, Downtown Detroit, Courtesy of Helen Zia

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Planning Organizations: 

Vincent Chin 40th Anniversary Planning Organizations