On the night of his slaying, Vincent Chin was 27 years old and his future was promising.  He was doing well at work in computer graphics, was well liked, and was looking to buy a new home for his wife and his widowed mother.  In fact, Vincent’s story typified the experiences of many Asian American immigrants:  his father, Chin Wing HIng, came from Guangdong Province to America in search of a new life, which he found in the laundries and restaurants of Detroit.  When World War II began, he enlisted, and after serving honorably in the U.S. Army, became eligible for citizenship.  As a reward of citizenship, Mr. Chin was permitted to bring his wife, Lily, to this country.  There were no children, and a few years later, the couple adopted a five-year-old boy from Guangdong, whom they named Vincent.

Friends and teachers say Vincent was a fun-loving, happy kid.  His mother says he could have studied harder, but that he was a good boy, the kind who would help others.  When he was nine, he began working in local Chinese restaurants, bussing tables.  He had two passions:  fishing and reading.  “Whenever he had a chance, Vince would try to get to a lake and drop a line–it was his way of relaxing,” remembers boyhood friend Gary Koivu, who was with Vincent the night he died.

And Vincent had a sensitive side to his personality–he often wrote poetry to his fiancee, Vikki Wong.  She is trying to renew her life and is reluctant to talk publicly about Vincent, but some memories stand out, such as a Valentine’s Day poem that Vincent placed in a classified section of a local paper:

There is no life without you
There is no joy or laughter
There is no brightness, no warmth
All the mornings after.

So stay with me
And We’ll face the tomorrows
To find if our love
Can overcome the sorrows.

From Chinese American voices: from the gold rush to the present.

They called it “camp”

Talk to elderly Issei or Nisei, and they invariably refer to their experience in “camp.”  Which camp were you in?  Did you go to camp?  Where did you go after camp?

“Camp” wasn’t an idyllic, rustic cabin on a lake somewhere.  It was a concentration camp in some g-d forsaken place.  They lived in tarpaper shacks or horse stalls under armed guard.

“Camp” meant “concentration camp.”  They knew what it was.  The government knew it too.  Even President Roosevelt called them concentration camps.

But now they are “internment centers” or “relocation centers.”  They were for the protection of Americans of Japanese descent.  The “non-aliens.”

They weren’t detention centers and they weren’t prisoners and they weren’t concentrations camps.  They were free to leave at any time.  They were internees and they were being relocated.  For their own protection.

But words matter.

‘Search for truth brings justice’

Photo by Gina Ferazzi

Story here.

Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga is an iconic figure among students, scholars and Nikkei (Japanese American) activists. Along with 110,000 other Nikkei on the West Coast, Aiko spent World War II in three concentration camps: Manzanar in California, Jerome and Rohwer in Arkansas. She resettled in New York City where she became involved with Asian Americans for Action. Later, she moved to Virginia near the National Archives in Washington, D.C. In 1981 she was hired as the primary researcher for the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (CWRIC).

Aiko and her husband, Jack Herzig, played a pivotal role in the redress movement through their research at the National Archives. The documents they found were also instrumental in the coram nobis cases that vacated the wartime convictions of Fred Korematsu and Gordon Hirabayashi. They conducted primary research of official documents for the National Council for Japanese American Redress in the class action lawsuit, William Hohri, vs U.S.A. Aiko also worked for the Department of Justice’s Office of Redress Administration to help identify individuals in the Nikkei community eligible for the presidential apology and redress payment.

100 years to travel a mile

From AFP:  US trade chief recalls racism as Chinese American kid (there, I fixed it for you):

US Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke recalled Thursday the abuse he suffered as a Chinese-American child in the 1950s and said his personal success showed how far immigrants from China have come.

“It sure feels a whole lot different to be a Chinese-American today than it did when I was growing up,” said Locke, tapped by President Barack Obama to be the next US ambassador to Beijing.

Speaking to the Committee of 100 Chinese-American business conference in New York, Locke said his school teacher in the Pacific Northwest state of Washington “believed it was her duty to literally beat the native culture out of me.”

“I got the message that I had to choose between being Chinese and American,” he said. Continue reading

May 10, 1942

Florin, California. Two of the nine American soldiers of Japanese ancestry who have returned to their home town on furloughs that were granted to them in order that they could assist their families prepare for evacuation of all persons of Japanese ancestry from their west coast homes. This community is depending on their returned service men for many errands, shopping, banking, etc., because the soldiers are permitted to travel into town, nine miles away, while others cannot because of military restrictions.

May 9, 1800

John Brown was born. Now he lies a’mouldering in the grave.

A little background here.

… if we want some white allies, we need the kind that John Brown was, or we don’t need you.