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Activist Helen Zia developing new show on Vincent Chin

Photo by Corky Lee

The Center for Asian American Media announced Monday that author and activist Helen Zia will be developing a limited television series on Vincent Chin.

The beating death of the Chinese American at the hands of two unemployed autoworkers in Detroit galvanized the community in 1982 and remains a milestone in Asian American activism to this day.

The men beat him because the Chinese American looked Japanese who they blamed for the struggling US auto industry.

Zia led the efforts to demand justice in the case.

“In this year of pandemic that has spotlighted the deadly toll of racism and inequality, this is a story that begs to be told with the gritty detail of those who lived it — about Americans of different races and backgrounds coming together to fight for justice and against hate, on behalf of a young man named Vincent Chin,” Helen Zia said to CAAM.

Today, Zia sees parallels to what was going on back then to what is going on now.

“When people are suffering terribly, they’re upset. They’re angry. They’re looking for an outlet and they can be mislead to blaming an entire race of people. That happened in the 1980’s with Vincent Chin and we’re facing that today,” she said to Detroit Public TV.

“Back then, race was only talked about as a matter of Black and white,” Zia told USA Today in August. “So when the civil rights movement was going on, it really spoke to me as an Asian American kid, hearing people talk about equality for all people, what racism and discrimination was like, seeing that on the news, as well as the war that was going on in Vietnam, because we looked like the enemy.”

CAAM did not announce where the series might air. Paula Madison, a former NBC executive, will co-executive produce the series. They’ll be joined by Vicangelo Bulluck, a creative producer, writer and director and Donald Young, CAAM’s Director of Programs.

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