San Francisco Chinatown’s First Demonstration, 1968.
Adopting the tactics of the civil rights movement, 200 demonstrators marched through Chinatown to a rally at Portsmouth Square. They criticized the Chinatown establishment for promoting tourism instead of resolving social problems in the community, and they called for reforms in the areas of education, employment, health, housing, youth, senior citizens, and immigration. (Photographs by Harry Jew; courtesy of CHSA collection.)
Corky Lee has captured images of some of the most vivid and defining moments in APA history. His photo of a Chinese-American man bleeding from the forehead and being hauled away by the police wound up on the front page of The New York Post. It inspired 20,000 Chinese Americans in New York to protest police brutality in 1975.
Burmese protest at San Gabriel Municipal Park. Photo by Mike Sergieff.
Lawyer Frank R. Oo speaks to group of approximately 350 Burmese who gathered at San Gabriel Municipal Park to demonstrate against Burma’s brutal military dictatorship. Photograph dated August 14, 1988.
Vincent Chin Protest
The murder of Vincent Chin and the subsequent sentence of his attackers (probation and a fine) brought Asian Americans together in protest and supported the growing realization that they could be a more effective political force if they worked together. (Courtesy of Helen Zia)
New York City protest of the racist and sexist images in Miss Saigon, April 1991. The photograph of “My Sister” is of a Vietnamese National Liberation Front fighter from the Vietnam War era. Photo by Corky Lee.
Miss Saigon is a Broadway musical about the romance between an American GI and a Vietnamese bar girl in Saigon during the Vietnam War. Originally, Jonathan Pryce and Keith Burns, white actors playing Eurasian/Asian characters, wore eye prostheses and bronzing cream to make themselves look more Asian. From April 1989 to May 1990, nearly 100 shows were produced under the agreement between Equity and the League of American Theaters and Producers. 33 of the shows, with 504 roles, had no ethnic minority actors and 12 other productions had only one or two ethnic actors.
A student carries a placard that states “No Black Man Ever Called Me Chink” during the Harlem Peace March to End Racial Oppression on April 27, 1967. The statement was taken from boxer/activist Muhammad Ali’s original statement about his refusal to participate in the Vietnam War, “Ain’t no Vietcong ever called me nigger.” Source: Courtesy of Builder Levy, photographer.
When the sheriff came to deliver the eviction order, he was met by a solid wall of over 500 angry eviction fighters blocking Waiahole Valley Rd, and chanting “Hell No- We ain’t moving!”
Many Hawai’ians lived in the country because they could be closer to the land and the Hawai’ian way of life. A “country lifestyle” developed based on the traditional Hawai’ian and Asian concepts of sharing, exchanging goods and socializing. The large land estates owned most of the land the people lived and worked on and soon began to rezone the areas for resort, housing development and other more profitable use of the land.
But community after community resisted. The largest and most militant struggle was by the farmers and residents of Waiahole-Waikane Valley which began in 1974 and still continues. The demand for long-term leases to keep the land in agricultural use, to stop capitalist development, and to keep the country lifestyle mobilized thousands of people.
Women and children protesting scrap metal shipments to Japan, Seattle, April 1939
In 1939, Chinese Americans lobbied to stop shipments of scrap iron to Japan. Japan had invaded Manchuria, and the scrap iron would be used in war material against the Chinese people.
Asian American contingent in solidarity with Chicanas/os at a march against deportations, East Los Angeles, summer 1976. Photo courtesy of Mary Kao.
Census and other studies have put the number of all undocumented immigrants in the U.S. at approximately 12 million. About 1.5 million are Asians — representing 12 percent of the total Asian population — with 23 percent estimated to be Chinese, 17 percent Filipino, 14 percent Indian, 11 percent Koreans and the balance from a variety of smaller countries, all with different issues.
For instance, huge backlogs exist in families where immigrant citizens or legal permanent residents can bring spouses, parents and minor children from overseas. Their wait times are heartbreaking. The longest is for Filipinos, Narasaki said — they currently must wait about 19 years to reunite with family members. Chinese and Indians face up to nine-year waits.
Then there are the concerns of refugees from Southeast Asian countries such as Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Burma who are wary about strict filing deadlines for asylum claims and crackdowns on deportations for minor criminal offenses.
Vietnamese Americans protesting Britain’s forcible repatriation policies in front of the British Consulate, Los Angeles, January 1990. Photo: Nguoi Viet Daily News.
In 1989, the British authorities carried out the first forced return of Vietnamese from Hong Kong, using riot police to herd 51 refugees, most of them women and children, onto an airplane in what they hoped would be a secret nighttime operation. But news of the action was reported and photographed, and it led to an international outcry that so embarrassed Hanoi it refused to accept any more refugees who were forced to return.
CANE: Citizens Against Nihonmachi Eviction, 1973
The giant mall known as “Japantown” was once the thriving center of the Japanese American community in San Francisco. During the sixties and seventies, giant corporations conspired with the City’s Redevelopment Agency to displace many low-income Japanese Americans. The Citizens Against Nihonmachi Eviction (C.A.N.E.) was formed in 1973 to fight the eviction of low-income people and small businesses. They successfully mobilized thousands of people to demonstrate against City Hall and Kintetsu, and forcibly occupied several buildings slated for destruction, much as the tenants did at the International Hotel.
As reports from survivors of the Khmer Rouge atrocities leaked out to reporters and were published in the New York Times in July 1975, Cambodians from Long Beach and the surrounding area organized a protest in front of the United Nations building in downtown Los Angeles.
Workers on Strike at Jung Sai/Chinese American Sewing Company. San Francisco, 1974. Photographed by Cathy Cade.
“Efforts to organize (Jung Sai, a subsidiary of Esprit de Corp) began fifteen months ago but were recently intensified because a new manager lowered piece rates and laid off workers. A hundred workers, out of 135, signed cards with ILGWU Local 101. The strike was precipitated when Frankie Ma, a union activist, was fired for ‘unsatisfactory work’ (after 2 1/2 years!)…Jung Sai workers, most of them middle-aged women, sat down in front of the shop. Management tried to crash through with bins of cloth and several workers were hospitalized. [Esprit closed the shop claiming bankruptcy]….38 women were arrested for blocking trucks, 15 more were arrested a week later. The Chinese community rallied support and the courtroom was packed when the strikers came up for trial.” (Joyce Maupin, Union WAGE newspaper, 1974.) They finally won a favorable settlement almost ten years later.
SFSU TWLF Strike Picketline (AAPA Newspaper 1969)
In 1968-69, African American, Asian American, Chicano and Native American students at San Francisco State College and University of California, Berkeley organized campus coalitions known as the Third World Liberation Front (TWLF). TWLF led student strikes demanding the establishment of Third World Colleges comprised of departments of Asian American, African American, Chicano and Native American Studies. Significance of these strikes were twofold: first, minority student were able to unite in solidarity against institutional racism and second, the strikes won the formation of Ethnic Studies programs.