Notable Figures & Moments in AAPI History to Celebrate This Week, From Director Bong Joon Ho to Activist Yuri Kochiyama
All month long, we are honoring those who have impacted the world with their activism, inventions, achievements and more
May 18, 1955: Vincent Chin, Who Was Killed in a Hate Crime, Is Born
In 1982, the 27-year-old Chinese American was beat to death with a baseball bat by two men in Detroit, Michigan. The attack occurred during a period when a recession badly hit the auto industry and many struggled to find jobs.
Chin was out celebrating with friends during his bachelor party when he was approached by two autoworkers, Ronald Ebens and Michael Nitz. According to witnesses at the time, Ebens allegedly said to Chin, "It's because of you little m—f—s that we're out of work," which led to a fight. After the men were kicked out of the club they were celebrating in, Ebens and Nitz tracked down Chin outside of a McDonald's and beat him to death with a bat. Four days later, Chin was pronounced dead.
Ebens and Nitz were both convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to three years probation and ordered to pay a $3,000 fine, according to NBC News. Neither of Chin’s killers spent a day in jail.
The remembrance of Chin's tragic death is observed every year to honor him and all AAPIs whose lives were lost to hate crimes.
May 19, 1921: Civil Rights Activist Yuri Kochiyama Is Born
Kochiyama, born Mary Yuriko Nakahara, was living in an internment camp for Japanese Americans in Arkansas when she was first exposed to the racism of the then-Jim Crow South. By 1948, Kochiyama and her husband moved to New York City and became active in the civil rights movement, which is when Kochiyama met Malcolm X.
The two grew a famous friendship that tragically ended when Malcolm X was assassinated in 1965 at Harlem’s Audubon Ballroom. Kochiyama was in the audience when the gunfire rang out.
“I just went straight to Malcolm, and I put his head on my lap,” she recalled to the New York Times in 1996. “He just lay there. He had difficulty breathing, and he didn’t utter a word.”
Kochiyama, who died in 2014, is best remembered for her activism in the civil rights movement and fighting for reparations for Japanese Americans who were forced to live in internment camps during World War II.
May 20, 1957: The Wedding Day Wins Big at the Asia-Pacific Film Festival in Tokyo
On this day, the South Korean film won the Special Comedy Award at the 4th annual Asia-Pacific Film Festival. The win brought early acclaim and exposure to the country’s then-fledgling film industry. It was also the first Korean movie to win an award at an overseas film festival, according to The Grand Cinema.
The classic black-and-white movie was directed by Lee Byung Il.
May 21, 2019: Parasite Debuts at Cannes Film Festival
Director Bong Joon Ho earned the festival's prized Palme d’Or following the premiere of his dark thriller. The movie's success went on to earn the director four Academy Awards: Best Original Screenplay, Best International Feature Film, Best Director and Best Picture. The historic wins marked the first time in history that a Korean director won the Best Director category and the first time a film has won in both of the Best International Feature Film and Best Picture categories on the same night.
May 22, 2014: Nepal Opens 104 New Peaks for Climbers
Tourism Ministry official Maddhu Sudan Burlakoti announced that 104 more mountain peaks would be open to boost tourism, including two named after the first people to climb Mt. Everest, Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay.
Hundreds of climbers travel to Nepal every year, which has eight of the 14 tallest peaks in the world, according to the AP. The step was made by the government to boost Nepal's economy in 2014.
May 23, 1929: Prolific Author Mya Than Tint Is Born
The notable Burmese author and translator was best known for his own original work, which earned him five literary awards in Burma including the coveted National Literary Prize, as well as his work as a translator of Western literature.
Tint translated classics, such as War and Peace, Gone with the Wind and The Catcher in the Rye into Burmese, before dying in Rangoon, Burma in 1998 after falling and fracturing his skull at 68 years old, according to the L.A. Times.
May 24, 2016: Actor Burt Kwouk Dies
The Chinese-British actor, best known for his playing Inspector Clouseau's manservant Cato in the Pink Panther films, died at 85. He also had a long television career, appearing on shows like The Avengers and Doctor Who.
Kwouk was awarded an Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2011 for services in drama before passing away.