Vincent Chin. In June 1982, Vincent Chin, a 27 year-old Chinese-American working at Chrysler, was celebrating his upcoming wedding at a bar in Detroit when two white unemployed autoworkers, Ronald Ebens and his stepson Michael Nitz, started a fight with him. Ebens screamed, “it’s because of you little mother….s that we’re out of work.” Less than an hour later, Ebens would crush Vincent Chin’s skull with a baseball bat. For the Asian Pacific American community, the murder of Vincent Chin, and the failure of our court system to bring his murderers to justice, was a watershed event, and is seen today as a turning point in that community’s history, much as the murder of Leo Frank was for American Jews.
Simon Deng. Simon Deng was nine years old when he was kidnapped from his village in southern Sudan and given as a slave to an Arab family in the north. He endured three years of brutality and terror, refusing conversion from Christianity to Islam in order to save himself, before escaping. He learned to swim from a Muslim friend and became the national swimming champion of Sudan. When the Sudanese government launched a campaign to “cleanse” its cities of Christians, Simon used his position to free hundreds of people from prisons in the capital of Khartoum. Today, Simon Deng is an American citizen and dedicates his life to fighting slavery and genocide in the Sudan.
Ruby Bridges. In 1960, Ruby Bridges was the first black child to integrate New Orleans’ all white public school system. She was six years old. Her walk to the front door of William Frantz Elementary School, which was immortalized in Norman Rockwell’s painting, The Problem We All Live With, forced her to cross through a mob of screaming racists. White parents took their children out of school. All of the white teachers – except Mrs. Barbara Henry – refused to work with her. For the next year, Ruby studied alone with her teacher. Mrs. Barbara Henry will be joining us as we honor her former student and close friend, Ruby Bridges, who has dedicated much of her adult life to fighting bigotry and intolerance.
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