Las Vegas Burmese American Community Reeling After Homicide of 25yo William Yar Parke


(H/T A. Chen)

Las Vegas’ Burmese American community is reeling after last month’s murder of 25-year-old William Yar Parke.

Parke died following an incident that occurred at 2:30 am on December 28, 2014 outside of the Venetian hotel on the Las Vegas strip; that morning, Parke and a friend was leaving a party when the two were confronted by a group of men. Surveillance tape reveals that Parke was punched so hard by one of the men that he was knocked out cold, immediately falling back and hit his head on the ground. Although rushed immediately to hospital, Parke fell into a coma and was taken off life support the following day. The UNLV biology senior’s death was ruled a homicide, although motives are still unknown.

An excerpt of Parke’s obituary from the Las Vegas Sun appears after the jump:

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Chol Soo Lee, whose wrongful conviction helped spark the Asian American Movement, dies at 62

Chol Soo Lee, whose 1974 wrongful conviction for first-degree murder, helped spark the modern Asian American Movement.
Chol Soo Lee, whose 1974 wrongful conviction for first-degree murder, helped spark the modern Asian American Movement, died on Wednesday at the age of 62.

It was a real-life “Serial“.

On June 7, 1973, Korean American Chol Soo Lee was arrested in California and charged with the first-degree murder in the shooting death of Yip Yee Tak, a leader of a local Chinatown gang. Evidence against Lee was shaky, and hinged primarily upon witness identification of Lee in a suspect lineup; however, physical descriptions of the shooter given prior to the lineup did not resemble Lee. Based mostly on this evidence, however, Lee was tried and convicted in 1974 of Tak’s murder, and sentenced to life without parole. Six months into his sentence, Lee killed fellow inmate, Morrison Needham — Lee claimed the killing was in self-defense after the white supremacist attacked him — and was sentenced to death row, making him the first Asian American on death row in San Quentin.

Lee’s case first came to public interest after journalist K.W. Lee, founder of the Korean American Journalists Association, first heard about Chol Lee and contacted him for an interview in 1977. K.W. Lee investigated Yip Yee Tak’s 1973 murder, and convinced of Chol Lee’s innocence,  he went on to pen over 120 articles in what became known as the “Alice in Chinatown Murder Case” investigative journalism series.

K.W. Lee’s writing asserting Chol Lee’s innocence captured the attention of Asian Americans around the country, who at the time were politically stratified. Efforts to win Chol Lee’s exoneration unified these disparate ethnic communities behind the growing Asian American Movement, earning Chol Lee a retrial and an eventual overturning of his murder conviction.

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In Memory of Yuri: Kochiyama Family & UCLA Asian American Studies Center issues statement


Over the weekend, I posted about the death of beloved civil rights activist and beloved icon Yuri Kochiyama. Here is the Kochiyama Family’s statement, issued in conjunction with the UCLA Asian American Studies Center:

Life-long activist Yuri Kochiyama passed away peacefully in her sleep in Berkeley, California on the morning of Sunday, June 1 at the age of 93. Over a span of more than 50 years, Yuri worked tirelessly for social and political change through her activism in support of social justice and civil and human rights movements. Yuri was born on May 19, 1921 in San Pedro, California and spent two years in a concentration camp in Jerome, Arkansas during World War II. After the war, she moved to New York City and married Bill Kochiyama, a decorated veteran of the all-Japanese American 442nd combat unit of the U.S. Army.

Yuri’s activism started in Harlem in the early 1960’s, where she participated in the Harlem Freedom Schools, and later, the African American, Asian American and Third World movements for civil and human rights and in the opposition against the Vietnam War. In 1963, she met Malcolm X. Their friendship and political alliance radically changed her life and perspective. She joined his group, the Organization of Afro-American Unity, to work for racial justice and human rights. Over the course of her life, Yuri was actively involved in various movements for ethnic studies, redress and reparations for Japanese Americans, African Americans and Native Americans, political prisoners’ rights, Puerto Rican independence and many other struggles.

Yuri is survived by her living children — Audee, Eddie, Jimmy and Tommy, grandchildren — Zulu, Akemi, Herb, Ryan, Traci, Maya, Aliya, Christopher, and Kahlil and great-grandchildren — Kai, Leilani, Kenji, Malia and Julia.”

Yuri Kochiyama’s stint as a scholar in residence at UCLA in 1998 enriched the life of our Center and the campus. Those connections deepened as we were honored to work with her on the publication of her memoir, Passing It On (UCLA Asian American Studies Center Press, 2004). The Center is also honored to house some of Yuri Kochiyama’s papers relating to the Asian American movement. We are grateful to be part of preserving her legacy for future generations.

Our condolences go out to her family and friends. Rest in power and peace.


David K. Yoo
Director & Professor

The Kochiyama family has also set up a Facebook page called “Remembering Yuri Kochiyama“. Please like it to stay abreast of information from the family regarding a public memorial for Yuri Kochiyama.

Remembering Shirley Temple requires us to remember her legacy of Blackface cinema


The Greatest Generation said good-bye to one of their beloved actors today with the passing of Shirley Temple Black, beloved child actress renowned for her on-screen song and dance performances.

I never grew up with Shirley Temple movies, but we would be remiss to remember Ms. Temple’s legacy without remembering that she was also a star during the height of Hollywood’s love affair with Blackface. In fact, much of Ms. Temple’s fame was due to her status as America’s “lovable” and innocent child-next-door, all pudgy knees and dimples and curly hair; this juxtaposition was frequently played to extreme effect when she was contrasted against actors in Blackface and/or otherwise playing Black stereotypes.

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Nelson Mandela’s legacy is a call-to-action for social justice activists


Nelson Mandela, former president and life-long fighter for racial equality in South Africa, has died at the age of 95.

Most of us young folks can’t fathom South African apartheid, although our parents might recall its American parallel: Jim Crow segregation. Most of us can’t imagine what it’s like to be forced — by legal and cultural practice — to live as a second-class “citizen” (South African Blacks were denied full citizenship during apartheid) in one’s own country, based entirely upon the colour of our skin. More importantly, we can’t conceptualize the courage it takes to see a social iniquity, to stand up, to fight back, to challenge that institution of oppression.

Nelson Mandela will, like a handful of other historical figures, always be remembered as a man who did just that. He stood up. He fought back. He challenged his country to be better than it was, even when it cost him personal freedom and earned him international revulsion for it.

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