Mahammad-Ali-350My dad (with eyeglasses on the left) was not a boxing fan, but he greatly admired Mohammed Ali because of Ali’s personal courage in standing up for what he believed in. I think the photo was taken in the late 1970’s when Ali made a visit to New York City’s Chinatown.

At that time, my dad was president of the CCBA and was widely regarded as the “mayor” of Chinatown. At the CCBA, one of his proudest accomplishments was leading a demonstration against police brutality when a young Chinese American motorist was arrested for a minor traffic violation, and then beaten by a police officer while he was in custody at the Fifth Precinct in Chinatown. Thousands of Chinatown residents and workers marched in the streets to protest the injustice. The march was widely regarded as one of the early civil rights demonstrations in Chinatown. Later, when NYC announced plans to close the Fifth Precinct, my dad led another community protest to keep the precinct in Chinatown. When questioned by reporters, he said that the two actions were completely consistent. Criticizing unjust behaviors by individual police officers and supporting police officers who protect the community are both acts of good citizenship.

My dad also strived to serve the community. He founded Chinatown Manpower Project to provide language and job training for Chinatown’s growing immigrant population, and was the board chair for many years. He successfully negotiated with the city to turn over two buildings in Chinatown, 60 Mulberry Street and 125 Walker Street, for community use. He worked with the Chinese Chamber of Commerce to sponsor the development of Confucius Plaza, a co-op building for low- and moderate -income renters. In fact, he and the president of the chamber paid the community sponsorship fee out of their own pockets.

I learned from my dad that a life of purpose is achieved through service to others.
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