Rocky Chin Papers

Date Range: 19692008
Survey Conducted: Tue, 2011-12-13
Creator: Chin, Rocky

History: Rocky Chin is a civil rights attorney who has been an active community leader advocating for labor and human rights. An Asian American born in Washington D.C., Chin completed his BA at Lehigh University, his MA at Yale University, and his JD at the University of Southern California. As an attorney, Chin has represented marginalized groups including immigrant and working-class families. He is married to May Y. Chen, former vice president of UNITE HERE and a founding member of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA).

Chin’s early involvement in the Asian American movement began in the 1970’s with the arts and activist collective, Basement Workshop. Throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s, Chin worked to advance the civic voice and empowerment of minorities, particularly Asian Americans living in Chinatown. In September 1992, Chin helped coordinate the first City Hall Conference on Asian/Pacific Americans, which addressed political issues related to the A/PA community. Furthermore, in attending the founding committee of the Rainbow Coalition, Chin coordinated support for Jesse Jackson and David Dinkins during their New York City campaigns. He also served as Treasurer to the honorable Doris Ling-Cohan and was the campaign manager for Sau Ngar Li and Danny Yip of Community District 2. In 2001, Chin was one of a few Asian American candidates in the running for New York City Council.

In 2001, Chin was one of a few Asian American candidates in the running for New York City Council.Chin has played an integral role in forming and leading A/PA coalitions. In 1989, he spearheaded the founding of Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY). In addition to being one of the founding members of AABANY, he is the president of AABANY Foundation. Chin also holds additional leadership roles, serving as Honorary Board member of Asian American Arts Alliance and is an Advisory Board member for New York’s “Jobs with Justice” campaign. He also held tenure for many years as Vice Chair for Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics (LEAP) and Civil Rights Chair for National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA).Chin’s professional career is dedicated to advancing civil rights at New York City’s Commission on Human Rights (HRC), where he has worked towards eliminating gender and immigration barriers, as well as discrimination against people with disabilities. Over the past 20 years in working at HRC, Chin has served as Assistant Deputy Commissioner for Community Relations, Acting General Counsel and Supervising Attorney. In 2007, he was appointed to his current position as Director of the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity.

Sources: “Biography of Rocky Chin.” Rocky Chin, Democrat for City Council 2001. Accessed February 4, 2015.

Chang, Alexandra and Machida, Margo. Envisioning Diaspora: Asian American Art Collectives from Godzilla, Godzookie to the Barnstormers.

Art for the Community: A Short History of Basement Workshop in New York.

Summary: Totaling 7.0 linear feet with materials spanning from 1969 to 2008, the Rocky Chin Papers document his work as a civil rights and public interest attorney, community activist, labor and human rights advocate, professor, and community organizer. Other collected materials document broader Asian American movements and their historical development in the United States.

The largest volume of materials relate to Chin’s City Council Campaign and participation in the Democratic National Committee from 1996-2001. Documents include correspondences, union endorsements and media clippings spotlighting Chin’s community work from 1999 – 2001. Files also document Chin’s role as a campaign manager for Sau Ngar Li and Danny Yip’s run for the Community School District 2 Board Elections. Additional materials represent Chin’s work as a selected delegate to advance A/PA political action at the Democratic National Committee in 1996.

The second largest portion of materials relates to three major types of community campaigns: Chinatown campaigns against gentrification, lobbying efforts for labor rights and immigrants, and community boycotting against anti-Asian sentiment. Chinatown campaign files span the years 1985-1997 and contain media clippings, correspondence, meeting minutes and flyers. Important community struggles documented are the MTA suspension of Grand Street, the Foley Square Construction Project and the Concerned Committee of Chung Park and Walker Street. Also of note is a campaign and organized march in 1992 titled “Save our Cities, Save our Children,” formed to protect small Korean stores. Materials on labor and immigrant rights focus on the Chinese Progressive Association’s (CPA) defense for tenant and voter rights. Larger coalition efforts are covered in separate files on the Language Rights Coalition and the Immigrant Worker’s Freedom Ride. Files on combating anti-Asian sentiment document the work of the Actor’s Equity Association, CAAAV, AABANY and C.A.N. (Coalition of Asians to Nix). These records include news clippings, community action plans, and legal dockets. Significant cases documented include community organizing for the Vincent Chin case, public condemnation of yellowface in Miss Saigon and protests against Hollywood representations of Charlie Chan.

Files measuring approximately 1.0 linear foot relate to Chin as founding member of AABANY and Chin’s work with community-based organizations Basement Workshop, New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC) and Asian American Law Center. Materials include correspondence, press releases, newspaper clippings, meeting minutes, organization structure proposals, and the article of incorporation. Of importance are files relating to the Asian Crime Victim’s Project, which was funded by AABANY to build communicative ties between the justice system and hate crime victims. The earliest materials reflect Chin’s community involvement with Basement Workshop and collected materials from Asian American organizations from 1970-1983. Within these files are flyers, pamphlets and newsletters. Basement Workshop materials document community organizing efforts for community-oriented education and neighborhood revitalization, such as the Chinatown Street Fair. Of note is a service guide of New York Chinatown’s Social Services listing various community organizations between the late 1970’s to 1980’s. Other important organizations covered include United Asian Communities Center, Asian Americans for Fair Media, Asian Americans for Action, IWK (I Wor Kuen) and the Asian American Ad Hoc Committee.

Several files measuring approximately .75 linear feet document Chin’s work as a professor and the historical development of Asian American Studies. Materials include correspondence, course materials, teaching plans and conference programs. Larger files chronicle establishment of classes “The Asian American Experience” and “Asian Americans and the Law,” taught by Chin at City College of New York (CCNY) between the late 1980’s to early 1990’s.

Spanning approximately 1.0 linear foot are several dissertations, scholarly journals and surveys that document the growth of Asian American populations and their developing history, culture and movements. Important research resources include a bibliography of Asian American history books, a 1970 UC Berkeley dissertation titled “Asians in America,” and an article on Korean Merchants in Black Neighborhoods. Surveys include a 1969 study on Chinatown population and housing, and Rice University’s first survey of Asian Communities in Houston conducted in 1996. Magazines and newsletters from 1970-1989 reflect Asian American history of Chinatown organizations across the United States such as the Chinatown Food Corporation, Yellow Seeds (from Philadelphia’s Chinatown), and Bridge magazine in Chinese. Another large folder consists of collected publications and newsletters from university-based Asian American clubs and conferences on the east and west coast from the late 1970’s to early 2000’s.

The collection also includes one-of-a-kind publications dating from the late 1970’s, such as Asian American history calendars, a Chinese American Reunion memory book, a Philippine freedom song book and comics by Asian artists.

Total Size: 7.0
APA-related Size: 7.0
Languages: Bulk of materials in English and Mandarin. Select papers in Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese.
Arrangement: other
Location: Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, New York University
Bibliographic Control: finding aid
Finding Aid Link:
Conditions Governing Access: Contact repository for detailed information on conditions governing access.

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