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JustUs for Vincent

Ypsilanti, 1982

Asian American writers pay tribute to Vincent Chin on the 40th anniversary of his death, a series

Isip Xin for The Emancipator

In 36 years, I barely spared a word

About my days in Ypsilanti,

Known chiefly for giving us Iggy Pop

And an obscure pioneer in continental drift.

I was watching the 9 o’clock news

With my father in our living room,

As was the family habit. I was 9,

Eating a Baby Ruth in June

When a picture of Vincent Chin

Flashed onscreen with a discussion

Of murder, Japan and the Motor City.

My father said not to take it personally.

We were going to have a barbecue with

Our blue-collar neighbor on Saturday,

Once he was done at the Ford factory.

Our other neighbor across the way

With the tall bottle-blonde daughters

Was a Baptist preacher, fond of discussing

Pearl Harbor with me every other day,

Because I couldn’t tell him a thing about Laos.

Bryan Thao Worra is the Lao Minnesotan poet laureate and author. He received a 2019 Joyce Award with the Lao Assistance Center to present a historic exhibition of multigenerational stories of the Lao refugee community to mark the 45th anniversary of migrating to the Midwest. This poem is excerpted from “Before We Remember We Dream,” (Sahtu Press, 2020)