Civil rights movements
Thumbnail Image

2014.036.014 Oral History Interview with David Chen July 10, 2003

During the interview, David Chen discusses his experience as a Chinese American activist and director of the Chinese-American Planning Council (CPC), and his theory of activism. When Chen was younger, he rarely spoke. He would always wait for someone else to say the right thing, to which he would then agree. One time, as a younger student, he was forced to present a project because two of his partners did not show up. One of his classmates expressed how well-spoken he was and at that moment, Chen realized that his voice could be heard. Chen believes that in order to be an activist for peace and justice, one must see the bigger picture. Effective activism should start with institutions because that is how change can be enacted. He believes that anyone can be an activist as long as they talk, remember, observe, and are skeptical of organizations. He states that while spontaneous change comes from the bottom, sustaining change comes from the top, more specifically, from organizations. Chen joined the Organization of Chinese Americans in order to advocate for what he wanted to stand for and speak freely on those subjects. However, he also believes that a successful organizer does not talk too much because activism is about observing the smaller issues. As an activist, he believes that trust must be gained from individuals. Chen agrees that the Asian American rights movement was inspired by the Civil Rights Movement. Overall, he believes that society as a whole has become more willing to change and hopes that individuals, especially young activists, continue to act, give voice, and intellectualize.