chinese american community leader irvin r. lai dies at 83

Irvin R. Lai, a revered Chinese American community leader in Los Angeles best known for his efforts to save the roast duck in Chinatown and to ensure the proper handling of burial remains exposed during the Metro Gold Line extension, has died. He was 83: Irvin R. Lai dies at 83; Chinese American community leader in Los Angeles.
As an active promoter of Chinese culture, history and civil rights, Lai took on numerous leadership positions, including national president of the Chinese American Citizens Alliance, head of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce of Los Angeles, commissioner of the Asian American Education Commission and director of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Assn.

One of his most prominent battles was seeking justice in the 1982 beating death of Vincent Chin in Detroit, a cause that became a watershed moment for the national Asian American community. Chin was a Chinese American killed by two white men who had mistaken him as being Japanese. The first trial resulted in a light sentence for the assailants that outraged the community. Lai and other Asian American leaders went to Washington, D.C., to demand a retrial.

During his decades with the Chinese Historical Society of Southern California, where he wore many hats including chairman of the board, Lai helped preserve and restore the oldest structure built by the Chinese in Los Angeles, an 1888 burial shrine at Evergreen Cemetery.

As he approached his 80s, he continued to speak out for those who could not, especially the bones discovered in a long-lost potters field outside Evergreen Cemetery. Believed to belong to Chinese railroad workers who helped pioneer the American West in the early part of the last century, these gravesites were disturbed during the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's 2005 Gold Line extension in Boyle Heights.
Pretty awesome that even late in life -- in his 80s -- he still devoted his passion and energy to standing up, speaking out and giving voice to the voiceless. Lai was surrounded by his family when he died of pneumonia on July 16. More here: OBITUARY: Irvin Lai, 83; Longtime Leader in Chinese American Community.

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