Photo by Clarissa-Jan Lim
After winning the community board’s approval for a street co-naming sign for her son, Danny Chen’s mother, Su Zhen Chen, right, with her husband, Tan Toa, center, tearfully thanked supporters, but said the pain of losing her only child will never go away.
BY CLARISSA-JAN LIM | Community Board 3 voted unanimously Tuesday night to approve a resolution for co-naming a block of Elizabeth St. as Danny Chen Way.
Private Danny Chen committed suicide in 2011 in Afghanistan after being subjected to incessant racial taunting and abuse by fellow soldiers.
Chen grew up in Chinatown the only child of Chinese immigrants and joined the Army at age 19. The only Asian in his platoon, Chen became the target of ethnic slurs and physical torment. Hours before his death on Oct. 3, 2011, he was allegedly made to crawl some 100 meters over gravel while carrying Army equipment and being pelted with rocks by his superior officers. Eight officers were subsequently found guilty in connection with the incident and handed light sentences.
Chen’s death sparked uproar in the Asian-American community and brought about reform campaigns to address the hazing culture in the military. It led to President Obama signing into law a bill designed to combat military hazing earlier this year.
The approval of the Danny Chen Way co-naming — for Elizabeth St. between Canal and Bayard Sts. — will serve as a reminder of Chen’s ordeal and a way to honor his memory.
Elizabeth R. OuYang, president of OCA-NY, the organization that has been among the fiercest advocates of justice for Chen, said at the meeting that the street sign will “represent the ongoing struggle for equality in the armed forces for minorities, women and gays and lesbians.”
“While Danny’s passing is tragic, it will not be in vain,” she said. “It has united the Chinatown community around the issue of military hazing and to encourage greater respect for diversity in the armed forces.”
The resolution passed to cheers and resounding applause in the audience as Chen’s family hugged and shed tears of joy. His mother, choked up with emotion, embraced OuYang.
Outside the auditorium, she tearfully thanked supporters: “That sign — Danny Chen Way — will make me feel some comfort. But the memory of my son, the pain will never go away.”
OuYang also thanked the “thousands of people across the world and around the country” for their support. She said they received a measure of justice on Tuesday evening.
“I hope when you walk past Danny Chen Way,” she said, “you will hold your head up high and remember the sacrifice that Danny made so that all our lives can be treated with dignity and respect.”
OuYang promised a “huge victory celebration” after the City Council’s expected authorization of the street co-naming.
“We will never forget Danny,” she said.