Neighbors and family members gathered in Chinatown to commemorate Private Danny Chen Way
Chinatown Last Saturday, a large crowd marched down Elizabeth Street holding green balloons in memory of Private Danny Chen; they were led by his parents Su Zhen and Yen Tao Chen. The corner of Canal Street and Elizabet h Street was renamed Private Danny Chen Way to honor the Chinatown solider who had committed suicide in 2011 due to hazing and racist remarks form his fellow soldiers. He was 19 years old.
An entire community came out in support of Private Chen and his disheartened parents. "It is important that we remember what happened," explained Chinese American veteran Fang Wong. "It was a tragic loss of life, so it's important both the government and our community have an understanding of what Danny went through so it never happens again."
The crowd grew in anticipation of the sign unveiling, including former neighbors, advocacy groups, and several government officials there to help raise awareness. His mother spoke through a mega-phone, silencing the large crowd to say, "We will continue to remember Danny's story," through tears in Chinese.
Major General William Wass of the U.S. Army was there to speak to the crowd in support of Chen's family. "On behalf of the of the United States Army it is a privilege to be with you for this tribute dedicated to Private Danny Chen, a young man who chose to serve his country with honor, courage, and integrity," he yelled to the crowd. "The foundation of our Army is rooted in dignity and respect for all of our soldiers regardless of race or ethnic background."
Elizabeth Ouyang, president of the Organization of Chinese Americans New York City chapter (OCA-NY), gave the final speech before the sign was unveiled. She asked the crowd to chant Danny Chen's name as she highlighted his life. She passionately yelled to the crowd details of Chen's childhood, growing up on Elizabeth Street, playing in Columbus Park, and attending P.S. 130, Pace High School, and Baruch College.
Once the sign was uncovered, the crowd was filled with many tears and hugs. Dozens of green balloons were released into the sky above Chinatown in honor of the struggle one of their neighbors had endured. The hope is that when people see the sign for "Private Danny Chen Way," they will learn of the racism and hazing he suffered, raising awareness to prevent such a tragedy from happening in the future.