Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Remembering Queer Asian Activist & Policy Analyst Alain Dang

At my age I often come across obituaries of people I know these days, but the news today circulating on Facebook about the tragic death of Alain Dang really was shocking.

A youngish 37, he reportedly went in the hospital Monday with "flu-like" symptoms - and died just hours later on Tuesday afternoon, 4 February 2014 at El Camino Hospital in Mountain View, California. Unbelievable!


Cousin Johnny Phan posts on Facebook: 

Everyone is welcome to come celebrate Alain Dang's life as we are planning a memorial for Alain on Wednesday, February 12 at 5:00 pm. at Oak Hill Funeral Home in San Jose (Chapel of the Oaks). Alain will be buried on Thursday, February 13 at 10:00 am. at Oak Hill Funeral Home (open to all).

In lieu of any flowers or gifts, the family is asking you make an online donation to any of the organizations dear to Alain. Here are three suggestions and let them know the donation is in Alain Dang's memory:

National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute
National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance
API Equality of Northern California

From the web, I've also found this: 
Memorial "guest book".

His Facebook page contains dozens of tributes from friends, classmates, relatives and activists he impacted across the country. I feel myself honored to have known him from the time he spent as an undergraduate at UC Irvine where he was well known as a student government activist, an anti-Prop 209 campaigner, and for spearheading the successful drive (with the UCI Vietnamese American Coalition) to kick Nike T-shirts off campus.  As he wrote in an autobiographical essay, he learned about Nike products being made in Vietnamese sweatshops from an episode of 48 Hours.  In the boycott Nike campaign, UCI students sent over 1,000 letters to Nike CEO Phil Knight, leading UCI to cancel its apparel contract with Nike.  He was "hyper-involved" in student government as he would tell me in a later interview.  In fact he learned about community involvement as a student in UCI's Social Ecology program.  According to UCI Asian American Studies Chair Jim Lee, who teaches an Asian American Autobiographies class, he (Lee) has used Alain Dang's chapter in that class.

Born 24 June 1976 in San Jose, Alain Đặng Anh Tuấn grew up in a Vietnamese immigrant family - his parents came from Vietnam in the 1960s, which was earlier than most Vietnamese immigrants.  

In 2007, while living in New York, he was lead author on a national study on the lives at the margins of Asian/Pacific queer folk and for that I did an interview with him for my KUCI's Subversity Show, on that report.  You can hear his soft voice in that June 18, 2007 interview, and remember the gentle, soft-spoken, deliberative, and unassuming guy he was.

During the interview he reveals it wasn't till his junior or senior year when he "came out".  As he explained, he was "very independent" and didn't avail himself of the the resources then available in those pre-chatroom days at UCI.  His parents knew him as an activist (but not necessarily as a gay one - they never talked about that) and had embraced that, even encouraging him to run, one day, for office.  "What kind of Asian parents actually encourage their kids to run for office?" he told me then.

Prior to that interview, I drafted this profile of him:

"Alain Dang is a policy analyst with the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. His research focuses on the intersections of race, sexual orientation, community building, and public policy. He co-authored Living in the Margins: A National Survey of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Asian and Pacific Islander Americans, Asian Pacific American Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender People: A Community Portrait and Black Same-Sex Households in the United States: A Report from the 2000 Census for the Task Force Policy Institute.

"His autobiographical chapter is featured in Kevin Kumashiro's Restoried Selves: Autobiographies of Queer Asian Pacific American Activists, published by Harrington Park Press. He and his work have been featured in a variety of media across the country, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Miami Herald, San Francisco Chronicle , Atlanta Journal-Constitution, AsianWeek, The Advocate, World Journal, News India Times, Filipino Reporter, Hyphen Magazine and The Western Journal of Black Studies, among others. In addition, he has traveled the country speaking at conferences, colleges and universities. He holds a BA in Environmental Analysis & Design from UC Irvine (Social Ecology) and an MA in Urban Planning from UCLA."

Since then, of course, he has moved on to greater heights; at his passing he chaired the Roads Commission in Santa Clara, California and served on the Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Committee of the Santa Clara Valley Authority.

In sadness, I bid Alain farewell -  a decent guy who fought the good fight.  A huge loss.

-- Daniel C. Tsang.

Updated 6, and 10 February 2014; revising date of passing;  also adding his Vietnamese name and date of birth.
Further tributes: NGLTFNQAPI