About a month before Donnie Chin’s murder, I met with the owner of King’s Hookah Lounge to discuss neighborhood concerns about the late night activities occurring right outside the business. I had been receiving reports from residents and employees witnessing street racing and other disturbances that were thought to be caused by their customers. I remember leaving the meeting feeling somewhat accomplished. The owner had agreed to work on his security protocols and continue to work with us to troubleshoot problems. However, there was also a shared sense of frustration with the already distressed state of public safety in the community. Donnie and I talked after this meeting. He honestly didn’t think that anything would come out of it. It was obvious that Donnie didn’t believe in the system. I think that’s why, in large part, Donnie did what he did.
Shortly after Donnie’s murder, elders in the community organized a protest against King’s Hookah Lounge. Young activists banded together to create their own space and discuss the implications for not only the Chinatown-International District, but other communities of color. A series of dialogues occurred between hookah club owners and some API leaders to discuss race-relations. Community organizations and individuals developed separate agendas in the same pursuit of keeping the city accountable to Donnie’s investigation. And in between all of this, there was mourning.
There is no guarantee that the killer or killers will ever be found, but I still believe in justice for Donnie because I believe in justice for the Chinatown-International District. The Mayor’s action plan is obviously not the only step needed for community reconciliation, but it helps move us in the right direction. It is illogical to think that the task force recommendations will solve all of Chinatown-International District’s public safety and neighborhood vitality issues. No task force from the city ever will, so our work continues.
It has been almost a year since Donnie’s murder. The neighborhood is the same, but changing too. You can hear the buzz of Hing Hay Park as the children of nearby restaurant workers play and also see some its future, as the redevelopment of the Publix Hotel is nearing completion. The last time that I saw Donnie was close to this time in the summer. We were sitting in front of his store, the Sun May Company in Canton Alley. I was talking to him about Benito Enriquez, a young man beaten to death in the neighborhood on the way home from a concert at Century Link Field. Donnie also wanted justice for Benito. To honor Donnie’s legacy, we are obligated now to work together and make this system work for all of us.