Building Stronger Communities Through Sustained Activism
Featured Speakers, Presidential Speaker Series
When it comes to human rights and social justice activism in the United States, it’s hard to find a cause in which Helen Zia hasn’t been directly involved.
An award-winning journalist and author, Zia is a second-generation Chinese-American and through her decades-long career has worked on issues ranging from Asian-American civil rights to LGBTQ+ issues to labor rights and more.
On April 17th, 2023, Zia shared stories from her lifetime of activism, sustaining social movements for the long term, and challenging the model-minority myth in a presentation titled “Building Stronger Communities Through Sustained Activism.”
The event, held Gonzaga University’s Myrtle Woldson Performing Arts Center at 6 p.m., was free and open to the public, and was sponsored by GU’s Asian American Union, Filipino American Student Union, the Critical Race and Ethnic Studies department, and the Office of the President. This is the second time Zia has shared her thoughts and perspectives with the Gonzaga community as she presented via a Zoom event in 2021.
Born in Newark, New Jersey, Zia was part of Princeton University’s first coeducational graduating class. She started medical school, but quit soon thereafter to move to Detroit to work as an autoworker, construction laborer and community organizer. She found a passion for journalism roughly at the same time a local Chinese American man, Vincent Chin, was killed in a racially-motivated assault. Her coverage drew attention to the ways that Asian Americans are targeted.
Zia went on to become executive editor of Ms. magazine and a regular contributor to outlets ranging from The New York Times to The Nation to The Advocate. Her first book, “Asian American Dreams: The Emergence of an American People,” was published in 2000, and her most recent book, 2019’s “Last Boat Out of Shanghai: The Epic Story of Those Who Fled Mao’s Revolution,” was named one of NPR’s best books of the year.
activism, Asian-American movement, LGBTQ+ movement, social movements, Model Minority Myth
Zia, Helen, "Building Stronger Communities Through Sustained Activism" (2023). Office of the President Publications. 1.