|Rockwell “Rocky” Chin is the founder-advisor of the Ettie Chin Hong Fund in The New York Community Trust with a gift from his aunt. In his career as a civil rights lawyer, Chin defended the rights of women, the disabled, immigrants, and laborers. He now directs the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity in the NYS Division of Human Rights.
He’s a board member of the Asian American Arts Alliance and a founding member of the Association of Asian American Yale Alumni; the Asian American Bar Association of New York; and the Amerasia Journal.
Philanthropist? I don’t really think of myself as a philanthropist. I’m an attorney and civic activist who’s able to give time, energy, and money to the causes my family holds dear—history, the arts, and the rights of immigrants and laborers.
With my family fund at The Trust, I recommend grants to Minkwon Center for Community Action, a Queens group helping young people apply for DACA, a federal program that allows them to work and go to school here without fearing deportation. I want immigrants to have the opportunity to become engaged, voting, tax-paying citizens.
To inform the immigration debate we need to share our history and culture through the Museum of Chinese in America as well as the Asian American Arts Alliance, both of which I support. I’m excited by the intersection of arts and activism. Activists are always concerned with how we use language, but we’re more effective when we spend the same energy on the image. Here’s an example: There’s a proposal for a sculpture in Greenwich Village to commemorate the tragic Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire.
My daughter Donna, who graduated from Smith College in the footsteps of her Aunt Ettie, is also an advisor to our fund. It’s a simple way to continue our family’s tradition of giving. Donna helped me set up a scholarship in her aunt’s name at Smith for a student pursuing a career in education, or service to immigrant and needy communities. With her spirit of independence and generosity, my aunt was a true world citizen. She’d be pleased to know that gifts in her name support the causes she loved.