Like Alain A. Dang's family, friends and fellow human-rights activists, folks at UC Irvine are mourning the loss of the fierce fighter for student, worker, LGBT and Asian-Pacific Islander rights.
The 37-year-old went to El Camino Hospital in Mountain View with flu-like symptoms on Feb. 3.
Six hours later, he was dead.
It's "a huge loss," according to Daniel C. Tsang, a Distinguished Librarian at UC Irvine and longtime former Weekly contributor (who, truth be told, tipped me off to Dang's death).
"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," Tsang writes in an email, as well as on his Subversities blog.
After learning about Nike products being made in Vietnamese sweatshops from an episode of the CBS news show 48 Hours, Dang spearheaded a petition drive that led to UCI cancelling its apparel contract with Nike.
Born in San Jose, Dang grew up in one of the early Vietnamese immigrant families to settle on the West Coast. He did not "come out" until his junior or senior year at UCI; before then, his parents knew he was an activist but not a queer activist.
Dang had been a guest on Tsang's KUCI radio program Subversities on June 18, 2007, when the then-policy analyst with the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force shared what he learned in a study he co-authored titled, "Living in the Margins: A National Survey of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Asian and Pacific Islander Americans."
Though Dang was speaking from New York, where he was living at the time, listeners could hear what a "gentle, soft-spoken, deliberative, and unassuming guy he was," Tsang remembers.
An autobiographical chapter on Dang is featured in Kevin Kumashiro's Restoried Selves: Autobiographies of Queer Asian Pacific American Activists (Harrington Park Press). He and his work have been featured in The New York Times, Washington Post, Miami Herald, San Francisco Chronicle, The Advocate and many other publications. He was a speaker around the country at conferences, colleges and universities.
At the time of Dang's death, he was involved in issues that tapped into the expertise he gleaned while attaining a BA in Environmental Analysis & Design from UCI's School of Social Ecology and MA in Urban Planning from UCLA. He chaired the Roads Commission in Santa Clara and served on the Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Committee of the Santa Clara Valley Authority.