5 minutes of fame

I had the blessed opportunity to be profiled in the Detroit Free Press’ Sunday paper. The article turned out pretty good, making activism sound super fun. The best part of all of this is the free and excellent PR for Detroit Asian Youth Project! Big ups to the talented Amy Leang for the great photos of us.

Sunday, July 30, 2006
Detroit Free Press newspaper, Page A2



Michelle Lin, 25, is one of the people working to make the city a better place for everyone.

Lin’s family came to the United States from Taiwan when she was 3. She grew up in Atlanta and came to Michigan because she dreamed of becoming a forest ranger, and the University of Michigan had an excellent program. “I had a very idyllic vision of what being a forest ranger would be like,” she said. “But like a lot of people who go to college, I found myself. I got politicized in race and class issues.” She studied environmental science and policy at U-M and moved to Detroit after graduation. Her two brothers also attended U-M.

Lin spent three years at the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services in Dearborn, working in environmental justice, “a coming together of civil rights and environmental issues. Like, there’s more pollution where there’s poverty.” Now she’s a community development specialist at the Cass Corridor Neighborhood Development Corp., and she lives in the Cass Corridor.

Lin is the director of the Detroit Asian Youth Project, a free program for students ages 13 to 19. From July 6 to Aug. 12, seven students meet three days a week to learn about Detroit and do all sorts of stuff, such as photography, gardening and theater. There also is an after-school program. This summer — the program’s third — the students, most of whom are Hmong, are making a movie about what it means to be Asian in Detroit. They have met with civil rights leader Grace Lee Boggs and a Japanese woman placed in a U.S. internment camp during World War II.

Lin says she has learned as much from the students as she hopes they’ve learned about the city and themselves. “It’s reshaping how I think about race and youth, and what it means to be Asian in a Black city,” she said. She’d like to go to grad school in urban planning, then return to Detroit.

She kicks back by checking out local bands or by flying kites on Belle Isle. “A few years ago I was in D.C. during the international kite festival, and it sounds really cheesy, but it was one of the most beautiful things I’d ever seen,” she said. “I talked about it so much that some people came together and bought me a kite. It’s really relaxing. It’s a fun way to bring friends to the park and hang out.”

Large Photo:
Michelle Lin, front, coordinates the Detroit Asian Youth Project. Behind her, from left, are Pao Kia Yang, 15, of Detroit, Pang Thor, 13, of Detroit, Tong Lor, 14, of Warren, mentor Hugo Shi, 24, of Ann Arbor, Steve Lee, 18, of Detroit, Dia Yang, 17, of Detroit and Mai Ka Yeng Moua, 17, of Detroit. They are in front of a mural in the Cass Corridor, where Lin lives and works. (Photos by AMY LEANG/Detroit Free Press)

Side Photo: Lin and Dia Yang pick vegetables in Detroit earlier this month. “I moved to Detroit because I was really inspired by its potential, the community activists here and by its history,” says Lin, who was born in Taiwan and was raised in Atlanta.


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