Join a Town Hall on Thursday, April 8, 2021 from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm featuring selections from the documentary film Down a Dark Stairwell just days before the national April 12th PBS premiere on Independent Lens.
The roundtable conversation among national community leaders will explore the themes of the film and the broader cultural and historical context of today’s tragic headlines. The roundtable will be moderated by celebrated author Jeff Chang and will feature panelists Cynthia Choi (Co-Executive Director of Chinese for Affirmative Action), Robeson Taj Frazier (Associate Professor of Communication, USC Annenberg), Hua Hsu (Staff Writer, The New Yorker and Associate Professor of English, Vassar College), Bo Thao-Urabe (Executive Director, Coalition of Asian American Leaders), and Down a Dark Stairwell filmmaker Ursula Liang.
The film follows the events that occurred after Peter Liang, a Chinese American police officer, shot and killed an innocent, unarmed black man named Akai Gurley in the dark stairwell of a Brooklyn housing project in 2014. It examines the aftermath of the shooting, and how it thrust two marginalized communities into the uneven criminal justice system together. AABANY Issues Committee Chair Chris Kwok appears in the film.
For more information about the Town Hall and to register for this event, click here.
On June 17, the Human Rights Watch Film Festival is hosting a digital film screening and discussion for the film, Down a Dark Stairwell. Directed by Ursula Liang, the film follows the events that occurred after November 20, 2014, when a Chinese-American police officer, Peter Liang, killed an innocent, unarmed Black man, Akai Gurley. Liang became the first New York Police Department officer to be convicted of an on-duty shooting in over a decade. His sentence sparked protests in both the Asian-American and African-American communities and highlighted the systemic inequities of our criminal justice system.
Down a Dark Stairwell is available on the Human Rights Watch Film Festival’s website until June 20. On June 17, the Film Festival will host a film screening at 6:30 PM EDT and a live Q&A session at 8:00 PM EDT moderated by Gerry Johnson, Editor & Senior strategist at the Human Rights Watch, and featuring filmmaker Ursula Liang; Brandon D. Anderson, founder of Raheem.ai, a website for reporting police conduct in the United States; and Steven Choi, Executive Director of the New York Immigrant Coalition. To register for the Q&A discussion, see https://primetime.bluejeans.com/a2m/register/cjjcedqp.
A Shot in the Dark: The Peter Liang/Akai Gurley Tragedy
Akai Gurley, a 28-year-old African-American man, was fatally shot on November 20, 2014, in Brooklyn’s Louis H. Pink Houses, by rookie NYPD Officer Peter Liang, who had entered a stairwell with his firearm drawn. The shooting was declared an accidental discharge; the bullet ricocheted off the wall and Gurley was struck once in the chest and later died from the shot. On February 10, 2015, Liang was indicted by a grand jury on manslaughter, assault, and other criminal charges, and on February 11, 2016, Liang was found guilty of manslaughter and official misconduct, becoming the first NYPD officer in over a decade to be found guilty of shooting and killing a citizen while on duty. The shooting and trial touched off a firestorm of opinion and protests, and in the post-Ferguson era, the case has added another twist to the intense ongoing debate about race and accountability in policing, as well as the Asian American community’s place in that debate and race relations.
This panel will explore criminal procedural issues in the context of the Peter Liang trial, such as the indictment and grand jury process, what is the standard for homicide versus manslaughter, and will also look at the civil rights aspect of the case. How did the APA community respond to the tragedy and what can we learn from it going forward?
Alexander M. Lee, Esq., Principal, The Law Offices of Alexander M. Lee
Christopher M. Kwok, Esq., Supervisory ADR Coordinator, U.S. EEOC (appearing in individual capacity)
Jin P. Lee, Esq., Principal, The Law Office of Jin P. Lee
Sandra Leung, Esq., Executive Vice President and General Counsel, Bristol-Myers Squibb Company
Vinoo Varghese, Esq., Principal, Varghese and Associates, P.C.