By Lillian Bit , AsAmNews Staff Writer
Photos and videos by Nancy Hung, AsAmNews
So what now? After covering many protests since the beginning of the Covid, we wondered if we had made any progress toward change. We attended Sunday’s Stop Asian Hate event in New York’s Chinatown and asked if people had actionable solutions.
The rally at Manhattan’s Chinatown Columbus Park lasted more than 5 hours and was attended by some 2,000 people.
The attendees were comprised of many people who walked from an earlier Black and Gold Solidarity Rally held at Union Square organized by activists Coffey and Wil Lex Ham. Both organizers gave strong and impassioned speeches at our rally and made similar statements regarding Solidarity of POC that would make fighting racism better rather than fall into pointing fingers at each other for anti-Black or anti-Asian racism.
“I organized the Asians for Black Lives because it was the right thing to do. Don’t let them gaslight us by saying Asians never supported Blacks because we have now and we have throughout history,” Ham said.
This has been an horrific year for the AAPI community from New York to California since the pandemic started. The data report by Stop AAPI Hate tallied more than 3,800 crimes against AAPIs from March 2020 to Feb 2021. And that’s just the reported ones.
Emotions and fear rang high with the rise of daily reports of racial slurring, slashing, punches, beatings and stabbings of AAPIs. Last week in Atlanta has been the most horrific of all. The mass murder of eight people – seven women, six of them Asian, saddened, enraged and inspired people to hold and attend protest rallies across the nation to Stop the Hate! The anger that ensued was the final straw based on the eight slain victims by the murderer and also by the response of Sheriff Captain Jay Baker who said suspect Robert Aaron Long “was just having a bad day.”
Alice Tsui (pronounced Soy) was the surprise highlight speaker and self described “ actively Anti-Racist and a Decolonizing Educator.” She captured the attention of an audience in sync with her every word. She spoke with an emotional raw anguish that was deeply moving and inspiring. A friend said “the voice and fire of Alice could be heard for miles today as she spoke truth to power. Alice called on schools to center, affirm and celebrate our BBIA (Black, Brown, Indigenous and Asian) students and colleagues and community members”
Alice’s call to action is to “email schools ASAP and for them to acknowledge and to teach Asian American history – their lives and their art- and to empower classmates and colleagues of AAPI community members to learn to speak up against anti-Asian racism.” (#musicwithmissalice)
AAPI of all ages came with their families and even children. This protest was one where children and families were noticeably present and addressed. We would guess more people attended Sunday’s rally with the recent mass murders fresh on their minds. In fact one of the organizers asked: “raise your hand if this is your first time rally. About half the people here raised their hands” and there were thousands in the park and many could not get in.
This rally was co-hosted by Ben Wei: “I started the nonprofit Covid foundation which helped to raise a million dollars to supply badly needed PPE supplies during the height of the Covid period back in March 2020”. This was during the time when front line workers were using old worn out masks over and over because of the shortage. To his dismay after his hard work raising enough money to buy and distribute one million masks he would turn on the TV and hear racist terms such as “China Virus” and “Kung Flu Virus” spouted by political leaders from the right.
One of the other organizers was Jack Liang, an entrepreneur/model. His actionable solution “is to raise awareness and to empower the community by gathering their emails and send them templates on how to speak to their children, speak to their students, how to gather resources and talk to the schools.”
Another host and organizer is a TV host and model named Oliver Pras who suggested “creating open dialogue with our AAPI community as well as our allies in an open and calm way without animosity.”
The lineup of speakers included US Senator Chuck Schumer, New York mayoral candidate Andrew Yang, State Senator John Liu, New York Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou, community activist Don Lee, rapper MCJin and YouTube sensation , the Fung Brothers.
Rapper/activist MCJin and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer shared the same sentiment that we must speak up against Asian racism wherever and wherever you see or hear it. For MCJin the importance of family was paramount, “of all the bios that I have in my life the one that’s most important to me is being the father of two Asian American boys.” At one point in the rally, he brought his 8 year old on stage and asked “what do you want to say”? His little boy answered “Stop the Hate” to the sound of gleeful applause.
Schumer told AsAmNews “Hate crimes are a crime. We ought to have our Justice Department go after anyone who perpetuates a hate crime and throw the book at them.”
Chinatown Community leader Don Lee called out all the “crimes which have not been designated hate crimes as BS.” Politicians can change this. “if policies don’t work we need to change the policy” referring to hate crimes. In past interviews, Lee would many times petition for change.
NY Assemblywomen Yu-Line Niou expressed her passionate and tearful pleas of concern that “there is no Call 911 dedicated to the Asian community of non-English speaking elders who try to call 911 for help and no one on the other side can speak Chinese to help them.” We need a dedicated line for that.
The three doctors who we interviewed – Michelle Lee, Calvin Sun and Maddie are in action mode already. “We are forming the first National front line white coats organized to protect and help the Chinatown and the associated Asian community,” said Dr. Lee. They came with about 15 other white coat medical professionals and took to the stage. Maddie was attacked herself when a racist verbally assaulted her by calling her a virus. She wanted to share her pain by encouraging others to speak up.
NYC Mayoral candidate Andrew Yang spoke and his promise to the Asian Community if he’s elected as Mayor is threefold. “The first is to fund the Asian Hate Crime Task Force” to a big round of applause. “The second is to call a hate crime a hate crime. The third is to build bonds with the Asian community and the city. And the best way to do that is to elect the first Asian American to be the Mayor of NYC.”
The Fung Brothers who have a big following of 76k on IG are You Tube influencers. They said “our approach to take action is divided into three levels. Depending on your time and resources it would be based on The Micro, the Mid and the Macro. At the Micro level is the very basic one of taking care of yourself and your family. At the Mid level would be volunteering at local organizations that are involved with your cause. At the Macro level would be joining media or politics.” They encouraged people to know how the system works.
Tian He announced a STANDWITHASIANS rally on March 26. His close friend was the victim who was stabbed in the back with a kitchen knife and was not expected to live. But he had four operations on his kidney and liver and weeks after he was able to recover. Tian encourages everyone to take March 26 off and “use the time to to support the AAPI community by lobbying your employers and lawmakers to condemn the acts of hate against AAPI community and take on projects that positively impact the community.” ” March 26, 1790 was the date the Naturalization Act of 1790 granted US citizenship by naturalization to “free White people excluding Native Americans, indentured servants, slaves and later Asians. The racial restriction was not eliminated against Asians until 1952 and we want to promote the public awareness that every minority group has been discriminated against since the founding days of this country.” (www.standwithasians.com)
Finally we wanted to add that actionable solutions are currently in consideration with two Hate Crime Bills, one of them is the Covid19 Hate Crime bill. President Biden’s memorandum which denounced anti-Asian hate and discrimination instructed the Dept. of Justice to investigate these crimes. Also the House Judiciary Committee had a hearing to ask for testimony from various representatives from Congress to testify as witnesses to anti Asian hate and discrimination after not having had any hearings associated with Asians for 34 years.
In addition local organizations such as the @aafederation are implementing action ideas. They distributed flyers outlining self-defense techniques and encouraging bystander intervention. They called on volunteers to chaperone the elderly and to join patrols to keep streets safe.
A firefighter named David Lin was whisked off the stage quickly and abruptly when he said he was a firefighter and that police are needed just as firefighters are needed. There were many voices that were loud about defunding the police, but the ones who remained silent among the loud may be thinking the opposite. We are there with a common goal, but one has to expect there will be differing opinions.
Some progress has been made since last year and we see a growing number of people getting involved on a local, state and federal level, but we need so much more work in fighting our dual problem – the pandemic and keeping ourselves safe from the multitude of harm AAPIs are facing.
Chinatown had great business that day. We were encouraged to all dine out and we should hold rallies in areas close to Chinese businesses so we can help support businesses in Chinatown.
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