By Briana Lim, AsAmNews Intern
After a year of anti-Asian hate, AAPI communities across the country have been coming together in solidarity. This Saturday, the AAPI Care Fair which started in New York will be coming to San Francisco to offer support and a means for senior citizens and others to defend themselves against the random violence and verbal bullying seen across the country.
According to Soar Over Hate, “The original event held in New York City in May 2021 had an incredible turnout of over 2,000 attendees, of which 100 completed blood pressure screenings, 50 participated in the self defense class, 20 registered to vote, 10 screened for hepatitis-B, and 2 received COVID-19 vaccinations. There was also a distribution of 10,000 masks, 3,000 alarms, 1,500 pepper sprays, 1,000 whistles, and 350 kubotans.” Soar Over Hate will be hosting a similar event in San Francisco this Saturday.
Soar Over Hate organizers Michelle Tran and Kenji Jones are two young Asian Americans passionate about supporting their community. Michelle is a 24-year-old MD/PhD student from East Harlem, Manhattan, and Kenji is a 23-year-old Brooklynite working in digital marketing.
AsAmNews had a chance to ask Soar Over Hate’s organizers some questions.
Could you tell me about your background? What motivated you to take action in response to the rise in anti-Asian hate?
Michelle Tran: Kenji and I co-lead Soar Over Hate, a nonprofit focused on equipping Asians to resist anti-Asian hate. We have done this through the distribution of personal safety devices (personal alarms, whistles and pepper spray) and outreach to those most vulnerable- elderly, women, LGBTQ+, low income folks, and essential workers. We started the project because both of us had Asian friends, colleagues, and acquaintances who had experienced violent and verbal hateful acts and discrimination since the start of the pandemic, and we knew we had to step up and do something about it.
What does your day-to-day look like?
Michelle Tran: I am an MD/PhD student and Kenji is a digital marketer. We have full time jobs, and there are days that I am in lab running experiments past midnight but still make time for planning our events with Kenji over Zoom. We are both incredibly passionate about this issue and put an immense amount of care and attention to detail into our projects.
What led you to provide the specific services you do? The services you provide at your events seem tailored to the AAPI community and the dangerous climate—especially the self-defense devices/training.
Kenji Jones: After connecting with each other through Instagram, Michelle and I brainstormed ideas on how we could bring a more robust set of services and benefits to the folks who were coming out to our events. We acknowledge that self-defense devices are important, but more of a short term Band-Aid to larger issues our community is facing. We started with layering in hate crime booklets, and then expanded to provide other resources like self defense classes. At our AAPI Care Fair in New York in May we had free health screenings, COVID-19 vaccinations, COVID-19 testing, a self-defense course, puppy therapy, live music, voter registration, and a rich set of community resources provided by our community-based organization partners.
What led you to make the move across the country from New York to San Francisco?
Kenji Jones: Michelle and I saw the horrific violent attacks on Asians in the Bay Area through Asian media. An amazing network of AAPI organizations already exists here in the Bay Area, but we knew our AAPI Care Fair could bring a set of services that the community would really benefit from. The AAPI Care Fair is also about spotlighting the community-based organizations here in the bay area that are doing amazing work. We are proud to partner with organizations like SF Asian Women’s Shelter, Revive SF Chinatown, Stand With Asians, Asians Are Strong and others! This cross-country pollinisation will give both communities ideas on how to impact their Chinatowns in new and beautiful ways!
What do you hope will come from these events and Soar Over Hate’s other work? (Or, what positive outcomes have you seen thus far?)
Kenji Jones: We have stats on hand about how many devices we’ve given out, how many folks have been registered to vote at our events, how many people attended self defense classes with us, etcetera… but the most impactful moments at our events are seeing the joy of attendees. So many of the especially elderly, low income folks who come out to our events are overjoyed to see young people putting on an event just for them! A lot of these folks feel forgotten and scared and when a ton of young people do the work to lift them up, they are surprised and elated.
Is there anything else you would like the AAPI community to know?
Kenji Jones: The AAPI community is in a very important moment of our shared history. We need to make it count. We all need to take responsibility for the safety and well-being of our community. No one but you can make the changes you want to see. Do not wait for someone else to step up, do not wait for the government to do something about it. Michelle and I have been so proud to engage young people and even older folks in their first time volunteering in the community. Now is the time to step up, find an organization you believe in, and give them 3 hours of your week. Those three hours will make a big difference.
Soar Over Hate is going bicoastal by hosting its second AAPI Care Fair in San Francisco this Saturday, June 26th. The event, which will include a multitude of activities, from self-defense demonstrations to guided meditations, will be held at Portsmouth Square from 1-4pm. All community members are invited, with special prioritization of services given to underserved AAPI citizens.
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