By Jessica Xiao, AsAmNews Contributor
Vice President Kamala Harris spoke at a rally in Washington, DC to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the signing of the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act.
Daniel Dae Kim introduced the vice president by quoting her speech at an AAPI Unity Summit last year. “’We have an opportunity now to turn that pain into action. To turn that pain, that righteous anger, because of the injustice of it, we have an opportunity to turn that into power.”’ Kim said, “That’s why we’re here today.”
In a nod to recent violence including the shootings at Laguna Woods, Dallas, and Buffalo, Harris noted that it is “impossible to celebrate and ignore that we celebrate at a time we’re witnessing an epidemic of hate in this country….We have always known racism is real in America, that xenophobia is real in America, that sexism is real in America, and today we are witnessing, again and again, the terrible human cost of this hate. We are seeing this hate manifest itself in violent acts.”
Harris spoke on Friday, May 20, before the mass school shooting in Uvalde, TX that killed 19 children and two teachers.
She emphasized that every individual has a responsibility to organize against violence. “It is a collective fight. Each of us has an important role to play in bringing together the people who understand we have so much more in common than what separates us.”
The crux of Vice President Harris’s speech focused on the importance of AAPI representation in public policy. “Asian Americans must be in the room when decisions are made because when policies reflect our collective experiences and perspectives, I am certain of one thing: our country is stronger and our country is more just.”
Harris also acknowledged the audience, made up mostly of leaders and staffers from national AAPI organizations and legislative offices, and the mobilization of AAPI voters for sending her and Biden to the White House—and for the Democratic majority in the Senate.
“Asian voters were the margin of victory in 2020,” Harris said. “What we do between now and November will determine the future of our nation, so we need to make sure that AA and NHPI voices are heard at the ballot boxes around our country.”
Vice President Harris began her remarks by paying homage to recently passed Norm Mineta, the Transportation Secretary during 9/11 and the first Asian American mayor of a major American city, San Jose.
“Norm’s story is a reminder of why we must stay in the fight no matter how many reasons we are given to quit. Norm Mineta, who I know and considered a mentor my entire elected career. He truly helped inspire generations of leaders to enter public service, including me.”
Harris also noted the following as key accomplishments of the Biden Administration—the creation of 8.5 million jobs, an unemployment rate of 3.6 percent, the passing of a “historic” infrastructure law, and the appointment of more AAPIs at every level of government including the federal judiciary.
The AAPI Victory Fund hosted the rally and reception at the Kennedy Center, featuring a lineup of AAPI entertainment stars, creators, and political leaders who spoke on the importance of the AAPI voting electorate and celebrated the recent bill passed to create a commission to study the opening of a national AAPI history museum.
Others in the program included slam poet Beau Sia, Moana star Auli-I Cravalho, actor Daniel Dae Kim, author Min Jee Lee, journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, actress Karrueche Tran, comedian Aasif Mandvi, rapper MC Jin, and political leaders, many who were “firsts” in their roles, including Congressman Andy Kim (first Korean American Congressman in the district), Mayors Michelle Wu (first woman mayor and first Asian American woman mayor of Boston) and Aftab Pureval (first Asian American mayor of Cincinnati), among others.
Notable remarks include those by Cincinnati Mayor Aftab Pureval, who said “If I am the last Asian mayor of Cincinnati, then everyone in this room has failed.”
Boston Mayor Michelle Wu recognized the importance of moving beyond firsts and towards sustaining AAPIs in government: “This is our moment. We need to make sure for all the firsts we’re celebrating today, we can put an end to firsts and focus on building the entire pipeline.”
Representative Andy Kim (D-NJ), who was widely lauded for helping to clean up the Capitol Building following the riots, recalled being told to run for office in North Jersey where there is a larger Korean American population. “I want to represent my district [the 3rd Congressional District] because it’s my home,” he retorted.
Min Jin Lee spent her rally time sharing personal experiences to demonstrate the importance of access to birth control and access to abortion in her life.Vice President Kamala Harris’s full remarks can be found here.
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