By Jake Chang & Randall Yip, AsAmNews
Family members still grieving the loss of their loved ones joined community leaders and others this evening to remember the eight victims of the Atlanta spa shooting two years ago and other victims of hate and violence.
They gathered in both New York City and San Francisco in events organized by the activist group, Stand With Asians.
U.S. Congresswoman Grace Meng of New York began the event in Times Square by recognizing the victims of the Georgia shooting and their legacy.
Meng also extended condolences to Asian American individuals in New York City who lost their lives in the past few years, including Michelle Go, Yao Pan Ma, GuiYing Ma and Christina Lee.
“I am devastated, our community is devastated by these senseless attacks and the lives that were lost, but we are also more motivated than ever to build safer communities for everyone,” Meng said.
In San Francisco, Justin Go, the father of Michelle Go who was shoved in front of an oncoming subway train in Times Square last year spoke for the first time.
“It is a day that my family and I will never forget. Indeed we cannot forget,” he told a gathering in San Francisco’s Japantown. “While the world was openly discussing her death, my family and I were at the center of it all grappling with the trauma of a world without our beautiful, vibrant daughter.
“She held faith and hope in the goodness of others. She was then and remains now a wondrous child for us. I want the world to remember Michelle for who she was, for how she lived, and not just how she died. That is the memory that is always with me and my family.”
Yetao Bing died at just the age of 43, the youngest of seven killed in the Half Moon Bay shooting. A relative and family spokeswoman, Hongmei Shao, said he had planned to take his young daughter to China for the first time to see her grandparents. It’s a trip he will never take.
“The family lost a loving husband and father. His parents lost their only son,” Shao said. “His wife keeps asking why? Why us? We worked so hard. We cannot answer her question. Neither could we bring him back.”
Shao asked people to support the family through its Go Fund Me page.
Brandon Tsay, the Monterey Park hero who saved countless lives when he grabbed the gun from the shooter before he could enter his parent’s dance studio, also spoke in San Francisco. The gunman had already killed 11 people earlier that night at another dance studio.
“My family has been on the receiving end of this hate,” said Tsay in San Francisco. “It’s hurt my family and made us feel attacked. This creates a cycle of hate and it’s unhealthy. This cycle of hate forecloses the possibility of love and appreciation of our differences.”
Meng stated that combatting Asian hate is a top priority for her in Congress, working to create a new grant program with the Department of Justice for community-based organizations and advocating for a national museum in Washington D.C. dedicated to AANHPI history.
“I also believe that an important and long-lasting and long-overdue way to combat anti-Asian hate is to educate others about the fact that Asian American history is American history,” Meng said. “We are American too.”
Diya Basu-Sen, director of Sapna NYC, a group that works with South Asian immigrant women and families, spoke on how AAPI history has long been ignored with an over 150-year-old history of anti-Asian racism and violence in the U.S.
“There have always been people trying to make us feel as though we don’t belong,” Basu-Sen said. “But we as Asian Americans have more than earned our place here through literal blood, sweat and tears.”
Social entrepreneur and civil rights activist Amanda Nguyen took the stage in New York and spoke on what it meant to be an Asian American woman and the microaggressions she had faced while growing up. However, she sought to empower others through her civil rights efforts.
“I’d like you to close your eyes and listen,” Nguyen said. “Do you hear it? It’s a community dying to be heard, a heartbeat that is strong and steady, coursing through the tracks of this country, carrying the blood of our sacrifices, giving life to cities raised from dust.”
Nikki Singh, senior manager of policy and advocacy at the New York-based Sikh Coalition, also brought in her personal experiences in inspiring her career in activism.
When Singh was 9, she stated that her grandfather was told to go back to this country. Singh stated that she pursues her work because children, parents and grandparents deserve the right to be unharmed and go outside without fear.
“However, our communities are not just victims of this violence,” Singh said. “We are fighters who continue to inspire with fortitude, courage, and resilience”
“Together, I know we can sustain our commitment to action so that future generations have the freedom to live here in the States,” Singh said.
Finally, New York City native Cecille Martinez Lai spoke. Lai and her son were assaulted two weeks ago by two men who shouted anti-Asian sentiments and punched her unconscious in New York, Queens Chronicle reported.
Lai stated that many people believe that these types of hate crimes had stopped, but it only seems that way because victims do not report, or are ignored and even attacked when they attempt to report such crimes.
“I decided to be brave enough to speak out so we can raise awareness that these hate crimes are still happening and that the streets of New York are not very safe for us,” Lai said. “We should not have to be afraid all the time for what we look like and who we are. No one should.”
She also emphasized how hate comes from ignorance, and that everyone can play a role in educating themselves as well.
“This is our home, we belong here, my son belongs here, my kids belong here, I belong here, we all belong here,” Lai said. “We are Americans who deserve to feel safe and protected just like everyone else.”
AsAmNews is published by the non-profit, Asian American Media Inc. Follow us on Facebook, X, Instagram, TikTok and YouTube. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to support our efforts to produce diverse content about the AAPI communities. We are supported in part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library in partnership with the California Department of Social Services and the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs as part of the Stop the Hate program. To report a hate incident or hate crime and get support, go to CA vs Hate.