by Jessica Xiao, AsAmNews Staff Contributor
WASHINGTON, DC — Supporters, volunteers, and staff from fifteen national AAPI organizations gathered Saturday at the 60th anniversary of the historic March on Washington.
The original March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom took place on August 28, 1963, in which over 200,000 people gathered for Black equality and civil rights– and during which Martin Luther King delivered his historic “I Have a Dream” speech.
The AAPI contingent was an intergenerational gathering – with American-born second generation and first-generation naturalized citizens, and Asians — representing multiple organizations and races.
John C. Yang, president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian American Justice Center (AAAJ-AAJC) gave a rallying speech at the march.
“Sixty years ago, thousands of Americans stood on the same soil we do today…we march today because the promises have yet to be fulfilled,” Yang said.
The organizations gathered in multiracial solidarity under the march slogan “not a commemoration, but a continuation,” especially after recent Supreme Court setbacks such as the strikedown of affirmative action.
“Although we have made strides to move closer to Dr. King’s dream of justice and civil rights for African Americans, there is much more work to be done – particularly in the wake of recent Supreme Court decisions that threaten the diversity and progress we have achieved thus far,” Louise Liu, Anti-Hate Communications Coordinator, AAAJ-AAJC, told AsAmNews in an email, “The 60th anniversary of the March on Washington not only celebrates the advancements we have made toward justice and equity, but also calls upon our communities to continue the work of our predecessors until we have achieved justice for all.”
Multiple organizations made reference to the long history of AAPIs in civil rights work.
“While JACL was the only Asian American organization to formally join the 1963 march, this year we look forward to being joined by hundreds more of our partner Asian American organizations,” the Japanese American Citizens League shared in a statement.
“We have long recognized the value of multi-ethnic coalition-building and have made fighting for civil rights alongside our Black and Latino neighbors a fundamental component of our advocacy. From participating in the previous Marches on Washington and forming cross-cultural partnerships, to advocating for the creation of ethnic studies, to joining Black Lives Matter protests, the AAPI community will not rest until civil rights are achieved for all,” Liu said.
“Chinese Americans had our long history of civil rights movement, e.g. Yick Wo v. Hopkins in 1886, Steven Pei, co-organizer of APA Justice and founding chair of the United Chinese Americans, told AsAmNews via email.
United Chinese Americans, and other organizations, passed out yellow whistles as part of an anti-Asian hate project. The pamphlet describes the whistle as a “symbol of self-protection and solidarity in our common fight against historical discrimination and anti-Asian violence,” reclaiming the color yellow which “has been weaponized against Asians as the color of xenophobia.”
According to Pei, half a million whistles have been distributed nationwide since April 2021, and another 300,000 have been ordered.
Participants joined from across the country, including Texas, California, Massachusetts, and more. Tibetan American Baimadajie Angwang, who was accused of being a Chinese spy in 2020 under a Trump administration law enforcement mandate targeting AAPIs (all charges were dropped earlier this year), traveled from New York to attend the march.
“We are here to be united. We are all the same. When they push the American dream to immigrants, they say if you work hard, follow the rules, you will be treated fairly. I did everything an immigrant is instructed to do but because of anti-Asian rhetoric, I got accused of being a spy who works for China,” Angwang told AsAmNews.
Most importantly, AAPIs stated their commitment to anti-racism.
“There are politicians and racists who want to exploit Asian Americans and use our community as a wedge in the fight for justice and civil rights, but we must refuse to be complicit in the oppression of Black Americans. We must do our part and march in racial unity alongside our Black community members – not only today but every day because our fight for equity is one and the same,” stated Liu.
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