Several community members gathered in City Park Sunday evening for a Stop Asian American and Pacific Islander Hate Flashlight Vigil to honor the lives of the six Asian American women who were killed in a series of shootings in Atlanta, Georgia, that targeted Asian-American owned businesses.
“Because we don’t see such tragic things happen here sometimes it’s easy to forget one, that there are Asians who live here and two, that we do experience racism,” Fanny Fang, one of the vigil’s organizers, said. “I wanted to take this as an opportunity to bring AAPI community members and our allies together to hear these stories and hopefully we can move towards some progress.”
Since the pandemic began, reported instances of violence and racism against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have increased across the United States, but the this type of xenophobia did not arrive with COVID-19 — the exclusion of and violence against the Asian American and Pacific Islander community goes back for generations, Fang said.
In the first part of the vigil, Fang read aloud statements from family members or written on behalf of the Atlanta victims’ families, following each with a minute of silence. She then invited three members to share their personal stories of the racism and xenophobia they faced in their lifetimes, including experiences with xenophobia in Manhattan.
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“Let’s shine a light on the darkness they have faced, and to signify that brighter days are ahead,” Fang said.
For Sheila Ellis-Glasper, a Filipino and Black woman, the events in Atlanta were especially painful because reflected in the women who were killed, she saw her mother who left the Philippines.
“She shares so many commonalities with the Asian women who were murdered. She is a woman who put her all into her family, and sacrificed so much for her family to have the opportunities that she did not,” Ellis-Glasper said. “I’m here today as a product of her courage, sacrifice and her love.”
For her, the racism that threatens her mother, grandmother and other family members has an impact on her daily life.
“That’s why I have to speak out,” Ellis-Glasper said. “So, I’m here tonight to stand in solidarity with the AAPI community, and express that white supremacy must be dismantled. White supremacy is violent, and it is the downfall of America.
“Now more than ever, we have to stand together to fight against all racism and be unified as a people who have experienced and endured generational racism and discrimination on so many levels,” she continued.
But as “traumatic” as it is, Fang said she believes it’s important to discuss what happened in Atlanta and other acts that target members of the AAPI community because the racism and bigotry thrive in the silence.
“That is why we are doing what we are doing tonight, having a difficult but necessary conversation that will help all of us transition our pain, and privilege for progress,” Fang said.