By Jian Wang and Sydney Chan
Joining cities all over America, the Alliance of Chinese Americans San Diego organized a #StopAsianHate candlelight vigil on Saturday, March 20, in coordination with United Chinese Americans (UCA). The early evening event was held in front of the San Diego County Administration Building, to mourn the victims of the mass shooting in Atlanta on March 16th, where 6 out of the 8 lives tragically lost were Asian.
Calling an end to the hate towards the Asian community, ACA President Chenyang Rickard told Fox News that the violent acts targeting Asians need to be called out. We need to remember the victims, and we want to voice it in the strongest terms to condemn the violence.
In her opening remarks to more than 100 people of different ethnic groups in attendance, Ms. Rickard asked all people to unite in saying no to hate, and saying no to the violence against our Asian American communities. She went on to tell stories of each of the 8 victims, and encouraged the Asian community to break out of the silence, by speaking up proudly, loudly, and unitedly against bias, bigotry, racism, and violence towards Asian Americans.
Jeff He, a board member of ACA, who moved to America more than 30 years ago, spoke next. He shared a disturbing personal story which occurred in 2018, right before Christmas. While on their way to a store, he and his wife were verbally assaulted by a white couple at a traffic light. They were shocked. After they had called America home for more than 30 years and become American citizens, they were told to their faces that they didn’t belong here. Mr. He urged the crowd to let the Atlanta shooting serve as a wakeup call for all of us to shed the image of a model minority, fight for our rights, fight to be equal, and fight to be respected. Stop racism, stop Asian hate.
After Jeff's remarks, the attendees were invited to share their thoughts. Over twenty people, most of them young Asian students, spoke passionately about their personal experiences and made emotional pledges to stop racism.
Zelda, a USD law student, encouraged parents to invest time and money to study public service and law if their kids show interest, given the most efficient way to ensure that our voices are heard is by voting more minority politicians into office who are in support of a favorable immigrant policy.
Nancy, a community activist, came to the stage next, her voice filled with emotion. Nancy stated to the crowd, we need to speak up. Don’t be passive. Be proactive. If your kids are interested in political science and law, let them go for it.
Then came Dr. Carolyn, a physician who had often been made to feel that she did not belong in the US even after living here for more than 30 years. She shared a horrific story of being verbally insulted by a COVID patient whom she was treating, but did not report the incident “like a good Chinese girl who doesn’t complain.”
Little Joshua, who’s in fifth grade, stole everyone’s heart when he proclaimed that he wanted to be a politician when he grew up. He expressed his outrage for the shooting and for the injustice in society, and asked his fellow Asian Americans to break out of the silence and make their voices heard.
Melody, who works for a nonprofit to assist people with past due rent and utilities, and whose husband works in a company which developed the COVID testing kit, urged everyone to speak up instead of becoming the next victim. She encouraged Asian Americans to truly embrace society by doing more volunteer work and joining the PTA at their children’s schools. She further voiced her sadness for the senseless killings of the Atlanta shooting, and expressed her outrage and disgust at the comment made by the police captain/spokesman shortly after the shooting, and called for his dismissal from the law enforcement department. She stated that we need to be united, and diversity coupled with unity is what makes America strong.
Sydney, a freshman in high school, walked on stage with her mom and little sister. She passionately pleaded to the crowd that it’s up to each and everyone of us to make a change in our society. Instead of waiting for others to go first, we need to go out there and try. Sydney’s mom, who moved to the US as a teenager, spoke after. She applauded everyone for taking the first step by attending the vigil, and urged people to look out for one another and be the voice for those who can't speak for themselves due to language barriers.
A third-year sociology major student recognized that since Asians only make up about 5.3% of the American population, we need allies and friends in Congress who are willing to speak in support of us.
High school sophomore, Lucy, called minority groups to unite together to fight white supremacy.
Katherine, a high school student, read a sad story she wrote which was filled with personal experiences she had to endure growing up.
Steven, a high school student, expressed his disgust in the very existence of racism and discrimination. He shared his personal experiences and called for leaders to represent equality in Congress.
Fourth grader, Dylan, wanted everyone to stay strong.
A lady appealed to people to not only take protective measures, but to be prepared ahead of time with something to say if met with racist remarks. She also said, the most important thing for us to do right now is to organize and stand together, and encourage our kids to become leaders.
An engineer applauded all the women and children who spoke up and encouraged men in Asian society to be more active, too, rather than focusing on careers and families only.
The last speech of the night came from Zoe, a third year college student from UCLA. She shared a racist incident that her father encountered recently, and expressed that enough is enough. We all need to join in the fight to stop Asian hate and let America know we matter.
The touching tribute ended with the crowd singing together “You Raise Me Up”. Without a doubt, this evening left everyone empowered, not only by the stories shared from the past, but also by the promise of a brighter future to come.
All photos and videos by Xiu Yu except for video 'You Raise Me Up' by Hugh Wang