WSU Applebaum student leaders rally with APIA-Vote MI to #StopAsianHate
By Joseph Paul Javier
According to data released by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, hate crimes targeting Asian people rose by nearly 150 percent in the past year. After the March shootings in Atlanta where six of the eight victims were Asian American women, members of the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities around the nation have mobilized to address the growing trend of violence toward AAPIs.
APIA-Vote MI has been at the forefront of this movement in Michigan and has organized several sets of rallies and vigils this past month to stop Asian hate. Student leaders from the Student Pharmacist Diversity Council (SPDC) and the Student National Pharmaceutical Association (SNPhA) rallied in support of APIA-Vote MI to draw attention to this advocacy for racial justice.
“During this difficult time, it is more important than ever that we come together to end this pandemic of hate. In line with SPDC’s mission, we stand with everyone who denounces verbal harassment and physical attacks against Asian Americans,” says Brooke Penny, SPDC president. “Together is the only way to Stop Asian Hate and our organization is proud to be a part of this movement.”
At their first rally, which was held in front of the Spirit of Detroit, more than 300 supporters gathered to protest the unwarranted violence against AAPIs that has been sweeping the nation.
“We’ve come here to pay our respects to those individuals who died in Atlanta, to express our collective sadness and anger, to gain strength from this community here and to say ENOUGH IS ENOUGH,” said Rebeka Islam, executive director at APIA-Vote MI. “It will take every single one of us if we’re to stop violent acts against AAPIs and all people of color, stem hatred, and counter common biases and assumptions that are made of AAPIs. It is a shame that it would take the loss of so many innocent lives to wake us all up, but I hope we can take advantage of this moment and ride the momentum we’ve gathered as a result of Black Lives Matter, to dismantle our structures of systemic racism and all forms of hatred.”
Present at this first rally were community leaders and local politicians like Senator Stephanie Chang and State Representative Padma Kuppa.
"What happened in Georgia has just brought out a lot of painful memories for people. There's just so much conversation and healing that needs to be had. One thing I'm very encouraged by is that I'm seeing an increased sense of activism from the Asian American community in Michigan," said Senator Chang.
APIA-Vote MI’s second rally and vigil took place last weekend at the Troy City Hall. Here, more than 100 people gathered in solidarity to stop Asian hate and address the ongoing racism and violence Asian communities have been facing during the COVID-19 pandemic. This was organized together with organizations like Whenever We're Needed (WWN) and Detroit Will Breath (DWB).
Representative Kuppa, who serves the cities of Troy and Clawson, says she is aware of discrimination against Asians in her district and elsewhere. “The only way to fight hate is to respond with love,” Kuppa told the crowd.
Peter Tanaka, an organizer with Detroit Will Breath, attended both events and had this to say: “DWB is a group that was formed in the streets in Detroit in the midst of an international movement against police brutality towards Black lives. We are supporting the #StopAsianHate movement because of the devastating rise in violence that has been directed at Asians during the pandemic. Moreover, though anti-Black and anti-Asian racism are different, these forms of bigotry support each other and create oppression across the world. For this reason, it is important we stand in solidarity with each other. We will not only better protect Asian Americans, but all BIPOC communities.”
For SPDC President-Elect Linh Pham who is of Vietnamese decent, the #StopAsianHate movement is especially impactful. “Seeing the increase in Asian hate crimes recently really hits home for me, as the people getting attacked look just like me and my loved ones. No one should feel afraid to leave their house, but that is the reality for many of the AAPI community these day as they no longer feel safe in public spaces. My culture taught to be respectful and courteous to others growing up, which meant that I was silent during difficult situations and even accepted the racist remarks made towards me. But with these hate crimes and the increasing racism, we are tired of being invisible and do not want these acts of violence to be ignored.”
Johnie L. Bailey, SNPhA executive board member, added, “You can't make change by sitting on the sidelines. We all need to work together actively to see the change that our society needs. Asian or black, Hispanic, white or indigenous, all people deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. Part of our organization’s mission it to help create a healthy and safe social environment of minority communities. It is our duty to speak out against racism and report hate crimes. Social injustice should have no place in schools, health care settings or anywhere.”
If you or someone you know are a victim of a hate crime, you can file a complaint of hate or discrimination with the Michigan Department of Civil Rights by calling 800-482-3604 or via email at MDCR-INFO@michigan.gov.