The group of friends — DC-area residents all in their 60s — gathered at the National Mall on Saturday with hundreds of others for a Unity March rally to bring attention to a list of issues affecting Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, including the rise in hate crimes against them, the reproductive rights of disadvantaged women, and the lack of Asian American representation in the media and the government. The rally, held a day after the Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wadealso focused on uniting the Asian American community and other underrepresented communities, with speakers noting how the court’s decision would disproportionately affect people of color.
The crowd was diverse both in race, age and race – attendees ranged from toddlers to grandparents. Many held up handmade signs with messages such as “Not your model minority”, “Stop the AAPI hate” and “Protect Asian women”. While the event was supposed to end with a march, organizers ended it with a short rally instead due to event delays and hot weather.
Dozens of speakers and performers took to the stage to dispel the “model minority” myths, that all Asian Americans are successful, that pitted them against other racial groups. They also shared their family stories and urged attendees to vote. A performer, known as KHA, performed her song, “No More,” which describes different times in Asian American history. The song’s hook, which is “No more, we’re not gonna let you hold us down,” underscores the day’s broader call for communities of color to stand up for themselves and unite.
“As a community, we’ve been silent for so long,” she said. “To be able to shout together to the world why we are here, why we belong here – I think that message really resonates with me.”
A group of young South Asian female students interning in DC for the summer gathered on the grass. For Ria Agarwal, 19, the event was a way to draw attention to the fact that hate crimes against Asian Americans are not just random acts of violence, but patterns that need to be addressed. broken.
They also expressed their gratitude for events like the Unity March to bring together Asian Americans from all communities.
“Before, we all operated in silos,” Agarwal said. “I think that kind of protest really made us realize that we’re all connected.”
Louann Igasaki emphasized the importance of education in redefining Asian American history. Unless we discuss the country’s history with civil rights injustices, we run the risk of repeating the same mistakes in history, she said. “We have to learn from the mistakes of the past. If we want to have unity in the future, we better start learning.
The Unity March was founded by several national organizations, including Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAAJ), the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance and Indian American Impact.
“We felt it was time for us to do something big and visible in our community,” said Tiffany Chang, Director of Community Engagement at AAAJ. “Because any time we let other people tell our stories, it was either erasure, or invisibility, or harmful stereotyping.”
In the light of the Roe vs. Wade decision, the protest organizers reinforced their intention to continue to fight for women’s rights and better access to reproductive services.
“This is just one example of how historically marginalized communities like Asian Americans see our rights diminished before our eyes,” Chang said.
Chang said most Asian Americans support better access to reproductive health care.
“While our community is not a monolith, there is broad consensus in our very, very diverse community that reproductive health care is a basic human right,” she said.
The march platform also included a plea for full citizenship for undocumented people, guaranteed access to vote, and multicultural studies in K-12 education.
“Unity is not the erasure of our differences. It’s a choice to show up,” she said, “Solidarity is survival.”
The idea for the march was prompted by shootings at Atlanta spas that left six Asian women dead in March 2021, Chang said. In 2020, hate crimes targeting Asian Americans rose from 158 to 274, an increase of nearly 74%, according to FBI data — numbers that some advocates say may be underreported. The number of hate crimes reached its highest level in more than a decade the same year, amid heightened violence against Asians during the pandemic.
The march also comes on the 40th anniversary of the murder of Vincent Chin, a 27-year-old Chinese-American who was beaten by two white men outside a bar near Detroit, and whose death spurred a civil rights movement among Asian Americans.
“While anti-Asian hatred and violence is nothing new, we are in a different place than we were 40 years ago with the murder of Vincent Chin, when the Asian American movement and community such as us know them came into being,” Chang said. “We are now the fastest growing racial group in the country. We are the margin of victory in political elections.
If there’s one piece of advice Paul Igasaki would give to the next generation of young Asian Americans, it would be this: learn to practice change and unite with all communities of color to advocate for change.
“By standing together we can do something,” he said. “Our voice is powerful.”
Ellie Silverman contributed to this report.