Activists and community members are preparing for the one year anniversary of the deadly shootings at Atlanta area spas when a man killed eight people, six of them of Asian descent.
The anniversary will take place on March 16 but events began Saturday with a community remembrance day. A larger rally against anti-Asian racism and violence called “Break the Silence” is planned for Wednesday at the Georgia Capitol. Other cities such as Chicago, New York, Houston, San Francisco and Washington D.C., will host their own versions of the rally as well.
Roughly 200 people gathered Saturday near Atlanta at the city’s memorial to comfort women, those who were forced into sexual slavery by Japan during World War II. The event featured art, music and poetry to commemorate the somber week.
“We wanted to leave the actual day, March 16, as a quieter day of reflection. … We wanted to provide space for the families to grieve in whatever way they wanted to,” said Phi Nguyen, the executive director for Asian Americans Advancing Justice in Atlanta.
“The atmosphere is a broad range of emotion right now,” Long Tran, a business owner who is running for state representative in the area and who attended the event, told NPR.
“I think for some people they were like, ‘Oh man, I can’t believe it’s been a year.’ So much time has flown by, so much has been done. And still you feel like there’s a lot left to be done,” Tran said.
One year later, attacks against Asian American women are still a top-of-mind concern
Attacks against Asian Americans spiked once the pandemic began, with the FBI reporting an increase in anti-Asian hate crimes from 2019.
The group Stop AAPI Hate has tracked nearly 11,000 hate incidents against Asian Americans from March 2020 to December 2021, with more occurring in 2021 than 2020.
A majority of those incidents targeted Asian women.
And a recent survey published earlier this month from the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) found that 74% of Asian American and Pacific Islander women reported experiencing racism and/or discrimination over the last year, and 53% said the perpetrator was a stranger or someone they didn’t know.
For East Asian respondents in particular, 51% of women said they feel less safe today than at the start of the pandemic.
AAPI leaders want to keep up the public pressure
“You can’t ignore data like that,” said Sung Yeon Choimorrow, executive director of NAPAWF, referring to the organization’s new survey. “We need to address this.”
“I think there needs to be a commitment both from the community and from leaders in positions of power to direct resources to be in this for the long haul … we can’t only talk about it when somebody is murdered or the anniversary of a horrific event,” she said.
Choimorrow adds that part of the struggle of this week is that Asian Americans aren’t going into this week having had one year of separation from the event; the violence against AAPIs has been consistently happening in the last year since the shooting.
“We’ve had other Asian American women murdered since, and that’s what’s really heartbreaking to me,” she said.
Attorney General Merrick Garland told NPR this week that responding to the rise in hate crimes against Black, Asian and Jewish people was “in the DNA of the Justice Department.”
And last year, President Biden signed a law that aims to make reporting hate crimes more accessible and authorizes grants to local governments for programs to respond to hate crimes.