AAPI community leaders gathered for their first-ever Unity March in Washington D.C.
It was an Asian American-led mobilization that aimed to unify the AAPI community and its multicultural partners to advance socioeconomic and cultural equity, racial justice and solidarity among the community of colors. The gathering, held at the US National Mall, came amidst the dramatic spike in violent hate crimes against members of the AAPI community.
According to Fil-Am organizer Raymond Partolan, planning for the march started almost a year ago after the spa shooting in Atlanta, Georgia wherein six Asian women were among the victims.
"For someone like me, someone who is from Georgia, who spent most of my life in Georgia, the shootings in Atlanta were devastating, and it was time for our community to come together to stand up and fight for our rights and to speak up against anti-Asian hate," Partolan, who is also a National Field Director of the Asian and Pacific Islander Vote (APIA Vote), asserted.
As for Nonviolent Peaceforce's Director of US Programs Kalaya'an Mendoza, he said while it's important to talk about the continued rise in anti-Asian hate crimes, "we also have to connect that to the state violence, to the non-state actor violence against our communities. White supremacy is in essence the reason that we are 'other,' that we are seen as a perpetual foreigner."
"We need to band together with other marginalized communities to build power because the only way that we can keep safe is by having everyone be safe," Mendoza added.
Filmmaker and trans activist Geena Rocero was among the event's headliners.
"With all the constant attack on our very existence, I'd say this, I will make my voice the loudest that it could be and I will never ever apologize for being who I am," Rocero said.
Rocero noted that the community has had enough of the pain and suffering particularly when elder Asian Americans are viciously attacked just for being Asians.
"In this moment, we get to speak out about it, you know, we get to speak out truly... People know what's going on and as a community, we're standing up for that and making sure that that's enough. We're not gonna take it anymore."
Among those who showed solidarity with the AAPI leader was Ben De Guzman, Director of the DC Mayor's Office on Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs.
"It's the crucible of political action and to be part of it, as with the role I'm now playing in terms of working at the Mayor's office on Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs while this event is happening, is also particularly powerful," he said.
Meanwhile, Fil-Am actress Tamlyn Tomita of the hit movie Karate Kid stressed that there is power in unity.
Organizers said this is just the beginning. They are expecting more Asian Americans and their allies to come together and fight for a slate of goals that include economic and racial justice, equal rights, and representation.