By Zenebou Sylla ‘22
Members of the Emerson community came together this week to condemn and mourn the March 16 murder of eight people in Atlanta, including six Asian women, as well as violence across the country and the world.
The Vigil Against Anti-Asian Racism & Violence, held Tuesday, March 23, also mourned the mass shooting at a Boulder, Colorado supermarket that took place the day prior.
Director of Religious and Spiritual Life Julie Avis Rogers led the remembrance, and was joined by international student advisor Jason Yang; Director of International Students Andrea Popa; Assistant Dean for Campus Life Chris Daly; and Director of Intercultural Student Affairs tamia jordan, who opened the vigil with the lighting of four candles, each one representing a different intention.
“I light a candle for Asian American and Pacific Islander [AAPI] communities of students, staff, faculty, here at Emerson… We are not scapegoats from a former irresponsible administration, we are not [a] virus, and I want to call a stop to Asian hate, and [a] love for Asian people,” said Yang.
“I light a candle for our international community of students, staff, and faculty. [W]e acknowledge that U.S. violence and racism cause direct harm to our Asian and our other international student community members. The restrictive immigration policies, concern for safety, and distance from family have added to the immense sting of this past year,” said Popa.
Daly said it is time that we recognize and reflect on the ways in which we have or have not taken steps in supporting Asian community members.
“For the ways in which we have not seen and minimize how our Asian and Asian American friends and community members are affected by racism, for the times we’ve looked away, for the times we have not stepped up when we could or should have, for the ways in which we have been complicit unknowingly and knowingly, and for the harm that this has caused,” said Daly.
Jordan spoke on the value in intersecting with causes other than those our own communities, particularly now with the AAPI communities.
“Instead of fighting for a selective cause or a cause that affects you personally, intersectional struggle is fighting for everyone, bringing an end to an entire system of oppression. It is the acknowledgment that we are far more powerful when we are united than when we are divided, and the thing that unites us is the empathy and compassion to fight for all, and so I light a candle for intersectional solidarity which is our only way forward,” said Jordan.
Rachel Tabin and Rivke Goodman, leaders of Hillel, Emerson’s Jewish community, also shared a blessing of solidarity from the Jewish tradition.
Tabin recalled the hateful acts against the Jewish and Asian community last year, and offered her words of solidarity with those from the Asian and Pacific Islander communities.
“One of the most important parts about being Jewish is the idea of loving your neighbor as yourself and to me, this all goes back to the solidarity… We do not ignore this because we cannot let hate makes us weak. In times like these, it is more than important that we are actively being supportive for communities that are being directly affected by hate,” said Tabin.
Goodman read the El Malei Rachamim, a Jewish mourning prayer that honors the memories of those who have passed. The prayer mourned the eight victims of the Atlanta-area shooting: Soon Chung Park, Hyun Jung Grant, Suncha Kim, Yong Ae Yue, Xiaojie Tan, Daoyou Feng, Delaina Ashley Yaun Gonzalez, and Paul Andre Michels.
The observance also held several moments of silence and allowed a space for individuals to share their own personal experiences, thoughts, prayers, and resources to address the racism and violence against the Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander communities.
The vigil concluded with Sylvia Spears, vice president for equity and social justice, calling on the community to find ways to uplift members of the AAPI community and one another.
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