“We’re here today to honor Asian lives and all the Asian lives that have unfortunately been lost due to shootings and hate crimes,” said 16 year old Dexter Keegan, an organizer with The Collective Youth Program in South Kingstown, Rhode Island. “This is important to me because I think human life is so special, and I just want to value it.”
The South Kingstown event was conceived by youth organizers “out of a desire to mourn the loss of all those who have passed away due to anti-Asian violence, and to condemn the white supremacy that exists therein.” The specific act of violence triggering this rally was the murder of eight people, including six women of Asian descent in Atlanta on March 16, but anti-Asian hate crimes have been on the rise in the United States preceding these murders and have continued afterwards.
After a series of speeches at Old Mountain Field (included below) the rally marched to Dale Carlia Corners to hold signs, chant and sing as passing motorists honked horns in support.
“We are brought here today to mourn the senseless murders of six Asian women who died at the hands of white supremacy and the countless crimes that affect Asian lives daily,” said Keegan to the crowd of about 35 people who attended. “White supremacy does not exist in a vacuum. It was invented by white European men and imported into our county and numerous others. This is a white problem in our majority white town. We should be working to dismantle it…”
“See us! See the Asian Americans! See us!” said Aya. “See us. Educate yourselves. Learn what the model minority myth is. Learn what white fragility is. Learn what white silence is, and work with us in solidarity as allies.”
“We’re very upset and horrified and in mourning about what happened in Georgia,” said Bella Robinson, executive director of COYOTE RI, a sex workers’ rights group. “We recognize that Asian hate is real, racism is real, transphobia, homophobia and whoreaphobia is real. One thing we didn’t understand was that the public was more concerned about what these women were doing and lacked any support of spa workers, sex workers – and we know some of them were sex workers.
“So what society is saying is that if they were doing sexual services, they deserved no sympathy and no protection… I hope we can think about, as we move forward – When things happen to spa workers, sex workers – I don’t care if they are porn performers, working in a strip club… These are mothers, sisters, aunts and members of our community…”
“Every day we need to dismantle systems of oppression and the way they impact out neighbors based on their identity – Asian, Black, LatinX, LGBTQ – these identities and different groups are impacted more than I might be,” said Sarah Markey, one of the founders of The Collective. Markey noted the introduction of a bill in the Rhode Island General Assembly that would ban “teaching about racism or other forms of marginalization, or help students understand or examine systemic systems of oppression…”
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“We grieve for those killed on March 16 and recommit ourselves to working in solidarity in our shared interests with local groups in the broader AAPI (Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders) diaspora,” said Joshua H Blaine reading a statement from SURJ RI (Showing Up for Racial Justice). “First and foremost we name this act for what it is: An act of white supremacy and misogynist violence. The spas and the women were targeted because of the individuals’ intersectional identities…”
The march from Old Mountain Field to Dale Carlia Corners in South Kingstown: