Community Vigil Honoring Victims of Anti-Asian Violence

All across the country, people have been affected by anti-Asian hate. On March 16, 2021 there was a shooting in Atlanta, Georgia in which eight lives were lost due to anti-Asian hate. On Friday, March 26th, over 150 people from all over the community of Malden gathered for a candle lighting vigil to honor the victims of the Atlanta Shooting that targeted Asian American women. 

Many Asian Americans are afraid to go out alone in fear of being targeted. Maddie Lam, one of the lead organizers of the event, said that it is “scary for [her] to walk [her] dog or just be outside in general.” She wanted her voice to be heard in the Malden community so she made a post on Facebook on a group called Malden Neighbors Helping Neighbors and told people how she felt. She just wanted the community to know that “Asian folks are worthy and that [they are] beautiful and that [they] deserve love.” 

Karen Colon Hayes, a member of Malden Community Organizing for Racial Equity (Malden CORE), reached out to Lam and proposed the idea of a vigil. Lam was willing to volunteer and organize the vigil. She was in very close coordination with the Greater Malden Asian American Community Coalition (GMAACC) and Malden CORE. Lam said “it would not have happened if [she] did not have the mentorship nor the collaboration with GMAACC.”

Video submitted by Keren He.

At the event, Lam sang a song she wrote called “Moonwomen” because she feels that Asian women have such a deep connection to the moon. For Lam “singing is a way of saying to the world that our voices matter especially as an Asian American woman.” A lot of her songs center on self-expression and full expression as a way to “honor not only [her] ancestors but the inner child that is the artist as well as being resilient to the systems of oppression.” For her, this song “came from a place of really deep pain and really deep anger because of systems of oppression.” Lam stated that these systems of oppression do not just affect people who look like her or black people or undocumented people but they can impact anyone, they can even impact white people. “They too become traumatized from being oppressors.”

The main goal for the vigil was to create a space for people to come together to heal and to be in solidarity against systems of oppression that impacts not only the Asian American community but also many people globally as well. Lam is “proud of how people came up and showed up and [she is] really grateful that people wanted to show up for the event.”

Hayes is a member of a lot of community organizations and is a candidate for the city council. For this event, she was with Malden CORE. She wanted to help raise Lam’s voice and the voices of Asian American groups here. Hayes explained that “[her] job was to be there for [Lam] 100% from beginning to end.” The main organizers were Malden CORE and GMAACC and they reached out to other organizations like the Arab women’s Association and the North shore Hispanic Association and other groups for support.

Hayes expressed that she “loved” the event and that she thought the candle lighting was beautiful. She said “everybody quietly came up the steps and placed them there, that was so moving.” Hayes said that Lam was her 100% focus. She made sure Lam was supported and that she was not nervous, she was right there so that she could focus and concentrate on what she needed to do. Hayes held a practice session in her backyard and explained that she was amazed by her singing. “She brought [her] to tears in [her] yard and to tears at the event.”

Vigil Handout

Keren He, an intern for Urban Media Arts, attended the candle lighting vigil as a photographer. She felt that the event was a very well organized and well-prepared event. She thought that “the whole scenery was beautiful and the music was on point and the prayer made by pastor Emily was also on point.” He was very impressed with the speakers from Malden High. She also thought that Mandy Sun gave a very powerful speech.

Billy Zeng is a Senior at Malden High, a youth board member and a youth leader of GMAACC. GMAACC was looking for youth representatives to speak at the event and he agreed to do it. At first, Zeng was a little hesitant because he was not sure what would happen at the event. He was afraid that there would be another anti-Asian attack. Zeng wanted to make a difference and share his voice which is why he decided to do the speech.

To Zeng, it was really inspiring to see the community get together for the event and he thought that the “collectiveness has a lot of power to it.” Zeng has been trying to stay off of social media because all the posts and the infographics have been very bad for his mental health. He tends to look on the positive side and he is “super appreciative of [his] GMAACC community and family.” He said “organizing with them has been really great because it really gave [him] the space to celebrate [his] Asian American identity” and going forward he wants to use his identity to influence community perspectives and do work in Malden.

Sammie Nie, a Junior at Malden High and also a member of Malden High for Racial Equity, gave a speech at the vigil about her experience as an Asian American. In her speech, she said “[they] are fighting against the force of hate with the power of love.” She also urged people to “continue to disrupt the practices that divide and villainize [them]” she also wants to remind everyone to “keep moving forward, acknowledge that the evils [they] are experiencing are just a small retaliation against just the beginning of a vigorous movement.” 

At first, Nie was very nervous about the event. She did not know what to write for her speech because she did not know how to put “[her] feelings and [her] experience and [her] history into this little speech.” With the help of a friend, she was able to piece everything together. Nie believes that “justice is on the precipice.”

Video submitted by Keren He.

Jenny Hsi, a staff member of GMAACC, thought that the event went really well. Hsi is actually not from Malden and this is the first time she got to see the community members show up to support this event. There were people of all ages and of all racial and ethnic backgrounds coming together. She thinks that the two main purposes for the event were to have an event where people can come together and be able to grieve collectively and honor the victims but also to have the opportunity to call community members to action. Hsi said she felt “very encouraged to see so many people show up and show their dedication” and she appreciates all the support from the Malden community and them showing up to recognize the seriousness and severity of this issue.

As a closing address at the vigil, the GMAACC encouraged people to keep being aware and to keep committing to taking action to address racism in the community. Hsi said “even as individuals, [people] can do a lot just by joining forces with local community groups for example both GMAACC and Malden CORE.” The GMAACC continues to host programs of various kinds that try to address anti racist issues including providing support to education reform efforts. The GMAACC and Malden CORE are connected with a group called Malden High Students for Racial Equity and they want to provide community based support for everything they are doing in the school because they understand how hard it could be to push for reform when the system is not necessarily the most responsive.

The event was co-sponsored by Asian American Resource Workshop (AARW), Asian Community Development Corporation (ACDC), Asian Task Force Against Domestic Violence (ATASK), Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center (BCNC), Chinese Culture Connection (CCC), Chinese Progressive Association (CPA), Greater Boston Legal Services Asian Outreach Unit (GBLS), First Lutheran Church Malden, First Parish UUA Church Malden, Just Us Somerville, Malden Neighbors Helping Neighbors (MNHN), Malden Police Alternatives and Accountability (MPAA), Mass Senior Action Council (MASC), Mystic Valley Progressives, NAACP, Mystic Valley Branch and National Asian Pacific Women’s Forum – Boston (NAPAWF Boston).

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