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On Thursday, CAA kicked off the month of April with CAA’s town hall to amplify to address the surge in violence against Asians and Asian Americans. These acts of violence and harassment came to the fore last week with the shootings in Atlanta and the latest attack in New York where a man brutally attacked Vilma Kari, 65, while making racist remarks. The graphic attack can be seen in video footage – but what’s even worse is that the footage shows people witnessing the attack and doing nothing to help Kari.
CAA Amplify Town Hall offered the Asian Hollywood community and its allies the opportunity to talk about their experiences; express their concerns and offer a semblance of hope that could help strengthen action. Most importantly, it provided a platform for a community that has been silent for years to speak out.
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The town hall speakers included prominent Asians in the industry as well as allies who spoke on a wide variety of topics that led to this moment in time. At the top of town hall, Kevin Lin, co-head of CAA’s cultural business strategy group, spoke candidly and said the event will not solve all the problems and present all the answers. Instead, it was a platform for Asian voices, which have been historically silenced, to push for change.
Who We Are: A Cultural History of Race in Post-Civil America author and cultural strategist, Jeff Chang spoke with Shang-Chi Star Simu Liu explains how anti-Asian racism is not new. He unpacked truth after truth by citing the Chinese exclusion law of 1882 which impacted all Asians as well as how the murder of Vincent Chin. Two white men beat Chin to death in 1982 because they thought he was Japanese and accused him of taking their job. The two men committed murder. Meanwhile, Chin’s death still weighs heavily on the community.
Many other speakers such as Michelle Kwan, Lisa Ling, Maulik Pancholy, CEO and President of Time’s Up Tina Chen, Congressman Ted Lieu, Kelly Marie Tran, Jenny Yang, Brad Jenkins of RUN AAPI, Chloe Bennet and CEO by Rise Amanda Nguyen took to the virtual stage to talk about everything from intersectionality to representation to the need for alliance.
Many of those who participated in the town hall shared their own experiences of harassment and / or microaggressions of which they were the victims. At one point, Bennet stressed the importance of representation in Hollywood pointed out that Hollywood’s portrayal of Asia’s experience and history was told through a white lens.
Bennet said it was impossible to sum up what needs to be said about performance in a 10-minute panel – and that’s where the media, storytelling and the arts come in. “We have a big responsibility. in the stories we tell, ”she said, adding that many Asians have been presented with versions of themselves in media that have been primarily created by white people.
Jenkins added, “Our stories were written for us and they weren’t representative of who we really are and that leads people to hate us because they don’t know we really are.”
While speaking with Yang, Tran spoke about her experience of the toxic reaction she received when playing Rose Tico at the recent Star wars films – simply to exist as an Asian woman. Tran defended herself in a powerful New York Times article and garnered tremendous support from the Asian community.
In addition, intersectionality within the Asian community and solidarity with the black community were highlighted during the town hall. Musician HER, who is half Filipino and half black, spoke about her experiences and the importance of solidarity while actress and lawyer DeWanda Wise spoke with Bobby Hundreds, co-founder of The Hundreds ; Anurima Bhargava, president of Anthem of Us and Kwame Kwei-Armah, artistic director of Young Vic on the power of the alliance and how each of their experiences informed their sense of community.
To bring lightness to the town hall, Emily in Paris actress Ashley Park spoke to a charming Minari actor Alan Kim in a cheerful conversation. If anything, it showed us that the future of Asian Hollywood is in good hands.
At the town hall, CAA agent Cindy Uh, who attended a vigil for the victims of the Atlanta shooting, said she saw a sign during the vigil saying, “In our grief, we will fight for it. you.” It’s a phrase that speaks for a lot in the Asian community right now.
It’s no secret that I am a strong advocate for marginalized communities – especially the Asian and Asian American community. Being a Filipino American, the recent acts of violence have had a severe impact on me and all of my Asian siblings. On March 16, when Xiaojie Tan, Daoyou Feng, Delaina Ashley Yaun Gonzalez, Paul Andre Michels, Soon Chung Park, Hyun Grant, Suncha Kim and Yong Ae Yue were murdered, I, like the entire Asian community, suffered a devastating blow. I cried. I texted all of my Asian friends to make sure I tell them that I love them and see them. I contacted my parents and family to make sure they were okay.
I didn’t feel the need to write an article – there were no words to explain my grief, anger, and despair. The events in Atlanta amplified my feelings of sadness when George Floyd was murdered or when Breonna Taylor was killed. It amplified the grief I feel when I hear the all-too-common news of a murdered trans woman of color. It amplified the anger I feel when I see Latino children in cages. It amplified the anger I feel when this country tries to erase indigenous cultures. I wanted to close.
The Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University reports that anti-Asian hate crimes reported to police in major US cities have jumped nearly 150% in 2020. Since March of last year, over 3,800 anti-Asian incidents in the US Only states have been reported to the Stop AAPI Hate center. The point is, violence against Asians and anti-Asian racism have been part of a patchwork of white supremacy that has covered the country since its inception.
I was faced with a choice: either keep silent or use my voice. I chose the latter.
Too often Asians have been painted as servants. We put our heads down and get the job done without complaint. We don’t shake the table or steal the feathers, but now is the time to do both. If we don’t, our voices will not be heard and, therefore, no change will occur.
You may be interested in many organizations such as Stop the hate AAPI, Asian Americans Advance Justice, AAPI Women Lead, Send love to Chinatown, and Asian and Pacific American Women’s National Forum. Numerous GoFundMe Pages were launched for the victims of the Atlanta spa shooting and one launched for Vilma Kari. Beyond the donation, the ally is important. Education on Asian history is important. It is important to speak out against anti-Asian racism – or any other racism for that matter. Authentic representation is important. Publicize these issues. Otherwise, they will go unnoticed and we will be in the same situation a year from now.
As Lin said at the start of CAA Amplify’s Town Hall, this event wasn’t designed to give all the answers. It was designed to draw attention to the discovery of Asian oppression that has been buried for decades – oppression we felt we had no right to talk about. It is high time to face it and take the necessary steps to encourage the Asian community and its allies to stop being silent and take action.