On the morning of Saturday, April 24, a gloomy overcast morning finally made way for a sunny day and messages calling for unity during a rally to protest the recent rise attacks and racism against Asians. The rally took place at the Colton Hall lawn and over 100 people gathered on the grass, setting up lawn chairs or finding seats along the garden wall, to listen to local voices from across the Asian and Pacific Islander experience.
Speakers at the rally included representatives of the Asian Cultural Experience or ACE, CSU Monterey Bay, the city of Monterey and others. The lineup was also a show of the diversity within the Asian Pacific Islander demographic with a range of ethnicities, immigration and citizenship experiences and more.
CSUMB professor Angie Tran, spoke about her experience in the Vietnam war, arriving as a refugee or "boat person," as she called it. Tran later became a citizen after several years in the U.S. Something which she says would not be possible without the support of Black Americans who urged president Jimmy Carter to create a clear pathway to citizenship for refugees like her. "I have a deep gratitude for the African American community," said Tran. "They could not compartmentalize their own refugees."
Ajit Abraham, a lecturer from CSUMB reminded the crowd that instances of racist scapegoating is not new. Abraham, who identifies as Desi, or someone from a South Asian country, half-jokingly said "I'm Asian," pointing out that he knows stereotypically people do not see him as Asian because he is Indian. But he referenced recent history. After 9-11, there were attacks on the Sikh community, because they were visibly different. That sort of racism is the same as the recent racist attacks we're seeing today, he argued.
"It's white supremacy," he said. "My son told me 'no, dad, don't use that word. It's too strong of a word.' He's got to name it to understand it. Let's keep it that way. We can't just watch it. We must publicly go against white supremacy."'
Other speakers included Monterey assistant city manager Nat Rojanasathira, Monterey councilmember Tyller Williamson, ACE's Jason Agapoa, Pacific Grove's Gerry Low-Sabado and Japanese American Citizens League's Larry Oda. The rally ended with a speech by Congressman Jimmy Panetta.
Celia Jiménez contributed to this report.