Solidarity and Community as a Healing Balm in Atlanta


Featured image via Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Atlanta.

March 16th marked the one year anniversary of the spa shootings in Atlanta which killed 8 people including 6 Asian female massage workers. Over the past year, organizations and individuals from the Atlanta area provided services and support to survivors and families of victims. Through our SolidarityIs project, we have been participating in the National Asian American Leaders Table which was created in March 2020 to address COVID-19 related bigotry targeting Asian American communities. Part of our work has included supporting local organizations and generating solidarity-based narratives to address the anti-Asian hate, which continues to be on the rise, one year after the Atlanta shootings. In fact, a new report by National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) found that nearly 75% of the AAPI women surveyed have experienced racism and/or discrimination over the last twelve months.

On Saturday, March 12th 2022, Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Atlanta (AAAJ-ATL) hosted a Community Remembrance Day to mark the one year anniversary of the Atlanta spa shootings and to honor the lives of the victims, their families, and community members. The event included artwork and messages of grief, healing, solidarity, hope, and joy. BMP’s Deepa Iyer joined a group of individuals and organizations in supporting AAAJ-ATL, holding space, and cultivating a community of care.

As we continue to mark anniversaries of bigotry and violence, we must acknowledge that they are rooted in a history of systemic violence and oppression, and that they demand a response anchored in solidarity. Deepa evoked many of these themes in her remarks at the Community Remembrance Day in Atlanta. An excerpt follows:

Every time acts of bigotry and violence happen, we ask ourselves: why is this happening to us, why is it happening again. And while there will never be a satisfactory answer, there are explanations. The history of othering and exclusion that Asian Americans have faced – both interpersonally and at the hands of government policies – is clear to all of us.

We know about the anti-Asian mobs that chased our ancestors out of towns in the early 20th century.

We know about the bigotry that led to the murders of Asian Americans like Vincent Chin and Joseph Ileto in the 80s and 90s.

We know about the backlash after the September 11th attacks that led to unprecedented bias against Muslims, Sikhs and South Asians.

We know this history deep in our bones.

And, we know something else. That in the midst of immense tragedy, we always create ecosystems of care, support and determination.

That ecosystem emerged in Atlanta over the past year:

  • Frontline responders raised money and resources for grieving families.
  • Healers provided counseling support with cultural and linguistic awareness.
  • Builders created programs in the midst of a pandemic to conduct outreach.
  • Storytellers shared the layers of grief and loss community members experienced
  • Disrupters called for action from policymakers and elected officials to address the root causes of hate: white supremacy, misogyny, xenophobia and economic disparities.
  • Weavers reminded us that our pain and our survival are interconnected with the pain and survival of other communities of color experiencing oppression

When we create ecosystems of care and community in the midst of tragedy, we are making a choice.

We choose love over division. We choose action instead of apathy. We choose connection rather than isolation. We choose solidarity instead of retreating into silos.

Today, we reflect and remember. And tomorrow, we find a role to play, we gather our ecosystem around us, and we take another step towards justice and liberation.

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