In 1975, following the end of the Vietnam war, thousands of South Vietnamese refugees were fleeing to the United States to start a new life. Today, the Vietnamese immigrant population in Seattle is large, second only to China as the country of origin for immigrants in our city. This month, Hoa Mai Vietnamese Bilingual Preschool will celebrate its sixth anniversary of serving children from 20 months to 5 years old. Located adjacent to the Mount Baker Light Rail Station, we are part of the Sound Child Care Solutions Consortium. At Hoa Mai, two of our core values are providing a joyful workplace and promoting social justice. I have had the honor of working for our organization for almost 11 years and am also the founding director of Hoa Mai.
Before we closed for the pandemic in March of 2020, things were happening quickly. Yet there was a lot of confusion and unknowns. We received very few guidelines about best safety practices from King County Public Health; there were also mixed messages regarding mask- wearing. At first, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) told us to save the masks for the medical field. There were also conversations about the possible negative impacts on young children seeing adults wearing masks. One of our employees from China expressed safety concerns and wanted to wear her mask, which I denied. It seems so trivial now, but it is the one regret I have about handling the pandemic — not immediately permitting masks to be worn.
(This piece was originally published in International Examiner and has been reprinted under an agreement.)
At a time when major institutions are scrambling to demonstrate awareness of Asian American concerns, you might think a school like Bellevue College (BC) could be a national model. Yet despite the leadership of Interim President Gary Locke, BC continues to face controversies over whether Asian American issues, and Asian American women’s voices, are being taken seriously.
A round-up of news and announcements we don’t want to get lost in the fast-churning news cycle!
NAPCA Launches Anonymous Online Reporting of Anti-Asian Violence Against AAPI Community
On Saturday, Sept. 4, the National Asian Pacific Center of Aging (NAPCA), a national nonprofit that “preserves and promotes the dignity, well-being, and quality of life of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) and diverse older adults,” launched an online anonymous form to help report incidents of violence against older members of the AAPI community. Their “in-language online report form” will be available in 29 AAPI languages, and the data collected will be used, they say, to gauge incidents of anti-Asian violence nationwide to help inform policy makers and community leaders.
From NAPCA: “According to a nationwide survey of AAPI adults conducted by NAPCA and its community partners (COMPASS Study, March 2021), 3 in 5 surveyed had experienced discrimination during the height of the pandemic. Yet due to factors such as language barriers and a cultural reluctance to report crimes, data on the scope and reach of violence have been inconsistent and imprecise.
“NAPCA has independently tracked 94 reported incidents of violence against AAPI adults ages 50 and older since February 2020, with 16 deaths and three people critically injured. The number of attacks against Asians is widely believed to be underreported due to cultural reluctance with many older adults being limited English proficient and anxious about involving law enforcement.
“With this anonymous in-language form, we are urging community members to come forward and report the violence they have been either victim or witness to, detailing their accounts in order to better grasp what has been unfolding.” Joon Bang, president and CEO of NAPCA
Over 30 photographs of those killed by police sat on steps in the foreground of a press conference organized by the family of Jesse Sarey, a Khmer American man shot and killed by Auburn police officer Jeff Nelson in 2019. The press conference took place on the front steps of the Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent, Washington.
“Since 2018, there’s been 107 names added to the list that police have killed; Jeff Nelson added Jesse to that list so he needs to be held accountable,” said Kelli Saeteurn, a family member of Sarey.
The City of Seattle declared April 21 Khoa Pham Day, in honor of his work as a small business owner, activist, and community leader dedicated to caring for Little Saigon and beyond.
Pham passed away at the end of March of a heart attack, said his sister Yenvy Pham. He was 35 years old.
After he graduated from college around 2008, Pham helped his family manage the Pho Bac restaurant business. “Khoa served as the chief financial officer of the Pho Bac Cooperation and was instrumental in the growth of the business in the past 13 years,” wrote Pham’s family in a tribute for his memorial service.
Pham’s family and friends remember him as a passionate advocate for the neighborhood, its people and businesses. A person who put others first, and a warm presence who loved bringing people together.
“He was always in the neighborhood, he was always doing things, he was always hanging out, and naturally was always there to help when things came up,” said his sister Yenvy.
by Rayna Mathis (Tagalog translation by April Jingco)
This is a speech I performed at Hing Hay Park for the #StopAsianHate rally organized by Seattle Rice Society on April 3, 2021. When asked to perform, I only had a few days to decide my direction, and once the anxiety settled, I realized that the only, genuine approach I could offer was to tell everyone about the person I love most in this world: my mom. We experience the world quite differently and even though we may not always understand the other’s experiences, I have never doubted for a second how much my mom and I love each other.
I have always been proud of my mother. At just 19, she followed her family across the ocean to come to the States, where she enjoyed a successful career, earned two degrees, raised four children, and now dotes on six grandchildren. She is the strongest and easily the funniest person I know. She can make anything out of scratch and to this day, still won’t even give ME her recipes. I fight her for them every few weeks. She is observant and calculated, brave and humble, and shows her love in food. When it was time for her to finally retire in this country, she knew it was time to travel back across those same waters that first brought her here, to return home. I have always wondered since she left, does she feel the time here was worth it all?
As anti-Asian hate crimes steadily rose at the beginning of the pandemic — and then when the shootings in Atlanta happened — I thought of my mother. I felt grateful that she was out of harm’s way away from the violence here, tucked away safely in the Philippines, but I missed her even more so in these moments. The 15-hour time difference meant constantly doing the math to figure out the best times to call each other. On top of that, the pandemic had separated us across two different continents for over a year now. And all I wanted was to lay across my mother’s lap again, falling into a food coma she put me in, only to wake up to her banging around pots in the kitchen already plotting the next meal.
After hearing of the shootings in Atlanta, the first thing that rose up in my mind was the very real impact of racist, sexist, and xenophobic stereotypes upon Asian and Pacific Islander women and how those impacts can range from microaggressions to disappearances to murders. I am angry and grieving. I have known women who worked in massage parlors and the sex industry and I felt this loss deeply. I am also so very angry about the way people are reluctant to see this as a hate crime.
In response to a disturbing recent rise in hate crimes against Asians and Asian Americans locally and across the U.S., Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and other local leaders this week condemned attacks in Seattle and Washington State. A series of marches and rallies are planned across King County this weekend calling for investment in and resources for Asian communities and solidarity across racial lines with the victims and families of those who have suffered from the attacks.
“We saw this ugly trend surge a year ago, when COVID-19 first emerged in our state,” Inslee said in a written statement. “One year later, we have a vaccine for the virus — but racism is still running rampant. We must all condemn the acts of hate and violence displayed in the rising incidence of anti-Asian hate crimes in both Washington State and across the country.”
by Joseph Shoji Lachman (ACRS), Derek Lum (InterIm CDA), Velma Veloria (EEC),Tweetie Fatuesi (UTOPIA Seattle), and other AAPI Candidate Forum planning committee members
For many of us in the South Seattle area and in Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, 2020 has been a tough year in unprecedented ways. Events such as wildfires, presidential election politics, and of course above all else, the outbreak of COVID-19, have undoubtedly transformed our lives. Many of our community members are experiencing discrimination and economic distress that we haven’t felt in decades, and countless small businesses and organizations are struggling to survive. These difficulties are only magnified further for AAPIs without many of the protections that come with American citizenship and English fluency.