On March 16, a gunman killed eight people in a series of shootings at Atlanta-area spas. Six of those killed were Asian women. Since then, vigils and memorials for the victims have sprung up in Georgia, Pennsylvania, California, New York, Washington D.C., and beyond.
Miami-Dade residents Esther Park and Max Pierre are planning their own tribute: an evening run in Miami Beach in honor of the shooting victims and others who have experienced anti-Asian hate since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. This Friday, March 26, they're hosting a 5K at 6 p.m. Anyone interested can meet at Simply Good Pizza inside the Lincoln Eatery, 723 N. Lincoln Lane.
Pierre, a co-owner of the pizza restaurant and a local promoter, says he and Park initially invited a few friends who wanted to show solidarity with the Asian-American community, but ultimately they decided to open it to the public.
"I just know I have dear friends that feel the way that I feel and hope they'll make the time to show up," Pierre says. "If it's a small group, I know it'll be a concerned and passionate group. If it's a big group, that'll be great as well. I'm just happy we're creating the space and taking a stand."
The Atlanta killings took place against the backdrop of a rise in anti-Asian racism and attacks that have occurred since the start of the pandemic. Stop AAPI Hate, a nonprofit that tracks incidents of hate, discrimination, and violence against Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders in the U.S., says it received nearly 3,800 reports of hate incidents from March 19, 2020 to February 28, 2021.
Park, who is Korean-American (and a former New Times contributor), says part of Asian culture is being trained to keep your head down, work hard, and not rock the boat. But the previous U.S. president demonized Asians, and especially Chinese people, throughout his years in office. Donald Trump regularly called the coronavirus the "China virus" and the "kung flu."
"He was no-holds-barred and almost justifying anti-Asian hate," Park says.
She thinks it's a positive development that people are now reporting incidents of hate and violence toward them. She believes it's time to speak up.
"A lot of immigrant cultures take their traumas, bottle them up, and then they metastasize," she says. "This is what we can't do anymore."
Friday's event isn't a protest or a march, but the run is its own form of justice. Park and Pierre see the 5K as an opportunity to run for those who can no longer run for themselves, like the eight people who were murdered in Atlanta.
"It's a personal thing, because you're showing your own sense of compassion and empathy," Park says. "You're standing up for something that is genuinely wrong. I'm a huge believer in collective action and symbolic gestures. We need to counter negative symbolic gestures with positive symbolic gestures."
Pierre says he wants Friday's event to be an inclusive one. Anyone is welcome; you don't have to be a runner or serious athlete to go. People are invited to walk, jog, or skip along the route.
And if you're looking to donate to help Asian-American and Pacific Islander communities in the U.S., GoFundMe has put together a list of fundraisers.
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