Marchers decry intolerance against the Asian community at a weekend vigil in Santa Barbara.

Marchers decry intolerance against the Asian community at a weekend vigil in Santa Barbara. (Nell Campbell)

Members of the local Asian-American/Pacific Islander (AAPI) community and our allies stood in solidarity Saturday afternoon at the corner of State and Anapamu streets in a vigil against acts of hate and the murders of eight people in Atlanta, Gerogia, drawing attention to the six female victims of Asian descent.

The March 27 event was intended to raise visibility of the multinational AAPI presence in the Santa Barbara community. The AAPI community is not a monolithic block, but rather a patchwork of many traditions, languages and cultures.

AAPI members believed it was important to be seen by the greater community, as well as be seen by each other. Participants at the vigil were encouraged to wear white, the traditional color of mourning in many Asian cultures, while solemn music was played on an Asian flute.

“I think many AAPI members have been feeling that no one cared about the escalating violence against our community,” said co-organizer Karena Jew. “In our smaller cities that isolation can feel greater. But I think events like today’s reinforce that we can be stronger together as AAPI’s, using the same tools that are empowering other communities, but with our own spirit.”

“We are grateful that some 300 people turned out to recognize the issue of racially driven violence, to honor those who were recently murdered, to acknowledge the more than 3,800 hate incidents/crimes since the beginning of the pandemic, and to gather in peaceful reflection,” said co-organizer Sharon Hoshida.

Organizers of the event hoped to create a needed space for communal healing for the Santa Barbara AAPI community, and to potentially create a network of AAPI organizations and individuals that can respond together as a unified force in the face of violence.

“It was so wonderful to look around and see so many of our AAPI community coming together last Saturday, from small children to our elders.  So much gratitude, love and connectedness filled the air. Salamat po-” said co-organizer Judy Guillermo-Newton.

The organizers’ goal is to be seen in the Santa Barbara community as a unified, vocal and committed group of your AAPI neighbors, friends, coworkers, and family members who can no longer remain silent or be silenced as expressions of anti-AAPI hate permeate the community.

Microaggressions, implicit bias, overt and explicit racism do occur in people’s everyday lives, along with ageism, sexism and xenophobia that also intersect as part of the oppression and hate that too many AAPI members experience.

“I am outraged that the most vulnerable [elders and women] in our AAPI community have become the targets of hate. With this silent vigil, we wanted to create a strong visual image by calling the AAPI community to stand in solidarity against the propagation of the false narrative that we are a problem,” said co-organizer Juliet Velarde Betita.

Vigil organizers said they want to make it clear that they value and welcome the support of allies as they join in the effort to fight hate in all its forms and expressions directed against any targeted group.

Saturday’s vigil was for the hurting AAPI community. Organizers want it known that tomorrow they are the allies standing with others and their affinity groups in the fight against hate and intolerance.