An estimated 150 people braved the wind and cold to gather at the steps of the Idaho Capitol Building on Saturday evening for a vigil in response to the Atlanta shooting that killed eight people, six of which were Asian-American women.
The event was to mourn the loss of the victims that were killed in the shooting, as well as to show support for Boise’s Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community and raise awareness of the racial injustices they face.
The event was organized by Boise High School sophomore Wency Suo and had several speakers, including State Rep. Sue Chew and many local students.
According to Chew, several local junior high and high school students were able to participate in a question-and-answer style meeting held by Boise Mayor Lauren McLean and Boise Police Chief Ryan Lee on March 19 that was held to “discuss recent events and community concerns as well as share information with residents.” This gathering soothed some community anxiety and also gave space for the students to coordinate the idea for the event.
Speakers recounted stories of times they were made to feel unsafe or were made fun of because of their ethnicity or cultural background.
Some also spoke about the model minority myth, which falsely perpetuates the idea that Asians are not discriminated against because of stereotypes related to finances, education, family dynamics and more.
Others discussed racist and xenophobic language that had been used towards them because of or in relation to the coronavirus pandemic. Anti-Asian American hate crimes have risen by 150% over the past year in the United States, according to California State University’s Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism.
As one speaker said: “We can’t change the past, but we can acknowledge it and progress from it. No one is more American than the ‘other.’ They tell us to ‘go back to our country’ but all of us are Americans. America is our country.”
Organizers ended the night with two minutes of silence to honor the eight victims: Xiaojie Tan, Delania Yaun, Paul Andre Michels, Daoyou Feng, Yong Ae Yue, Hyun Jung Grant, Soon Chung Park and Suncha Kim.
A vigil and memorial service will also be held at the Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial in Boise on March 23 to commemorate the lives lost in Atlanta.
“Hopefully, with these events, community members can see who each other are and organize, in terms of safety planning and other things like that,” Chew said.