LOS ANGELES — On March 16, eight people were killed when a gunman went on a shooting spree at spas and massage parlors near Atlanta, Ga. Six of those victims were Asian women.
Less than a month later, as the country attempts to reckon with rising accounts of hateful attacks against Asian-American and Pacific Islander communities, a coalition of organizations is gathering to mourn and organize.
The April 2nd Memorial Service in Honor of AAPI Women will take place at Koreatown’s Liberty Park, on the 3700 Block of Wilshire Blvd from 10 a.m. to noon. The event is hosted in part by the Pilipino Workers Center and Clergy & Laity United for Economic Justice, with support from more than a dozen other religious groups, labor groups, and community organizations.
The significance of the day, which falls during Passover for the Jewish faith and Good Friday in the Christian faith, is not lost on the organizers.
“But the theme of our memorial service is to talk about these six Asian women not as victims of the hate crimes, but as people, as women with a legacy,” said Mary Duong, of CLUE Justice. “Their lives contributed to their society, with their hard work, and their deaths confronted society with the unjust systems of racism in our country. They’re pushing us to stand up and advocate for concrete change in our society.”
That advocacy, Duong said, will go beyond the stories of anti-Asian violence that have risen in the past year of the COVID pandemic, but of deportation and targeting in the criminal justice system.
“As a Vietnamese woman myself, I’m thinking of my Vietnamese refugee community,” Duong said.
Though Vietnamese immigrants have a complex and nuanced history within the United States, Duong knows these are people who risked their lives seeking refuge from a war between the U.S. and a violent communist regime. “They came here and tried to rebuild their families and rebuild a new community here.”
She will also be thinking of those women working in spas and nail salons, who have been denigrated for their hard work and skills, derided as lesser than others.
“I keep that in mind…not just Asian women, but Asian women with a lot of love and power and strength, that rewrites the history and the story of our communities,” Duong said.
It’s important to note, Duong added, that the names of the women killed in Georgia will not be publicized during the memorial. That, she said, will be in keeping with cultural traditions and privacy requests made by the families of the victims.
For more information, visit the event page, hosted on Facebook.