The Campus Y hosted a share circle and vigil on Sunday night to honor the victims of a recent Atlanta shooting — six of whom were women of Asian descent.
The event created space for the UNC Asian American community and allies to grieve and reflect in the wake of increased violence against Asian Americans across the country.
The UNC Asian American Center has a resources page with information on support for mental health and reporting hate crimes.
Kimberly Cang, a junior studying chemistry and sociology and one of the organizers of the event, said the shooting created a sense of urgency for Asian American students to connect with peers and feel supported by community members.
“We just knew that we needed a space on campus where Asian Americans could organize, because throughout my history at UNC, as well as my friends’, we’ve never had a space for Asian American students to come together and organize,” Cang said.
At 6:30 p.m., a crowd trickled onto Polk Place with each party settled 6 feet apart from the next. After introducing guidelines for the event, organizers invited members of the Asian American community to speak into a microphone on the top step of South Building.
Some read poems about their identities and experiences as Asian American individuals. Some spoke about the importance of solidarity among communities of color. Others expressed frustration and anger at the lack of attention given to Asian American history and culture in K-12 and higher education.
Caitlin Williams, a doctoral candidate in the Gillings School of Global Public Health, spoke about the repeated discrimination against Asian American communities throughout U.S. history. She said speaking at the event was an opportunity to express the fear that many Asian Americans have felt throughout the past year.
“I think like many other Asian Americans, as soon as I heard the former president call COVID the 'China flu' or the 'Kung flu,' I knew that we were in for it,” Williams said. “And that sense of fear has been knowing in the pit of my stomach ever since then. And so, to have a chance to finally speak that truth out loud and have other people hold that truth with me, to not have to be afraid by myself, was so very powerful.”
At 7:45 p.m., organizers began the vigil. Tea light candles were distributed to attendees. An organizer stood on the steps of the building and read the names of each victim from the Atlanta shooting. As she read each name, a bell was rung and a candle was lit.
Immediately after, while Polk Place still glowed with candles, sophomore music performance and advertising and public relations student Nuria Shin took the microphone and sang John Lennon’s “Imagine.”
Natalie Gauger, a senior environmental studies student and an organizer of the event, said the number of individuals who came to the event was inspiring and necessary.
“I’m really happy with how tonight went, and again, really proud and grateful for everyone who spoke,” Gauger said. “And it just reminded me of the power that some communities here at UNC have.”
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