A recent surge in assaults and harassment of Asian Americans in Northern California has mobilized activists, organizers, and those that live there to keep their communities safe.
In one week in February, a 91-year-old man in Oakland Chinatown was brutally assaulted, a Thai man was attacked and killed in San Francisco and a Vietnamese woman was assaulted and robbed of $1,000 in San Jose.
The attacks pushed Jacob Azevedo to reach out on social media, offering to walk with anyone in the Oakland community who was feeling unsafe, especially older Asian Americans.
His Instagram post gained widespread attentionl, prompting four community members to reach out to him with organizing help.
And now, a month later, 700 people have signed up with Compassion in Oakland to escort older Asian Americans in the Bay Area community.
But that’s only a part of what Compassion in Oakland does, Jess Owyoung, one of the four people to reach out and help form CIO, told USA TODAY.
“What we’ve been doing is going out into Oakland Chinatown and just talking to business owners, talking to community members, talking to elderly, looking for places where we could be of help,” she said, detailing that CIO has also helped seniors translate police report forms and pick up groceries.
Hate crimes against Asian Americans are on the rise:Here’s what activists, lawmakers and police are doing to stop the violence
Violence against Asian Americans sharply increased beginning in March 2020 as COVID-19 spread across the country and some politicians blamed China for the pandemic, Russell Jeung, who created Stop AAPI Hate, told USA TODAY last month.
At least 2,808 incidents of anti-Asian American discrimination were recorded by the website from March 19 to Dec. 31, 2020. Another organization, Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian American Justice Center, recorded more than 3,000 hate incidents in its self-reporting system since late April 2020 — by far the highest number in the tool’s four-year history.
Attacks on Asian Americanshighlight rise in hate incidents amid COVID-19
“It’s unfortunate that this is happening, but it’s not something that is new,” Owyoung said, speaking of her own experience with racism. “I think it’s something that has exacerbated and it’s been brought further into the light.”
Activists and volunteer groups, like CIO, are raising awareness about these violent incidents to rally help – and in the case of CIO, seek unity.
“It’s only natural to have feelings of anger and hate, and to want to take action in maybe a negative way,” she said. “But we know that that’s not the solution and to fight hate with hate is not going to bring us closer to becoming a better country, or just a better community.”
Next, CIO plans to secure nonprofit status and expand its mission of safety and community around the nation. First up, they plan to advise the Greater Los Angeles Area on how to create its own community organization this week.
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They’ve also set up a donation page to help bring their efforts to older Asian Americans.
“A lot of the elderly that we see were stuck in their homes for a year. And some of these people have just been getting out there just for the first time,” Owyoung said.
But “there’s people that see that [older people] might be afraid or scared,” she said. “And we recognize that’s a fear that they might have and that we want to be there for them as a community.”
Contributing: N’Dea Yancey-Bragg, USA TODAY