In light of the increase in anti-Asian attacks in New York, the MinKwon Center for Community Action, in partnership with the Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce and other community organizations, launched a new campaign on Thursday, February 4 to creating safe spaces in the community, in addition to organizing “Know Your Rights” sessions on immigration, housing and safety.
Hate Free Zones will work alongside small businesses in Flushing and other community organizations that provide support to the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community to create sanctuary spaces and start conversations about what it means to reopen Flushing from the “right way,” after the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic devastated small businesses.
The project aims to create an inclusive and welcoming Flushing community to directly counter the xenophobia directed against the AAPI community.
According to John Park, Executive Director of the MinKwon Center, the increase in violent hate crimes against the AAPI community is a city-, state-, and country-wide problem that has spiraled out of control with no lack of accountability. The solution, says Park, is to come together as a community to fight hate.
“If you can’t do it through policy, you have to do it by moving the needle of a culture from a community and activating our members,” Park said. “In this new Lunar New Year, the Year of the Tiger, we are going to move forward in a different way and rebuild in a different way, but in the right way, and because Flushing is an international community, we have that legacy of our commitment to always protect those who are vulnerable or at risk of prosecution, we will continue this commitment.
The MinKwon Center and the Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce, along with their partners, will launch an engagement campaign and visibility campaign while targeting at least 20% of Flushing businesses to participate in the Hate Free initiative Zoned. The center will also distribute “Know Your Rights” brochures to business owners to display in their windows and in-store. Posters and brochures are translated into English, Chinese, Korean, Bangla and Spanish.
Many small business owners who may have experienced hate or witnessed verbal or physical abuse will learn how to be safe and report an incident, said Jennifer Sun, Co-Executive Director of Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE).
“It starts with each of us in the community, building those relationships and breaking the isolation,” Sun said.
John Choe, executive director of the Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce, said the message was clear: Hate has no place in Flushing.
“We stand for Black Lives Matter, our Latino neighbors matter, and Asian American hatred is something we all need to stand up against,” Choe said. “In 1657, the people of Flushing rose up against the authoritarian regime of Peter Stuyvesant, who told them to persecute Quakers and other religious minorities. It was the people here in Flushing who said, no, we have our rights, and we will protect our brothers and sisters, whether they are Muslims, Jews or Christians – welcome them with love and open arms.
Hailie Kim, a Sunnyside resident and housing organizer for the MinKwon Center, said she hopes other communities will use Flushing’s new hate-free zone as a model for themselves, after recalling an incident that happened there. several weeks on the way to work. .
“A man was screaming about the shape of the eyes of people from East Asia and it was around the time when we couldn’t go a day without another member of our AAPI community being attacked,” Kim said. “I was hoping he would pass me.”
Growing up in Sunnyside, Kim said she developed a naïve sense of security, while her parents were always alert when walking outside.
While walking to a coffee shop last summer, Kim recalled an Asian man approaching her saying someone was shouting racial slurs at her.
“He said ‘let me pass you by because he’s right there.’ That’s when I felt like my very safe and loving community was starting to see some of that,” Kim said.
In another incident five years ago, Kim’s mother, a nail technician, was verbally abused by a woman as she went to meet a client on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.
“She would dread going to work in the morning because this woman would follow her, harass her and shout racial slurs,” Kim said.
Tasnia Muskan, a CUNY student who immigrated to the United States from Bangladesh in 2015, said her first experience of hate crime and discrimination happened long before she came to America. Muskan’s uncle, a Muslim man with no connection to Middle Eastern terrorists, escaped from the United States in January 2002, unable to bear the discrimination that followed the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center.
“I never understood the connection at the time between the fact that he was a Muslim and the terrorists being Muslim and why that made him give up on his dream of building a life for his family,” Muskan said. “At the time, I considered him a coward until I moved to the United States and was called an ISIS member by the people I call my everyday friends.”
According to Muskan, such racial, religious and cultural discrimination has unfortunately become a constant in the life of every immigrant, whether through direct physical harm or through indirect judgement, neglect and discrimination.
“Like my community, most South Asian communities in New York City, including my own mother and I, choose not to wear our cultural clothes, because of fear of people on the street, store employees and people in the workplace who earn ‘don’t take us seriously, or think we’re uneducated and new to the country and don’t know anything,’ Muskan said. and our Western culture as a shield against the world, while simultaneously crushing our own identities and values, not to mention the slowly diminishing cultural identities of the future generation.”
With the recent spike in hate crime discrimination, Muskan reiterated the importance of communities supporting and standing together, a message that community leaders and local elected officials have echoed at past rallies in support of communities. black and brown, Jewish and Asian. .
In a statement, Senator John Liu said the fight against hate and discrimination will not just fade away and requires a daily commitment from everyone to remain vigilant, educated and engaged in living in a society that values diversity as strength and virtue.
“Here in Queens, we are among the most diverse communities in the world. So what better place to start the battle against hate and discrimination than here and now? Liu said. “So we are here in Flushing to say enough is enough. It is the responsibility of all of us, regardless of race, color or creed, to stand up, speak out and fight back on behalf of all New Yorkers. »
Newly elected Councilor Sandra Ung said she was hopeful in the establishment of the Flushing Hate Free Zone.
“It will bring together a diverse community, to support and protect each other. Exposing and bringing down those who seek to divide and hurt the community through bigotry and racism. Hate has no place in Flushing,” Xing Ying Wu, a community liaison worker, said on behalf of Ung at the press conference.