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Asian American Women Lead ‘Stop Asian Hate’ March in Cleveland’s AsiaTown

Miran Kim moved from New York to Cleveland in 2020. [Gabriel Kramer / ideastream]
Miran Kim moved from New York to Cleveland in 2020. [Gabriel Kramer / ideastream]

Standing with about 1,000 people at the start of a “Stop Asian Hate” march in Cleveland’s AsiaTown Sunday afternoon, Miran Kim held a sign that read “Loud Asian Woman.” 

She made it clear that this is no time to be quiet.

About 1,000 people attended the ‘Stop Asian Hate March’ in Cleveland. [Gabriel Kramer / ideastream]

“It’s time for us to make noise, take up space and that’s how I want to be,” Kim said.

The activists and allies gathered in a parking lot across the street from the former Dave’s Supermarket on Payne Avenue before the march. The rally featured 12 speakers – mostly Asian women.

Marchers went up and down streets between Payne and Superior avenues. [Gabriel Kramer / ideastream]

“We were really intentional about centering Asian women in our speeches,” said Karis Tzeng, Director of AsiaTown Initiatives for the MidTown Cleveland Community Development Corporation.

Annie Choi, a student at Case Western Reserve University, appreciated that effort.

“Minority women in general have a different experience than minority men have and for them to be able to speak their truths and their perspectives, I think was really important and very empowering,” Choi said.

Lydia Kang, who represented the Korean Central Presbyterian Church, spoke about how her parents and grandparents moved to the United States and were prevented, because of the language barrier, from speaking up when they faced racism.

“Our generation has a responsibility to stand up for our parents, for our elders,” Kang said. “I pledge to fight for healing for our generational pain.”

While standing up for older generations was a key point, the rally also made clear the importance of educating younger generations.

Eric Shang of Shaker Heights and his wife, Krista, attended the march with their two children.

The Shang family of Shaker Heights attended the march. [Gabriel Kramer / ideastream]

“Given everything that’s happening in the country, they may be exposed to this themselves at a much younger age than we really would like,” Shang said. “I think it’s really good to expose them to why we’re here.”

After speeches in the parking lot, Kang and his family joined the others in a march up and down neighborhood streets between Payne and Superior avenues. Masked marchers chanted and held signs in English and Asian languages declaring “Stop Asian Hate” and “Don’t Wait ‘Til I’m a Hashtag.”

Some of the chants during the march included “Stop Asian hate, end white violence.” [Gabriel Kramer / ideastream]

The march came just a week after a mass shooting at three Atlanta-area spas in which eight people, six of them women of Asian descent, were killed. Their deaths were profound in a year in which racism and violence toward Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) grew at an alarming rate.

“I’ve been feeling the fear and the anger for all of the pain that we’ve endured over the past year, not just from seeing our elders being targeted by individuals in the streets, but from the systemic and institutional violence against us,” Tessa Xuan, a co-director of the Ohio Progressive Asian Women’s Leadership (OPAWL), said to the crowd. “Violence which has demonized, violence which has exploited, violence which has deported, killed and tried to erase us.”

Tessa Xuan (middle with white mask) was the last speaker of the pre-march rally. [Gabriel Kramer / ideastream]

Earlier this month, Cleveland City Council passed an emergency resolution to condemn racism, xenophobia and hate crimes “especially against Asians and Asian American Pacific Islanders during this pandemic.”

Several organizations were part of the planning for the march, including AsiaTown Cleveland, Ohio Progressive Asian Women’s Leadership, OCA Greater Cleveland (an AAPI advocacy organization formerly known as the Organization for Chinese Americans), Asian Services in Action and Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs.

The online Stop AAPI Hate reporting center logged 3,795 incidents instances of AAPI hate in the U.S. from March 19, 2020 to February 28, 2021. [Gabriel Kramer / ideastream]

They asked for support and solidarity with the AAPI communities, but that won't be enough. They also encouraged those in attendance to reach out to lawmakers to demand additional resources for AAPI communities that would help them thrive and stay safe.

“We need to go beyond just words,” said Manoa Hui of OPAWL. “We need to go beyond just resolutions. You can make as many resolutions as you want and the quality of our life is not going to improve. It is not going to stop Asian hate.” 

Gabriel Kramer is a reporter/producer and the host of “NewsDepth,” Ideastream Public Media's news show for kids.