On the morning of March 27, hundreds of people gathered in front of Saratoga’s City Hall to protest the recent surge of violence and discrimination against Asian Americans in the United States.
Organized by the cities of Saratoga, Cupertino, Los Gatos, Campbell and Monte Sereno, the Stop AAPI Hate event attracted over 400 attendees, including U.S. Representative Anna Eshoo, State Senator David Cortese and Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith, among others. The rally was hosted by Saratoga Mayor Yan Zhao, and YAPA sponsored and organized the rally with the support of other youth organizations like BAYouth and FASCA.
The event began with a rhythmic Chinese drum performance to showcase Asian cultures and was followed by messages of anti-racism to promote unity within the Bay Area community. In her opening speech, Saratoga Mayor Yan Zhao talked about her experiences with discrimination in Saratoga when she first ran for office, recalling an incident in which a Caucasian man told her that he would not vote for her because she was Asian and demanded that she move to Cupertino if she wanted to run for city council.
“I am the mayor of Saratoga,” Zhao said. “If I cannot feel safe walking down the streets in my city, how can I tell my residents that our city is safe? We have to speak up now. We have to ask our community to stand in solidarity with us.”
For many attendees, the event was not merely about the recent violence targeting the AAPI community. With racism at the root of U.S. history, to them, the event was also about acknowledging America’s storied past of discrimination and working together for a better future. Speaking with YAPA students, Foothill De Anza School Board member Gilbert Wong shared his personal experiences growing up as a second-generation Asian American.
“When I was growing up in East San Jose in the 1970s, I was the only Asian kid going to a public school,” Wong said. “Half of the students were Latinos, and half of my classmates were Anglos. I was the only Asian kid, and I was poked fun of because of my eyes and my funny last name of Wong — I felt very lonely. I never complained to my teachers, and it really hurt my self identity. I wish I didn’t stay quiet.”
Times have changed. Wong, along with the hundreds of others who took to Saratoga’s City Hall, spoke up at the Stop AAPI Hate rally to unite America moving forward.
“‘E pluribus unum’: Out of many, one,” Eshoo said. “That is our north star. How proud I am to represent a community that has a conscience, understanding what we have wrong and what we have to make right.”
Additionally, YAPA organized an informational webinar and community forum on the evening of March 28 titled “AAPI Hate: How to Move Forward.” The event featured the below panelists.
Otto Lee: Santa Clara County Supervisor
Max Leung: a long-time grassroots organizer within the anti-Asian hate space, Max organizes and provides leadership to many SF safety patrol groups.
Mary Jessie Celestin: the founder of San Jose Strong, a grassroots organization to reinvent San José for and by the community.
Jay Boyarsky, Chief Assistant District Attorney, representing Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen’s Office
The forum was attended by over 50 and provided an opportunity for community members to share their thoughts and for organizers and officials to have a discussion on the best way to approach healing as a community from the recent hate incidents and solving the systemic issues and narratives that enabled them.
As an organization that prioritizes lifting unheard perspectives in policy and advocacy, YAPA will continue to sponsor and support Anti-AAPI hate initiatives across the Bay Area and in online spaces.
Learn more about YAPA’s AAPI events and efforts here.
Read more about the 3/27 rally here.
Written by Bennie Chang and Esther Luan