More than 100 students, as well as Pastor Mary Hulst, President Le Roy and other university leaders, gathered on Commons Lawn Wednesday morning to show support for Asian and Asian American students.
The event was the result of a collaboration between several student organizations, such as the Chinese Student Association, Korean Student Association and Southeast Asian Student Association, the Asian American Association affinity group sponsored by the Center for Intercultural Student Development and the Bersama Fellowship, a fellowship group of Indonesian, Malaysian and Singaporean seminary and undergraduate students.
“Although our Asian student associations are incredibly diverse and serve different purposes and missions, one thing that was clear to all of us was that we aren’t in this alone,” AAA Vice President Grace Kim told Chimes. “So, the idea that we created was a stand-in to demonstrate our stance against Asian hate. In addition, we also saw this as an opportunity for non-Asian American and Pacific Islander students to express their support and stand in solidarity with other Asian and Asian American students on campus.”
According to Kim, the unification of the organizations for the event was intended to amplify voices and promote action in the Calvin community.
After hearing from community members at the Stop Asian Hate Processing and Prayer Event on April 1, the student leaders who organized Wednesday’s event wanted to find a way to show support. “We want our students to know that we are there for them and we grieve with them,” the leaders who organized Wednesday’s event, including Grace Kim and Katie Brooks of AAA, Joshua Kim and Esther Cha of KSA, Moses Yang of CSA, Rohan Mall and Keziah Paul of SASA, and Denny Tawas of Bersama Fellowship, said in a statement shared with Chimes.
The leaders of the event had to go through the COVID-19 event approval process, book Commons Lawn, and receive approval from each of the organizations’ respective advisors. They also collaborated with Campus Ministries to use chapel break as a gathering time.
Keziah Paul, the vice president of SASA, said, “[the gathering was] more than a reaction to the recent hate crimes against the AAPI community. It is a reminder of the inherent value of the AAPI community and its decades-long contribution to the larger American community.”
Freshman Abby Tam, who is Chinese American, spoke at the event about finding her voice to speak out about anti-Asian racism after years of hiding her pain. “None of this is new,” Tam said about the crimes against Asian Americans now making the news, “My oppression is nothing new.”
Esther Cha, secretary of the Korean Student Association, also addressed the crowd about the “terrifying increase” in crimes against people of Asian descent in the last year. “We are not a virus. We are not a model minority. We are not a joke,” Cha said.
Grounded in faith, the event included a moment of silence and brief remarks from Hulst, who, recalling microaggressions against her Korean American sister, emphasized the necessity of the Calvin community committing to speak up, while leaving vengeance in the hands of God.
Along with the difficulties of hosting events and building community during a pandemic, Katie Brooks, president of AAA, said, “The rise in violence against the Asian community has given our group even more pressure and made our mission even more important.”
Brooks nonetheless remains hopeful: “In the midst of everything that has been happening, supporting each other and uplifting each other’s voices is a powerful thing that I hope continues to be a growing trend in our community.”
In their statement shared with Chimes, the event’s student leaders said that awareness, intervention and participation are good ways for non-AAPI students to support their AAPI peers. “Injustices can happen anywhere,” the statement said, “and stepping in and stopping the situations from happening is a powerful thing that non-AAPI students can do to help support the Asian community.”
Moses Yang, the president of CSA, emphasized the many opportunities to learn that Asian student organizations at Calvin provide.“Our missions are to provide opportunities for students to learn while doing fun activities. One unique knowledge that Calvin provides the students is the knowledge we learn from each other,” said Yang.