A group of activists is set to host a virtual vigil on March 26 to honor the victims of the Atlanta spa shootings, an event slated to feature participation by a number of Korean American leaders and highlight that four of the people killed were of Korean descent.
The shootings, which took place on March 16, came amid a marked rise in anti-Asian hate crimes and harassment that has been linked to the COVID-19 pandemic. Research conducted by the coalition Stop AAPI Hate tracked over 3,700 “hate incidents” against Asian Americans between March 2020 and February 2021. The majority of these incidents targeted women.
“The mass shooting that happened last week shows how the Asian Americans are still seen as the ‘other’ despite the long history of immigrant history in the U.S.,” Jung Wook Lee, a national vice chair of the Korean American Coalition and a board member of the group’s Atlanta chapter, said in a statement announcing the event.
“We hope that in addition to honoring the victims, the vigil provides an opportunity for all to come together and fight against racist rhetoric and attitude toward Asian Americans and prevent another senseless loss of lives,” Lee added.
In total, eight people were killed in the shootings, which took place at three spas in the metropolitan Atlanta area. Seven of the victims were women, six of whom were of Asian descent. The names of the victims were Daoyou Feng, Hyun Jung Grant, Suncha Kim, Paul Andre Michels, Soon Chung Park, Xiaojie Tan, Delaina Yaun and Yong Ae Yue. A ninth woman, Elcias Hernandez-Ortiz, was wounded.
The vigil, which will be streamed live on the website 326vigil.org, is part of a series of events that are being planned for March 26, which Asian American leaders and organizations have declared the “#StopAsianHate National Day of Action and Healing.” While the vigil will feature an “intersectional” program including local Latino, Jewish and Muslim leaders, among others, it will center on the toll the Atlanta shootings have taken on the Korean American community.
“These were our aunties, our grandmas, our mothers, our sisters, our brothers. As a Korean American, I am calling on everyone to join hearts with our community in my home state of Georgia to honor these precious lives. Let’s come together as one to grieve and remember them,” said Grace Choi, one of the vigil organizers.
Choi, who led outreach to Asian American and Pacific Islander communities for Georgia’s Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Stacey Abrams, in 2018, is one of several veteran political operatives involved in the event. The program will also include Martha Revelo, an outreach director in the office of Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock, who is among the lawmakers who have pushed back against comments from FBI Director Christopher Wray that it “does not appear” the shootings were racially motivated.
“We all know hate when we see it,” Warnock said in an appearance on “Meet the Press” on Sunday. “It is tragic that we’ve been visited by this kind of violence yet again.”
Investigations into the shootings are ongoing.
Hannah Kim, another organizer of the event and the Asian American and Pacific Islander communications director of Joe Biden’s presidential campaign, said she was touched by the support the Korean American community has received since the shootings.
“While the entire nation is grieving, the Korean American community is especially shaken by our loss,” said Kim. “I am proud that Koreans all around the country and world are uniting to mourn and heal together. It’s also comforting and beautiful to receive overwhelming support from other communities. I see hope for humanity.”
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