On Sunday March 28 from 2 PM to 4 PM, the Asian American Pacific Islander Youth Rising rally was held at Aquatic Park in Berkeley. It began with a series of speeches, and ended with a march to the San Francisco Bay Pedestrian Footbridge to display banners and signs. The rally attracted a diverse crowd, and there were over 1,200 people of all ages and races in attendance.
This event stands out from the numerous rallies being held in the wake of anti-Asian violence, as it featured so many young people speaking out against discrimination. It was initiated by a group of seventh graders from Berkeley private school Black Pine Circle: Mina Fedor, and her friends Bee Norton Tsang, Anna Hill, Juno Yu, and Mila Cavagnaro.
People participated enthusiastically, waving signs with slogans such as “my ethnicity is not a virus,” “unite in love,” and “white silence is violence.” Additionally, the group’s logo was plastered on t-shirts and buttons, which were distributed to participants. Designed by Fedor, the logo consists of a finger heart, a well known symbol in South Korea depicting Asian culture, as well as a desire for unity and love.
The demonstration was inspired by recent instances of anti-Asian violence, as well as the organizers’ experiences with racism. Fedor asserted that someone deliberately coughed in the direction of her mother during the pandemic. According to Norton Tsang, “Mostly, it is when people mispronounce names that are originally Chinese, Korean, Japanese, or from another language. Or they’ll ask ‘Where are you from?’ and then ‘Oh, where are you really from?’ Just little things like that where you think they are harmless, but they can be pretty impactful.”
The rally opened with a speech by 12-year-old Fedor. She described her background as the daughter of immigrants from South Korea and Eastern Europe, growing up eating kimchi with paprikash. “I am saddened by all the communities affected by racism. Is this what it means to be Asian American youth right now?” she questioned. “But we, as youth, have a chance to build our future, to raise our voices, and demand change.”
Berkeley City Council member Rashi Kesarwani addressed the crowd next, and declared: “We are reminded in this moment that our destiny is bound up in the destiny of all marginalized people.” She emphasized the importance of solidarity among all groups who have experienced oppression, including Black people, Indigenous people, Latinx people, and LGBTQ+ members.
Another speaker, Abby Lamoreaux, a junior at Berkeley High School (BHS), described the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes this year. She was organizing another rally along with a fellow classmate, Lucia Moratinos-Chu, which was scheduled to take place on Friday April 2 at 2:30 PM in front of Oakland City Hall. The group plans to march through Chinatown and end at Lake Merritt.
Norton Tsang summarized the goal of the event: to raise awareness and inspire action: “We want people to stand up if they see something happening to someone, especially in a public place,” she said. She lamented the fact that people have stood by while others have suffered senseless acts of violence, and described the opportunity and duty people have to intervene and defend victims of discrimination. Amidst the recent deplorable events, the voices of these inspiring youth activists promise hope for the future.