The following words are adapted from the speech by liz suk, Interim Executive Director of Oakland Rising, at the March 23rd event “From Oakland to Atlanta,” a community-led vigil to mourn and honor the lives taken in the Atlanta-area spa shootings and to send love from the Bay Area. Many thanks to APEN, OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates, Oakland Rising, Good Good Eatz, Bay Rising, Healing Clinic Collective, Whole Story Group, Dohee Lee (Puri Project), Ieumsae and the Anti Police-Terror Project for hosting and supporting this vigil. Thank you to Jordan Foster @viajordanfoster for capturing the image above. You can view more powerful footage from the vigil at @apen4ej. Thank you to Alycia Raya for the images used below.
By liz suk, Interim Executive Director of Oakland Rising
I am Korean and I live on Ohlone land. Ohlone people continue to live and fight everyday for their land. This simple land acknowledgement can’t pay homage fully or deeply enough for what it means to be Korean living and occupying Ohlone land. This vigil nestles itself into the complexity of settler colonialism. So let’s collectively hold that for one moment.
Tonight marks the one-week anniversary of the deaths of eight people murdered at gunpoint by a white man in Atlanta, Georgia. Six of those murdered were Asian women. Although the names have been released in the media and on crowdfunding sites, we have not received explicit consent from the family members to speak and use their names. We will hold their names in our hearts and prayers and release them on their path to join their ancestors.
As the details emerge from the recent Boulder, Colorado shooting, too, we are bracing for how the aftermath from that tragedy could too easily turn to Islamophobia and embolden more anger and violence towards our Arab–and those mistakenly perceived as Arab–siblings and loved ones.
We’ve seen this before: the scapegoating of our communities. The Atlanta massacre was a form of scapegoating.
Look out for your people. Check on them and take care of them.
Over the last week I have experienced the range of emotions both in sequence and simultaneously — from heartbreak, to rage, to grief to numbness to fear… even sometimes as I embraced my children or looked into the faces of my comrades who organized this event and honestly, at times I even felt gratitude and joy — and then guilt. How many of you have had similar experiences?
Now I find myself at this moment in the presence of you all, breaking open my heart, pouring out what my body has been holding, and sharing this space with you to grieve and find comfort in community and our shared humanity.
We may never know the details of the murdered women’s stories and lives as well as their families do, but we nonetheless know their stories because their stories are all of our stories.
We want to acknowledge that our pain does not exist in a vacuum. The violence that the Asian community has been facing is not new to Asians either in America or in Asia. Imperialism, war, racism and misogyny have all spiraled into each other and collided in this moment. We also know that our community is not unique to suffering under these oppressive systems. White supremacy is designed to separate and kill us. Under this system we are disposable pawns.
This is about the murders in Atlanta. And it’s about how Asians are looking over their shoulders when they walk to their cars. How we now need to call our elders and tell them to go to the store with a friend or carry a stick or mace. How we now have to recite the history of violence and hate against Asians in America. How we’ve been talking about this for decades.
Tonight is about the murders in Atlanta, but our grief runs deep. It’s about how our government has allowed over 500,000 people to die from COVID and thousands of small businesses, including Asian small businesses, to close. It’s about the thousands killed by policing. It’s about Angelo Quinto. It’s about what and who pushed us to immigrate here. It’s about the soldiers raping and maiming the thousands of women around US military bases around the world. This is about the way policing allows a white man to go on a mass murdering rampage and walk away alive, while it’s so easy for the same institution to murder a person of color going through a mental health crisis. This is about the notes and stares and people telling you to go back home. This is about ICE deporting that plane full of our Vietnamese siblings. This is about the time that dude wanted to try that Asian pussy.
That ache. That pain, sorrow and rage we’ve been feeling that is white supremacy and misogyny clawing at your heart and squeezing it. Tonight is about the murders in Atlanta, but all the grief and sorrow you’re feeling is about the bigger picture, and the untold stories of racism and misogyny we face everyday.
By coming together tonight, we are saying that we are not disposable: we are valuable and we have dignity. We have voice. We have power. We have our imaginations and we have each other. We must fight to have our humanity to be seen by the powers that be, but also to see each other. To hear each other. To see past all this pain and anger and see and hold each other. To be there for each other. To say goodbye to our newly crowned ancestors. To say, “No more.”
Tonight, we remove all pretense in order to offer a collective space for us all to grieve. We have an altar. On the altar you will see a beautiful flower arrangement, created by Michelle Mush Lee’s mother, that will be centered as a symbol to honor those who were murdered. You can write your words of prayer on cards and if you’re willing, we will share them with the community in Atlanta. The organizing committee has also prepared our own prayers that we will burn to send to the ancestors so they will find their way in peace.
Tonight we are gathered to show that we can reimagine safety in this tragedy. We can come together, feel and express the range of emotions and transform ourselves. We know tomorrow we will pick up the bullhorn and shout about defunding the police, decrying climate change, housing everyone, cancelling rent and debt and reinvesting in services and alternatives to policing and abolishing ICE and militarism and more. Tonight we grieve.
We ask the eight who were killed, our newly crowned ancestors, to journey to a place where the oppressive systems in this world will no longer haunt them.
Thank you for being here. Thank you for showing up. Thank you for caring for yourselves. Thank you for having faith that we take care of us.
What I’m learning about faith is that it is an active state. Like love, it is something we commit to everyday and it is beyond believing in the unknown. It is that and it is a belief in ourselves.
It is about the belief that we know how to do this better. To love and take care of each other. That we know what keeps us safe and that there is another day and another chance and another opportunity to fill our lives with safety and care.
Where we can build the world that cares for all our needs and where we can thrive. Faith is the ongoing act of realizing our hopes.
I want to close tonight with our breath. Because our breath reminds us every moment that we have one more chance to start anew. We have one more opportunity to make what is wrong right. We have one more opportunity to wake up and fight for the justice we all deserve.
Remember we are here for each other.
Thank you. Go home safely. We love you Oakland.