Led by seventh-grader Mina Fedor, students from Black Pine Circle School held a protest against Asian American and Pacific Islander, or AAPI, hate Sunday afternoon at the Berkeley Marina.
The protest, attended by more than 250 people, followed the recent rise in violent attacks against Asian Americans. Fedor said she began planning the event three weeks ago. Seventh-grader Bee Norton Tsang said the recent Atlanta shooting pushed the protest into a brighter spotlight.
As hundreds of protestors arrived carrying signs that read “Hate is a Virus” and “Stop Asian Hate,” speakers ranging from students to community leaders spoke out against racism against AAPI individuals and recalled personal experiences of racism.
Simon Alejandrino, a science teacher at Redwood Day School and a Filipino immigrant, said he has had little hope and joy in the past year, but that Sunday’s protest provided hope for the “next generation of change-makers.” Alejandrino led the audience in chanting “Immigrants, we get the job done!”
In her speech, Fedor reflected on the recent violence against AAPI elders, the Atlanta shooting and how a family member was coughed on last year. She asked the audience if this is what it meant to be an Asian American youth and emphasized the importance of empowering youth voices.
“My grandmother gave me my middle name, Nare, meaning winged flight,” Fedor said at the rally. “Through listening to other stories and learning from others, my voice grows stronger every day, taking flight. I hope you will join me as we speak out in solidarity with our AAPI community.”
City Councilmember Rashi Kesarwani said that while racism is not new, she was inspired by the multiracial coalition of Asian American allies “standing up to say enough is enough.” Kesarwani said the AAPI community will not tolerate being harassed and attacked and will demand to be seen as fully American.
City Councilmember Rigel Robinson said the student organizers gave him hope for a more inclusive future. Robinson related a childhood story where a white woman told his mother to “go back to where you came from.” Robinson said his mother told the woman “I’m from here. This is home,” and led Robinson away.
Lateefah Simon, president of the Akonadi Foundation, an organization dedicated to a “racially just” Oakland, said youth will change the face and the heartbeat of a nation. Simon added that there is no reason as to why Asian Americans should fear for their lives and no reason as to why adults should not follow the example of the youth who refuse to accept the status quo.
“It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to fight. It is our duty to win,” Simon said at the event. “We must love one another and support one another because we have nothing to lose but our chains.”
A previous version of this article misspelled Simon Alejandrino. A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Simon Alejandrino is a science teacher at Black Pine Circle School. In fact, he is a science teacher at Redwood Day School.