Berkeley officials, community members, experts gather to discuss city solidarity with Asian American, Pacific Islander community

Lisi Ludwig/Senior Staff
Multiple Berkeley officials, community leaders and Bay Area experts met Monday for a panel on solidarity with the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. Topics discussed included education and communication.

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Multiple Berkeley community leaders and Bay Area experts met Monday for a panel on Berkeley’s solidarity with the Asian American and Pacific Islander, or AAPI, community.

Speakers at the panel included Berkeley and Alameda County officials, educators and a student and a representative from Stop AAPI Hate, a reporting center that tracks and responds to hate incidents against the AAPI community. Berkeley’s Division of Mental Health and the Just Cities Institute sponsored the event, while Berkeley Rent Board commissioner James Chang moderated.

Multiple topics were discussed during the panel, including panelists’ personal experiences, combatting AAPI hate moving forward and interracial solidarity.

After opening remarks from Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín, Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson spoke about the importance of intercommunity communication in the face of systemic racism. He mentioned the Rainbow Coalition, a multicultural and anti-racist movement founded by Fred Hampton.

“We have to understand the commonality that we all share on a regular basis, instead of the alleged differences that are constantly highlighted,” Carson said during the event. “I’m looking forward to a day when we don’t have to have this (panel) because we embraced each other’s humanity, we embraced each other as one.”

Next, Jenny Wong, an auditor for the city of Berkeley, spoke about her own experience with anti-Asian discrimination.

She encouraged attendees to stand with the AAPI community by helping them share their stories in their own time, reporting hate crimes, educating the community and reaching out to AAPI friends and community members.

Cynthia Choi, a representative from Stop AAPI Hate, then discussed the beginning of the organization and using history to inform current responses to violence.

“We started Stop AAPI Hate 14 months ago because we started seeing COVID racialized,” Choi said during the event. “We knew, based on history, that this was going to get really bad really quickly.”

Choi said the community was learning from moments of crisis to respond in a way that keeps its members safe. Choi also discussed supporting survivors of violence and their families; this includes educating people about the services they are entitled to and having services available for non-English speaking community members. 

The panel then shifted its focus to education. Berkeley High School junior Abigail Laromeaux said updating the school curriculum, especially in history, is very important. UC Berkeley lecturer Margaretta Lin and UC Berkeley associate professor Charisma Acey also emphasized the need for better history education.

The two then polled the panelists about their knowledge of history — though most of the attendees said they had worked with people of different races to improve their communities and schools, many had not been taught about Japanese American activist Yuri Kochiyama, the Third World Liberation Front or Richard Aoki, a leader of the Black Panther Party.

The panel finished by urging each attendee to complete several action items — sign the Berkeley Asian/American solidarity statement and take or promote the Berkeley Asian/American survey on the AngryAsianWomen website and support the Asian and Pacific Islander, or API, Equity Budget on the API Legislative Caucus site.

Contact Sebastian Cahill at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @SebastianCahil1.