ALAMEDA COUNTY, CA — In response to growing attacks against the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, those in the Tri-Valley organized rallies this week, as elected officials issued a joint statement to condemn the violence.

Organized by Foothill High School teacher Heather Bolig Richey and Livermore Indivisible co-founder Kellie Essary, the first of the two rallies took place Monday, March 22, at Lions Wayside Park in Pleasanton. The next is set for Sunday, March 28, at 1 p.m., at Stockmen's Park, 29 S. Livermore Ave., in Livermore.

The activism comes on the heels of an increase in widespread anti-Asian hate crimes. A report by the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino showed that attacks against Asians in 16 of America’s largest cities increased 149% in 2020. The first spike occurred in March and April amidst a rise in COVID-19 cases and negative stereotyping of Asians relating to the pandemic, the report continued.

Dublin Vice Mayor Shawn Kumagai took to Facebook this week to say, like many others, he has been shocked, saddened and angered by the escalating hate directed toward the AAPI.

“The murders in Atlanta last week hit particularly hard, as many of us saw our own families and our own immigrant stories in those lost lives,” he said. “At my request, at last Tuesday’s Dublin City Council meeting, we passed a resolution denouncing the rise in anti-AAPI hate.”

Issuing a joint statement to condemn the violence were Kumagai, along with Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District (LVJUSD) Trustee Kristie Wang, Chabot-Las Positas Community College Board Trustees Ed Maduli and Hal Gin, Contra Costa Community College District Board President Andy Li, Danville Town Councilmember Dave Fong, Dublin Councilmember Sherry Hu, Dublin Unified School District Trustee Catherine Kuo, Dublin San Ramon Services District Director Arun Goel, San Ramon City Councilmember Sabina Zafar, San Ramon City Councilmember Sridhar Verose, San Ramon Valley Unified School District Board President Susanna Wong Ordway, San Ramon Valley Fire Protection Board Director Michelle Lee and Zone 7 Water Agency Board President Olivia Sanwong.

“We are AAPI elected officials of the Tri-Valley region and want to express our concerns regarding the growing attacks against the AAPI community over the past 12 months,” the officials wrote. “We condemn the escalating harassment and violence against Asians, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, including the most recent March 16, 2021, killing of eight people in Atlanta, six of whom were Asian American women.

“Mocking, racist references to COVID-19 have inflamed anti-AAPI sentiments. The reporting center Stop AAPI Hate has chronicled more than 3,800 hate incidents against Asian Americans since the start of the pandemic a year ago. We must take action to stem this violence against our community members.

“We stand in solidarity with our AAPI community and allies engaged in anti-racist action. We express our deepest sympathy to the families of the most recent victims and our

support to the AAPI community in the Tri-Valley. We are with you, and we are here for you. We call upon everyone in our community to take a stand against hate and bigotry.”

Kristie Wang Shares Asian American Perspective

Wang, who was elected to the LVJUSD Board of Trustees last fall, recently shared her experience as an Asian American living in the Tri-Valley with the congregation of the Asbury United Methodist Church in Livermore.

“We’re coming up to a year of what I think of as a national conversation on civil rights and on racial justice,” Wang said.

Wang said that while she doesn’t walk around thinking about her ethnicity, she’s often reminded of it. She was reminded last fall when her campaign signs were vandalized and a friend caught the vandals on camera surveillance shouting racial slurs. Wang also recalled comments on social media during the election season that encouraged residents to vote for people who were “born and bred here.”

“There are people who say people of color focus too much on race — ‘stop talking about it. Why is it so important?’” she continued. “I don’t feel like we’re the ones who are trying to make everything about race. We're the ones who are reminded of it all the time.”

Unlike white immigrants, Wang said, Asian people are not accepted as Americans.

“We’re always thought of as foreigners — even if your family has been here for generations, you’re still thought of as a foreigner,” Wang said. “I feel like, white immigrants — as soon as they lose their accents — are thought of as Americans.”

Wang expressed optimism in seeing that Black Americans have stepped up for the Asian community, joining them in solidarity.

“We’re two races that are often pitted against each other,” she said. “But this time, from Oakland Chinatown to New York City to San Jose, Blacks and Asians have come together, united to fight racism … and our hope is that everyone else will join us.”