On the morning of March 27th, numerous residents of Springfield and surrounding towns gathered outside of the Springfield City Hall at the “Stop Asian Hate” rally in support of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. Mrs. Lian Duan, one of the organizers of the rally, was the first to give a speech. “It was such an intense and emotional time for me as I was very nervous before I gave the speech, but I felt that it was my duty to do it since there were so many strong emotions burning in my chest that I needed to let out,” says Mrs. Duan. “People need to hear it.”
With Asian American hate crimes up 1,900% over the past year due to COVID-19, there was no question that something needed to be done. Many anti-Asian violence demonstrations and rallies started occurring all over the country to address the long-overlooked issue of racism and discrimination towards Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Longmeadow High School students and parents got involved with the movement and made lawn signs to distribute at the rally.
In her speech, Mrs. Duan addressed three very important ideas. “There are no excuses to marginalize any people because of their differences that are inherent within each culture,” states Mrs. Duan. “The second thing is not only these violences but also microaggressions, stereotypes that we experience throughout life that need to stop. The third thing is action is more important than just having thoughts about supporting the movement. We need to take action to address the marginalization and not just stand idle and think about it.”
In the city of Springfield, Councilor Justin Hurst was one of the first people to seek action. “I’m the first one to tell people to stand up and speak out and yet I was seeing these incidents happen to another minority group and I was silent,” says Councilor Hurst. “I didn’t do anything. I didn’t say anything. After a while, I decided I would have to do something… I can’t just talk about it and not live it. This is the same thing I hope my Asian American brothers and sisters would do for me.” With the unanimous support of the Springfield city council, a resolution to address the racism and discrimination towards the Asian American community was passed. “The resolution calls for 4 things,” says Councilor Hurst. “It calls on all public officials to condemn anti-Asian sentiment in any form. The second thing is that it recognizes the health and safety of all Americans no matter what background must be of utmost priority. We want to make sure our Asian American and Pacific Islanders are receiving the same protection that everyone else in America has. The third thing we are calling forward is that it encourages the Springfield Police Department to investigate and document all credible reports of hate crimes and threats against the Asian American community. Finally, it asks the Springfield Public Schools to investigate and document all credible reports of bullying incidents and threats against Asian American students.”
Mrs. Duan is happy with the resolution and believes that it is a crucial step in moving forward. However, it is still far from her ideal. “I think the ideal would be we have the laws in place that could stop people from marginalizing people,” says Mrs. Duan. “You can’t stop what’s going on in people’s heads but you can prevent it by changing the law. You can educate your kids. Tell them that violence, belittling, mocking people is a terrible thing so they grow up with this ideal in their head that this world is one where everyone can support each other.”
When asked about how to achieve this ideal of hers, Mrs. Duan gave an honest answer. “I really don’t know since I’m not a very political person,” explains Mrs. Duan. “I only know that when things like this happen again I would come out and speak out again until I have no strength left. I’m just going to do my best and start with myself.”