AAF unveils emergency campaign to ensure immediate saftey for Asian New Yorkers

NYC: Peace Vigil
New Yorkers attend a peace vigil for victims of Asian Hate in Union Square on March 19. (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann)

Amid an ongoing, troubling string of hate crimes targeting Asian New Yorkers, the Asian American Foundation (AAF) unveiled Thursday its emergency landmark campaign to restore a modicum of safety to the city’s Asian community.

The initiative, titled “Hope Against Hate,” is a solution program by AAF made in response to the uptick in violent attacks on Asians throughout the U.S. and especially in the five boroughs during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Hope Against Hate will establish “safety ambassadors” in Asian-majority neighborhoods throughout New York, set up in-language victim support services and provide upstander, verbal de-escalation and physical self-defense training in numerous languages among other response techniques and solutions. 

From March 2020 to February 2021, there were nearly 3,800 reported anti-Asian incidents across the nation. New York had the greatest number of anti-Asian assaults in the country, totaling over 1,100 incidents.

The Hope Against Hate campaign will partner with small businesses and houses of worship throughout the city to set up safe zones marked with identifiable posters or signs for targeted Asian Americans to seek refuge during or after an attack.  

In-language victim support services by the Hope Against Hate initiative will include an assistance fund for victims’ assault-related expenses and culturally competent mental health support.

The Hope Against Hate campaign will also work with schools, impacted stakeholders and seniors to provide tailored verbal de-escalation and physical self-defense training in English, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Tagalog and Vietnamese. 

AAF Associate Director of Advocacy and Policy, Ravi Reddi, led the virtual press conference which was joined by prominent politicians including New York Senator and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Brooklyn Congresswoman Yvette Clarke and First Deputy Public Advocate Nick Smith. Joo Han, Deputy Director of the AAF, revealed the details of the Hope Against Hate initiative.

“This isn’t just an Asian American problem,” Reddi said about the national increase in hate and violent crime against members of the Asian American community. “This is an all of us problem,” he continued. 

Reddi then invited Noel Gella Quintana, a 61-year-old Filipino American, to share the story of his recent attack. Quintana was slashed across the face while riding the subway on Feb. 3, earlier this year. He shared during the AAF meeting that there were plenty of bystanders, but no one came to his aid.

Schumer spoke after Quintana and responded to the 61-year-old’s horrific attack. 

“It’s not just an isolated incident,” Schumer said. “Over the past year, there’s been a consistent rise of violence against Asian Americans,” he continued.

Schumer verbalized his support for the Asian American community and discussed two bills up for vote in the senate, one being the COVID-19 hate crime bill.

“Bigotry against one of us is bigotry against all of us,” Schumer said. “I will stand with you until one day all bigotry is eradicated,” he continued. 

Clarke followed Schumer and articulated similar sentiments.

“We are gathered today to put hope against hate,” Clarke said. “When one of us is attacked, all of us are attacked,” she continued.

Clarke pointed to the increase in violent attacks against Asian Americans since the start of the pandemic last year as something that needs to be corrected immediately. 

“If you see something, say something,” Smith added after Clarke. Smith highlighted the personal responsibility all New Yorkers have for members of the Asian community and implores New Yorkers to speak up against any attack perpetrated against Asian Americans.

The mission of AAF is to “raise the influence and well-being of the pan-Asian American community through research, policy advocacy, public awareness and organizational development.”

AAF’s Hope Against Hate campaign comes as the level of anti-Asian hate across the country is at its highest in recent history. 

The campaign is asking for $30 million in investments from Federal, State and City leaders including private funders to provide Asian Americans with much-needed resources to ensure their safety. 

“This initiative is rooted in community and in what works,” Han said. “The emergency solution will provide safety to the Asian American community,” she continued.

Hope Against Hate leaders are also working on an in-language reporting tool to centralize the reporting of anti-Asian bias incidents to connect victims to the services they need. This mobile tool will be available on the web, through text and app formats.