In memoriam of the one-year anniversary of the death of Michelle Go, the New Yorker who was pushed in front of an oncoming train last January, Sarinya Srisakul, an FDNY firefighter, organized a day of healing for Asian American women.
The event, attended by dozens of people, included a poem reading by Ishle Yi Park, the first woman to become poet laureate of Queens. Park read a poem they wrote specifically to honor Go, which partly went: “we can be each other’s shelter, we can be each other’s balm, we can be each other’s peace, we can be each other’s calm.” After sharing a moment of silence, self-defense instructors led workshops on situational awareness and subway safety. Participants were asked to discuss what safety looks like to their communities.
“We’ve started doing these healing events because we felt that it was really important to address Michelle’s story,” Srisakul said. “Our main program is we send out free self-defense kits for New York City AAPI women and femmes.”
Michelle’s father, Justin, shared a statement at the event: “Thank you for your condolences and prayers for Michelle Alyssa Go on this first anniversary of her passing. Michelle came to New York to better her life and the lives of those around her. Please remember Michelle for how she lived. And not for how she died. With your help, we can honor her legacy by making the world a better and safer place to be.”
After Go’s death last year, Srisakul, who became the first Asian woman firefighter in New York City in 2007, went to task and created a quick video on how people could survive getting pushed onto the subway tracks.
“I’ve had years of experience of responding to subway calls,” Srisakul said. ” I wanted to share my training and my knowledge with folks.”
Going even further to protect AAPI women in New York City, Srisakul founded Angry Asian Womxn to raise money for self-defense kits that she would mail to anyone who requested one. To date, she’s mailed 3,200 kits across the city.
“I myself have been assaulted 10 years ago,” Srisakul said. “I was walking home and this guy was hiding in the shadows and he came behind me and started choking me and assaulting me. I had taken a self-defense class before so I was able to fight him off me. That’s why I started doing this work.”
Limchi Sang, an early childhood teacher and martial arts instructor at Dragon Combat Club, co-led the self-defense workshop and demonstrated how to use the kuboton and pepper spray. Sang and Nina So, another combat club instructor, taught participants several fighting and defensive stances to take if they become physical threatened.
“Being able to connect with so many women was healing and empowering,” Sang said.
Having lived in New York City for over 50 years, Sang believes that the MTA needs to address safety issues by promoting situational awareness and expediting more police patrols.
The MTA announced plans to install barriers at three stations as part of a pilot program following Go’s death. The three subway stations announced for platform barriers are Times Square, Third Avenue station, and the Sutphin Boulevard-Archer Avenue–JFK Airport. The request for proposals was released last July. The MTA is expecting to award the project near the middle of the year.
The Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA is looking forward to the updates, but hope for more security measures.
“We’re looking forward to seeing what the results of this proposals are,” PCAC Executive Director Lisa Daglian said. “We’re going to continue to advocate for additional security measures in the subway system including live action cameras, the use of data deployment, (and) for police and security.”
Srisakul scheduled another day of healing to honor the death of Christina Yuna Lee, who was killed inside her Chinatown apartment, shortly after Go died. The event is scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 12 at the Apex for Youth in Chinatown.
“I personally heal by being in community,” Srisakul said. “Being in a space with other folks who have the same drive of helping one another was really helpful. It was very therapeutic.”