The Interfaith Clergy group and the Burlington Equity Coalition organized a solidarity event to support Asian American and Pacific Islander(AAPI) who have been targets of hate crimes, at the Burlington Common on Wednesday, March 31, 2021.
The town has a 17% AAPI population with a 10% of them being Indian. Rev. Trina Portillo and Rabbi Susan Abramson acknowledged the different members of the clergy community represented at the event including Ranjani Saigal from the Hindu community.
Over 400 people gathered at the town common. The recent attacks on Asian Americans in several states included the tragedy in Georgia has spurred members of the Asian American community to speak out against hate. A moment of silence was held to honor the victims of hate. Several members of the Asian community spoke out about the racial discrimination they had faced growing up. Recent pandemic has especially been hard on Asian children where they were referred to as the Chinese Virus. A mother spoke emotionally about dealing with her child’s fear as he was accused by his friends as “having the virus since he was Chinese”.
Mike Espesejo from the Burlington Planning Board spoke about his own experiences growing up in Burlington and the racism he encountered. He was very appreciative of the Indian Americans for Burlington group which has gained significant visibility in recent years as it runs the Diwali program to showcase the culture of India at the commons thus working to building an understanding about Indian culture in Burlington.
The speakers urged the attendees to speak up when they see racism. The speakers asked parents to teach children to speak up when they see a person being bullied and not to laugh or bully children based on what is in their lunch box or what they look like.
The event ended with a Stand In on Main Street. The event gave much hope that the awareness built will work on stopping racism.