Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer surprised rallygoers at an April anti-AAPI hate event organized by a high school junior in Pleasantville.
“Too many people feel it’s okay to exhibit hatred and bigotry and violence against Asian Americans and so many other people, and we are here to say we will not stand for that,” he said, to exuberant cheers during his unannounced speech.
Nearly 200 people gathered at Memorial Plaza holding signs to denounce the surge in hate crimes against Asian Americans in the U.S., some occurring close to home.
“To learn that just a few miles from here in White Plains, an 83-year-old woman, a beloved mother and grandmother, was punched in the face, knocked to the ground, and spat on,” Schumer remarked. “To say that hatred is somewhere else and not here, it’s not the facts.”
The event was organized by 16-year-old Raghav Joshi, a student at Blind Brook High School in Rye Brook.
“I’ve been seeing what’s been happening in our country,” Joshi told River Journal. “The sudden uptick of attacks, hate speech, verbal abuse, and I knew that I had to speak out against this, and my own experiences, and to uplift voices in our community.”
An impressive slate of local politicians was in attendance, including U.S. Reps. Mondaire Jones and Sean Patrick Maloney and state officials Andrea-Stewart Cousins, Pete Harckham, Shelley Mayer, and George Latimer.
Student speakers along with Joshi who shared their stories were Archana Kumaran, Tiffany Chao, Angelie Wallace, and Amina Fayaz.
“The kids are all right, the kids are all right!” Representative Maloney said in praise of the youth organizers. “The kids are leading every important social justice movement in America right now.”
Pleasantville Trustee David Vinjamuri served as emcee. He spoke of his parents’ experience immigrating to the U.S., how his mother felt comforted when their ship reached New York’s harbor and she saw the Statue of Liberty wearing a sari like her.
Along with community stories on how racism against the AAPI community has shaped lives, politicians also discussed concrete plans to confront the issues. In Washington, Jones has co-sponsored the Covid-19 Hate Crimes Act (which recently passed in Congress) and the No Hate Act. These bills would provide grants, allocate funds to educate children on Asian-American history, and improve hate crime tracking and data collection.
“The 43 municipalities in Westchester County were not sharing information or even collecting data independently on the incidences of hate that were happening throughout the county,” he said of his time as a lawyer advising the Westchester County Human Rights Commission. “In order to inform our advocacy as a government, whether it’s at the federal level, the state level or the local level, we need to have information on what is happening in our communities.”
An extra $25 million was appropriated in the current state budget to specifically address Asian hate crimes, with funds directed toward task forces, district attorneys, and law enforcement. “We have your back. We are here with you,” Senator Harckham said.
Representative Jones also had a message for his AAPI constituents. “I know how it feels to be on the receiving end of hate because of who I am. And what I also know from personal experience is, when we come together and fight for what is right in this country, for the world that we want to live in, and that all people deserve to have, then we will win,” he told River Journal. “That is the story of the Civil Rights movement, which is an ongoing movement. That is the story of my own race for Congress, in my own upbringing, and that will be the story of the AAPI community right here in Westchester and throughout the world.”