On March 20, 2021.  We hosted our #StopAsianHate rally and vigil at Rosa Parks Circle, Downtown Grand Rapids. 

We gathered together to remember the six Asian women killed in the Atlanta shootings a few days prior and rally the community to denounce the escalating violence and hatred towards the Asian community. 

Family holding #stopasianhate sign. Photo Credit: Meaghan Gietzen

March 20, 2021 - Rosa Parks Circle, Downtown Grand Rapids, MI.

When Ace asked me to say something today, I asked him how he wanted to frame my words and he said he wanted me to speak on love.

And I have to be honest, my first thought was that I wasn’t sure I was in the right frame of mind to do that.

My feelings were more of anger and passion and frustration at the events that have really been happening for a long time, but have crescendoed recently. It was difficult for me to take these events and the way I felt and apply any feelings of love to that.

I was also angry that, throughout my life, I took a passive approach to racism. That every time I was told to not stir the pot or raise my voice, I complied. I was in a militant, ornery state of mind.

Allen Trieu giving a speech

Allen Trieu

Photo Credit: Meaghan Gietzen

The more I spoke to people who I trust, friends and family members of mine who are activists, the more I could see that those people are also angry, but have love in their hearts to want to go out and change the things that make them angry  -- that those people are also passionate about eliminating hate – that those people are very frustrated at what is transpiring but that those frustrations stem from a place of wanting the world to be a place of love.

I have seen messages on social media that we have older Asian people who are nervous to go out. My parents are in that group. They don’t go on walks as freely as they once did, my mom exits her vehicle with a different mindset when she goes to work, and these aren’t people who are scared easily. These are people who crossed oceans to move to a new country for the first time and faced bullying in school and at work and made it through the other side as success stories.

I saw a post on social media of someone of mixed heritage saying they were glad they did not resemble their Asian side as much. My children are mixed and if they grow up to feel scared that they look more like either side of their family tree, I will feel like I have failed in some way. And to the kids who are here, never be afraid or ashamed of who you are.

So yes, I am angry.

I am angry that I read Ace’s Facebook post, which was wonderfully written about a time where he encountered racism and did not address it then the way he wished he would now. I am frustrated that I have many of those same stories. I am a stand-up comedian and have often wondered if the jokes I tell about race do more harm than good or if they are being interpreted in the way I mean them to be interpreted.

I am angry that growing up, I willingly participated in many of the same tired jokes about Asian people so that I wouldn’t be outcast or less popular. I am angry that at that time, I wasn’t strong enough and educated enough to stand against that.

I am angry that yesterday, I had to read posts by the families of the victims in the Atlanta shooting talking about how the children and grandchildren and loved ones of theirs will never get to see them again. I am angry that it was referred to as a bad day and that the chief of police had a history of selling shirts that advance the feelings of hatred.

I am angry that I had a moment of celebration when I saw the older Asian woman who injured her attacker. Angry that I even took some joy in that and angry that she has still been injured and is scarred from that experience which can only be described as completely senseless.

I am angry at every GoFundMe for the victims of these crimes, not that people are being generous, but that they even need to exist.

But at the same time, I love that people are being compassionate towards the families and helping them.

I love that we are having these dialogues about the prejudice and violence against Asian people and the model minority myths that are long overdue conversations.

I am angry that I’m not who they pick on. These cowards pick elderly targets or defenseless or unsuspecting targets. Come at me. 

I love that we are all here today, and by we all, I mean people of all races. I stand here to say I am in support of anyone who has had to face discrimination whether that is for race or any other part of who they are, not just those of Asian/Pacific Islander descent. 

I love that we have people in the community who have been vocal and who have helped put on events like this one and happier events like the Asian New Years celebrations and festivals which show this community all the great things our cultures have to offer. And I love that because of that, I know that the next time we are here in Rosa Parks Circle, it should be for brighter circumstances.

I love that the community has rallied and that I already see on social media that some of you and many others have shared resources on how to report hate crimes, donate to causes, support businesses owned by Asians and all minorities. If you want to find a way to help, you can, and that was not always as easy to do.

I love that while there is work to be done, I can see that my children’s friends don’t ask them the same ignorant questions about their race that I was confronted with, that their school is more diverse than mine was and that my son does not feel the need to play along with the same dumb, tired jokes I did growing up just to feel accepted.

And I love that in my time of frustration and at times, red hot anger, Ace reminded me that the message here is about love and not hate. That we can be united, strong, aggressive, passionate, all of the things that people think that we aren’t, and still have love behind it.

I hope that today can be a day where we remember these victims and grieve for their families and make it the starting point to healing. Make it the starting point to eliminating hate and eliminating any feelings that anyone should have to feel unsafe just walking around in their own hometown.

Activist, led by Allen Trieu, protesting on stage.

Photo Credit: Meaghan Gietzen

I love everyone that came out to support. I have business to attend to on the other side of the state and unfortunately will not be able to stay for the rest of the event. But I wanted to end by saying I am open to listen to anyone who feels they need an ear. And I hope this shows anyone that is scared or sad that they are not in this alone.

Thank you. Cảm ơn

- Allen Trieu

Protesters hold #stopsianhate signs.

Photo Credit: Meaghan Gietzen

Protestors holding #stopasianhate signs

Photo Credit: Meaghan Gietzen

Protestors holding #stopasianhate signs

Photo Credit: Meaghan Gietzen

A kid holding #stopasianhate signs, speaking into a mic.

Photo Credit: Meaghan Gietzen

Protestors holding a "heal not hate" sign

Photo Credit: Meaghan Gietzen

Activist, led by Allen Trieu, protesting on stage.

Photo Credit: Meaghan Gietzen

Protestors holding #stopasianhate signs.

Photo Credit: Meaghan Gietzen

Displays of names of the six Asian women killed in the Atlanta shootings.

Photo Credit: Meaghan Gietzen

Now more than ever, the Asian-Pacific community needs allies and support. Help the Grand Rapids Asian-Pacific Foundation raise funds to continue educating and sharing our culture with the West Michigan community.  

#StopAsianHate #HateIsAVirus