MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Sunday night, hundreds of people showed their support for Asian Americans in Shelby County during a candlelight vigil event entitled “Protect Asian Lives.”
Elected officials in attendance vowed to do everything they can to protect people of Asian descent as violent, racially motivated crimes against Asian Americans have occurred across the county.
“This land was made for you and me; we need support and protection.”
That was the message from leaders of the Asian American community in the Mid-South at the Protect Asian Lives event at Shelby Farms Park Sunday.
“Just people need to be nice and kind to each other. Be patient a little bit because they have different cultures but live peacefully we can do it,” said Joseph Shin, Senior Pastor at Cordova Korean Baptist Church.
Recent racist and violent attacks have been reported across the country targeting Asian Americans following the outbreak of COVID-19 last year which scientists believe originated in China.
The most horrific of those crimes occurred last Tuesday when a man shot and killed eight people in Atlanta area spas, six of which were of Asian descent.
“Really have created a great deal of fear among the Asian American communities. Many of them are afraid to go out, to go to public events like this,” said Jin Ling Cai with Greater Memphis United Chinese Americans.
At Sunday’s event, the names of all eight victims killed in Atlanta were read aloud.
“You were taken from our sights, but never from our hearts,” said Annie Zhao, 2021 Miss Tennessee Teen USA.
Several local politicians attended the event, including Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris and Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner.
“Know that Shelby County Sheriff’s Office is here for you, we support you,” said Shelby County Sheriff’s Office Floyd Bonner.
“I think we have a lot to do,” said Mayor Lee Harris. “Based on what we have seen we have to listen to all parts of our community.”
Sheriff Bonner says there have been several reports of racially motivated crimes against people of Asian descent in Shelby County over the past year.
“That’s why it was so important for me to be here to get the Asian community to understand, or hopefully understand that we do care,” said Bonner. “We are concerned. What happened in Atlanta, we don’t want to see it happen here.”
This was one of three simultaneous Protect Asian Lives events happening across the state of Tennessee.
Organizers say they were encouraged by the turnout and want people in Shelby County to be aware of xenophobic behavior ongoing in our area.
“We’re here to make sure that our voice is heard. We should call on the public, the elected officials to speak out against crimes against Asian Americans so that it won’t happen here,” said Cai.
Sheriff Bonner says he is planning to meet with members of the Asian Community Monday, March 22 to begin a dialogue and make sure Asian Americans in Shelby County feel safe.