Serena Li
Speech delivered at Stop Asian Hate Vigil
in Basking Ridge, NJ on March 27

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Hello everyone! My name is Serena Li, and I am a junior and a proud member of the Asian-American community here in Basking Ridge. I am so honored and excited to be here, so I want to extend the utmost gratitude to our event organizers, volunteers, and everyone here for gathering to raise awareness on violence within our nation and community. Most importantly, thank you all for listening to Asian-Americans when our community is under attack, as our voices have been suppressed for far too long. 

I want to begin by talking about harmony. One of the first things that people learn about me is that I play the violin. In orchestra, we define harmony as hearing two more pitches simultaneously. In the musical world, we need a melody to be led, but we need harmony to be heard. Without harmony, without a nuanced cast of voices softly supporting the melody, music feels empty and isolated. Communities are the same: Basking Ridge is a melody and we are all here to support it. Often harmony creates dissonance, the clashing of two separate notes having been thrust together. It often fosters complexity, forcing us to listen beyond a one-voice melody. But always it will resolve itself, with diversity, beauty, and unity. Seeing the crowd here today, I’m hopeful because I see an inclusive, harmonious audience who realizes that with all of these voices, we can make beautiful music. 

Now, when we have a crowd who is willing to listen, we have the chance to speak out against the hate crimes against the AAPI community and how, despite the ambiguity of the media, we are being targeted. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, hate speech and violence against Asian people has increased exponentially, but these crimes have barely received the publicity that they deserve, at least not until recently. Take the tragedy in Atlanta as an example— six out of eight victims were AAPi women working at Asian-run spas, but the incident is still not being investigated as a hate crime. Last year, an Asian family of three was assaulted in a Sam’s Club. It took over a month for the attack to be recognized as one with racial motives. In July, an 89-year old Chinese woman was set on fire and assaulted by two teens in New York City, and thousands of Asian-run businesses have been vandalized and destroyed with racist, hateful speech written across the walls. These incidents are just some of thousands that have occurred nationwide over the past year. In this time, it is crucial for people of all backgrounds to support and help each other regardless of their skin color or upbringing in order to truly pave the way for unity in our community and world. So thank you for showing up today to give these acts of violence the focus that they need, in order to properly mourn the victims and foster the unity and friendship that is necessary for future peace.

 

Too often we consider ourselves audience members, listeners, bystanders. But going forward, I hope we remember that we are players in a huge symphony, and that each of our voices, whether loud or soft, kind or cruel, contributes and shapes actively the evolving concert in which we play. Thank you for standing here today and helping us stand up to the hate that plagues this country. Thank you for listening today, and most importantly working to uplift Asian-American voices in the time that we need it the most.