Asian and Black clergy condemn anti-Asian hate during Jamaica rally

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A group of multi-denominational clergy from across New York City came together in solidarity with the Asian American community outside the First Presbyterian Church in Jamaica on Tuesday, April 6, 2021. (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann)

A group of multi-denominational clergy from across New York City came together in solidarity with the Asian American community outside the First Presbyterian Church in Jamaica on Tuesday, April 6, condemning the violent racist attacks on the AAPI community, but also announcing the creation of a support network.

“We gather here to raise our voice. We are a multi-racial, multi-faith group of clergy who gather together to condemn all types of hatred, all types of discrimination,” said Senior Pastor Adolphus Lacey of Bethany Baptist Church in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. “What these types have revealed is that we do not have connections. There is no infrastructure for us to have bridge building, and we are starting the process right now to build bridges to connect with all of these communities.”

Rev. Patrick O’Connor of the First Presbyterian Church of Jamaica welcomed the clergy members on the steps of the 359-year-old church.

“We stand with our Asian brothers and sisters, but we stand with all people who experience hate and harm. Let love and righteousness and goodwill prevail,” the reverend said.

Pastor Charles Ryu of Morningside United Methodist Church in Manhattan, a mostly Korean and Asian American congregation, was grateful for the show of solidarity. He shared that he attended an anti-Asian hate rally in Times Square last Sunday, organized by young Black and Asian activists and that they changed the rallying cry “the people united will never be defeated” to “together united, we will never be divided.”

“The white racist structure will always try to divide, and the history between the Black and Asian community has both been division and cooperations. And when I see young people coming together, we are together, and together united, we will never be divided. We will fight together,” Ryu said.

Bishop H. Curtis Douglas wanted the Asian community to know that he was standing with them.

“We condemn all acts of white supremacy against any race, any group of people, especially those of us of color. And we want to connect and make sure that together, we do all that we can to ensure that our children and our grandchildren do not have to deal with or go through this kind of abuse,” the bishop said.

Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

Priest Wang of the International Buddhist Progress Society thanked everyone for supporting the Asian community.

“We would love to work together to build a loving, kind, compassionate community,” Wang said.

Tisha Dixon Williams of the First Baptist Church Bridgehampton invoked the tagline “who are you going to call?” from the soundtrack of the movie “Ghostbusters.” She admitted that she did not know who to call when the racist attacks happened in the Asian community. She thanked the organizers for creating a support system and connecting the communities.

“We’re here today because today we’re building a call list when something horrific happens. When strange things happen in our neighborhoods when our Asian brothers and sisters are attacked. And I know that they feel the same way when their African American brothers and sisters are attacked. From today forward, we’ll know who to call,” Dixon Williams said.

Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

Imam Shamsi Ali of the Jamaica Muslim Center expressed that hate was the United States trademark recalling a time when hate was also directed towards Italians, Irish, Catholics and Jewish people.

He reminded everyone that New York wasn’t the most beautiful and powerful city in the world because of its skyscrapers or Wall Street, but because of the people who forge connections.

“So let’s continue building our bridges, working together to break down the walls that separate us, my brothers and sisters,” he said. 

John Chang of the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation recalled how difficult the past year had been for so many because of the COVID-19 pandemic and how saddened he was because of the increasing acts of hatred against minorities. He prayed for healing and reaching harmony and understanding.

“It’s very important for us to express compassion to each other, to help others in need,” Chang said.

Rev. Stephen A. Green of the Greater Allen AME Cathedral spoke of the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and how much he had believed in the power of community.

“We’re standing here as faith leaders. As African American and Asian leaders, because we are here to resurrect the dream. We are here to resurrect and reconstruct the dream that says that all human life has dignity and worth. We’re here to reconstruct the dream and to resurrect the dream to affirm that black lives matter, and we will stop Asian American hate in this country,” the reverend emphasized.

Rev. Gregory Woo of the Faith Bible Church asked everyone to continue to raise their voices and love each other.

“Some of us Asians, we have a hard time voicing out and sharing what we feel, what we care about. You know, with our African American brothers and sisters, our Black brothers and sisters, we’re gonna learn a thing or two from you,” Woo said.

The last speaker, Rev. Patrick Henry Young of the First Baptist Church in Corona, described racism and hate as stupidity in its highest form and asked a question from the bible. 

“Am I my brother’s keeper?” he said.

He said that the formation of the diverse coalition answered the question.

“We are our brother’s keeper. And we have to keep our brothers and sisters safe. We’re here to keep them safe by speaking up and speaking out against hatred, against racism, against the act of all violence. We want to let you know we are here to be a voice to the voiceless and help those who are helpless,” Young said.

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