Rafu Staff Report
The Black and API Solidarity Mural, the result of months of work by youth and other volunteers, was unveiled on Oct. 9 in front of the Asian American Drug Abuse Program, 2900 Crenshaw Blvd. in Los Angeles.
The project, which started in July, was prompted by the increase in hate speech and physical assaults directed against Asians and Pacific Islanders during the pandemic, with some of the attacks committed by African Americans. The goal was for teenagers to complete one mural together to exemplify shared history, unity and hope.
The teenagers began painting the mural in September with the assistance of muralists Jovi Sevon and Nhut Vo.
Organizers noted that civil rights leaders Malcolm X and Yuri Kochiyama, who were friends, sought unity between the two communities.
“It has been exhilarating, life-giving, exhausting, and fun,” said facilitator Diane Ujiiye, who established Black and API Solidarity with Billy Tiang and Tim Kornegay. “Yet the import of why we are doing this never escapes us.”
Before the unveiling, the youths were congratulated by City Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson. During the program, Daniel Park, a representative of Los Angeles County Supervisor Holly Mitchell presented certificates to the project participants.
The mural, which was revealed by the artists, features the word “Solidarity,” figures holding hands and standing on the Earth against a starry background, and handprints in various colors. On one side, the inscription reads:
“This mural is dedicated to the Crenshaw community on Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021. May this image be a reminder to our communities to challenge division, while choosing to uplift solidarity, community, and most importantly, love.
“A special thanks to our youth, muralists, co-sponsors and supporters for their contributions: LA vs. Hate/Taskforce, L.A. County Office of Violence Prevention, The California Endowment, AADAP Youth and Family Program, Clara Lionel Foundation.”
The inscription on the other side lists the Black and Asian Pacific Islander Solidarity youth and volunteers:
Dominque Celeste Davis
Francisco Javier Figueroa
Jie Yu Zhou
Marvin Wadlow Jr.
Nhut Thanh Vo
Phillip Rock Lester
Timothy Taulua Jr.
One of the speakers was youth volunteer Hannarei Kinsey, who said:
“First I wanted to say thank you to everyone involved in putting this team together. Dominique (Davis), Diane (Ujiiye), and Rose (Brown) for coordinating this mural project as well as the adult facilitators and volunteers. And the youth for being here and participating.
“Today I will be sharing a self-reflection. I learned so much from all of the stories and conversations I had with the youth and the adult volunteers these past months.
“Having a biracial background of Black and Japanese descent, I’ve seen so much division, misrepresentation in the media, stereotypes about each other, colorism and so on.
“This gives me hope, despite how unjust and corrupt our government actually is. Sometimes I feel hopeless in that we never see change, but just being part of Black and API Solidarity has challenged me to speak up more. It has been a source of resources and a healing space for me. I feel inspired and empowered to create the changes within my own community, which means I need to unlearn and relearn the history of solidarity.
“Learning the truth about America and how U.S. exceptionalism, militarism, and imperialism works its way into damaging our people in college made me feel helpless about the system, that there isn’t going to be any type of change, but sharing knowledge on our histories, experiences, connecting with you all and exchanging ideas has gave me hope.
“This is what solidarity looks like and I hope that we can expand and continue to grow this community.”
Black and API Solidarity Group
The group behind the mural introduces itself as follows:
WHO we are: Black and Asian/Pacific Islander educators, organizers, gang intervention workers, formerly incarcerated, clergy/faith leaders, undocumented immigrants, AND American born women and men. We acknowledge the tremendous pain of our people before and during this pandemic.
WHY we formed: the COVID-19 has unearthed unresolved tensions between Asians and Blacks. We are still exploring how to engage our Pacific Islander sisters and brothers and welcome your thoughts.
We believe we need a groundswell movement of truth telling and solidarity building. We aspire to boldly off-set the conditions and reasons why so many of our people are hurting each other and themselves.
Together, we can correct false narratives, off-set lies, dispel myths, learn each other’s history, and build relationships by initiating joint activities in service of our communities.
Together, we confront the ways in which white supremacy pits us against each other and undermines our unity.
Together, we elevate all that is good, honest, hopeful, unifying, and compassionate.
Right now. Before more people are injured.
Facebook: Black and Asian Pacific Islander Solidarity
1. We are people who identify as Black, Asian, Asian American, and/or Pacific Islander. We remain open to collaboration with other people/groups, but recognize there is a distinct need for our specific unity.
2. Solidarity is an embodied principle, not an abstract concept. We aspire to walk our talk.
3. We are committed to prioritizing and elevating the voices of people who have historically been or are currently systematically pushed to the margins.
4. We aspire to counteract the interconnected nature of systemic racism ++and++ economic oppression.
5. Every person is viewed, treated, and respected as equal, regardless of titles and other external identifiers.
6. Each person’s history, culture, struggles, experience, ideas, successes and feelings are valued. Thus, we avoid judging or correcting others, especially if we have not lived through what they have lived through.
7. We aim to strengthen the skills needed to expand our base of power, without exploiting people in that process.
8. All faith practices are valued and respected.
9. Conciliation and peace-making are premium.
10. When we have an issue or problem with someone in our group, we raise it quickly and directly, and avoid any form of gossip.
Adopted Oct. 13, 2020
Sadly, the East Asian community has a colorism problem (and an ableism problem) that needs to be addressed. I am glad there is solidarity with other minorities.
For those inspired by this article, here is a 14 minute video that documents the mural project from its inception. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ypIeI-bzJYk