A historic first-ever multicultural march led by Asian Americans on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., is scheduled to take place this week on June 25.
The Unity March will bring together a coalition of over 50 nonprofit organizations representing various AAPI communities as well as Black, Latinx, Indigenous, Arab and other historically marginalized groups in the U.S. to demand progress toward societal equity.
The Unity March seeks to advance three pillars in particular: “True democracy and full citizenship” with access to voting and citizenship for BIPOC communities and immigrants, “economic empowerment” that strengthens workers’ rights and supports BIPOC entrepreneurs and small businesses and, finally, “representation and cultural equity” through diversity and representation in cultural, educational and media sectors.
The march will also feature performances by AAPI artists and speeches from leaders such as Reverend Al Sharpton. Its founding organizers include Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC), Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote (APIAVote), Sikh American Legal Defense Fund (SALDEF), Gold House and Asian/Pacific Islander American Chamber of Commerce and Entrepreneurship (ACE).
Galvanized by the surge in racism and hate crimes affecting the AAPI community, such as the 2021 spa shootings in Atlanta, the event founders wanted to organize the march to address anti-Asian hate and acts of violence against other historically marginalized communities.
“The murders in Atlanta really affected not just the community itself, but it affected all of us,” Kevin Hirano, director of operations and development at APIAVote and one of the march’s organizers, told NextShark.
The murders that Hirano is reffering to was the killing of eight people, six of whom were Asian women by a gunman on a shooting spree occuring at three massage parlors in the Atlanta area. The event triggered an outcry from the Asian community that held rallies across the country to speak out against the violence Asian women experience and to call for justice.
“That [was] a stark reminder that this is part of a larger cycle of violence that has happened to Asian American Pacific Islanders for a long time. We decided to do a march in Washington, it’s never been done by Asian Americans,” Hirano explained.
“We also recognize the fact that the increasing violence against Asian Americans isn’t just focused on Asian Americans. It’s spreading, racially based hate is growing all over the place in all marginalized communities,” he added. “We took it upon ourselves to understand that this is not just our fight. We have to use our platform to make sure that hate in all of its forms, inequities in all its forms are addressed.”
A report from the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism found that anti-Asian hate crimes went up by 342% in 2021 compared to the previous year across eight major cities in America including New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Denver, Columbus, Cincinnati and Washington, D.C.
The Unity March aims to show community members and the American public that Asian Americans “are here, we have always been here, and now as we are growing [in] influence and power, people better get used to it.”
“It really is for us, through the voices of people, affected community members, community leaders of organizations, to really make the broad case,” Hirano continued.
For those who cannot attend the Unity March in-person, organizers will be broadcasting and livestreaming the event. Anyone can “virtually walk” and participate in the march’s social media challenge by creating a sign with a reason behind marching, such as reproductive rights, access to education and other issues considered important to Asian Americans.
The Unity March will start at 12 p.m. ET at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on 12th Street between Jefferson and Madison Streets.