“Were you the only Black person there?” asked a Black friend (almost as an accusation) after I showed him the pictures from the Atlanta Rally for AAPI (Asian American Pacific Islander) Lives hosted by the Asian American Christian Collaborative (AACC).
“No, not at all!” I responded proudly as I reflected across both the crowd and speakers (hello, Latasha Morrison and Justin Giboney!).
But, my friend’s question made me pause. Although there were Black folks present, where were we, really? Why could I probably have easily and quickly counted my “skin folk” present without it being a daunting, time-consuming task? Frankly, it was because there were so few Black people in attendance. Keep in mind, this was the Rally for AAPI Lives for Atlanta, where Black people are the growing racial majority. Plus, the rally was at a convenient location just 10 miles outside of Atlanta on a spring, “easy like Sunday morning” because it was Sunday, day.
Let’s Back Up: What Brought Me to the Rally
Luke 10:27: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Verse 36: “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
Verse 37: The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”The Abridged “Good Samaritan” Parable NIV
It takes a village…African proverb
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from the Birmingham Jail
Be the bridge.Latasha Morrison
We must affirm human dignity.Compassion & Conviction: the AND Campaign’s guide to faithful civic engagement by Justin Giboney, Michael Wear and Chris Butler
I believe these statements. And, I try to live by them. Professionally, I speak up and out when I see others wronged even at the risk of my own career and income. Personally, I have broken up with Bumble dates that made it clear they cared only about the well-being of their own children but no other child in the community. These dad dates sadly personified “us four and no more” but that’s a story for a different blog, ha.
So when my fellow Buckhead Church Be the Bridge small group co-leader, Kim, shared the event with our group, I knew I had to be there despite my hectic schedule.
It was a busy and significant Palm/Passion Sunday for many reasons including this rally for AAPI. As the start of the rally neared, I hopped into my car. As I traveled down Buford Highway, the proud home to many Asian-American businesses, I noticed the dancing, late March, spring sun retreat. As I pulled into the parking lot, the sober event seemed to give way instantly to an overcast day.
After parking, Kim and her son found me and we stood.
We stood with the families gathered.
We stood with the leaders who spoke.
We stood with the children that were able to make friends and entertain themselves, not understanding the gravity of this gathering.
We stood with tears.
We stood with the laments.
We stood with the rallying cry to support our Asian-A-M-E-R-I-C-A-N (not perpetual “foreigners”) neighbors.
We stood with and for AAPI lives.
As allies, the rally charge to us was to:
- support local Asian-American businesses (and we did not have to go far with Buford Highway being replete with Asian-American entrepreneurs),
- build relationships,
- learn more about Asian-American history and the collective pain,
- help amplify Asian-American voices,
- speak to legislators,
- support the families of those murdered during the spa mass shootings and
- unite as Christians.
My heart was heavy but I left the rally with new intentionality — commit to these efforts and get more of my “corner of the world” to stand with our Asian friends too.
What the Rally and My Friend’s Question Helped Me to See
Anyone that is a fan of the 1980s and American pop culture may readily sing Janet Jackson’s chorus “what have you done for me lately? Ooh, ooh, ooh, yeah,” along with doing the accompanying eye and neck roll with as much sass as you can muster. As much as I love throwbacks to the 1980s, I believe it is time out for siding with a trite “thoughts and prayers” or worse, silence and complicity in the tune of “what have you, Asian-American neighbor, done for me lately?” This is true whether you are Black, Latinx, Indigenous or white.
I believe we have reached a critical moment of demarcation. Our Asian-American neighbors are literally rallying and crying out for more “good Samaritans”, which is Christian-speak for authentic allyship from different out-groups. Yet, the question remains, will we align with Christ (Leader of our ultimate in-group), be like the “good Samaritan” and proactively extend mercy (no matter our individual racial experiences or collectively complicated U.S. racialized entanglement) without a need for quid pro quo?
Or, will we be the tares that resemble Christ (the Wheat) but are actually weeds that do not allow others to grow, taking nutrients only for ourselves and our in-group with no concern for the wellbeing of those around us? Jesus’s tares analogy (Matthew 13:24-30) puts me in mind of the modern-day metaphor of “crabs in a barrel”. In either scenario, genuine Christ-followers get beyond singing, “me me me me meeeee” and emulate Jesus Christ’s real-life examples of centering those of different groups that reach out for help (c.f. blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46-52), the Canaanite woman with a demon-possessed daughter (Matthew 15:22-29), the centurion on behalf of his ill servant (Luke 7:1-10) and the woman with the issue of blood (Mark 5:25-34) to just name a few).
Dr. Michelle Reyes is the vice president of AACC and summed up this critical moment with these words:
The prayer rally in Atlanta and in other cities around the country was an invitation for everyone — both Asian American Christians and friends of the community — to enter into the collective pain of the Asian American community. See the world through our eyes and our realities of racism, marginalization, and erasure. Hear our voices. Listen to our stories. Mourn with us. We want to work together toward a more just and equitable future for all, and Sunday’s national prayer rallies felt like a powerful step in that direction.
In my “corner of the world”, this rally and my friend’s question have shown me the urgency to (continue to) work to be genuine wheat — that blooms with, and not at the detriment of, others. And, just as importantly, to recruit more wheat and to be committed to removing weeds (impediments to the dignity and growth of others). I hope you see it too and will commit to doing the same with me as allies for AAPI lives.