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OKLAHOMA CITY — Leaders of the Asian American Pacific Islander community in Oklahoma City joined with Mayor David Holt and Oklahoma legislators from the metro to condemn hatred and recent violence.

“You are loved,” said Holt.

The memory of the eight people, mostly Asian women, who were killed a week ago in Atlanta was still fresh on the minds of speakers and those attending.

The rally and candlelight vigil at Wesley United Methodist Church featured ten speakers from a wide spectrum of cultures in Oklahoma City.

Local Asian leaders

Michael Do, President of the Asian Society of Oklahoma/Vietnamese American Community of Oklahoma talked about the culture of hospitality and kindness of Asian peoples and how difficult it was to speak up and confront those who express hate.

But, in conclusion, he made the point bluntly, “Stop Asian hate!”

Thuan Nguyen, President of the Asian District Cultural Association, told about the hardship of coming to the United States at the age of four years with his mother from Vietnam.

Like so many in Oklahoma City’s Asian community, Nguyen said that it has been difficult to watch how people in his community are treated sometimes.

Samantha Vu, Mrs. Oklahoma 2019 recalled how her family — like so many others from Vietnam — had been one of the “boat people” who set out to see with nothing but a boat and hope that whoever found them would take them in.

She said that right now, “we have to take a deep breath” and assess how courtesy is perceived by others who are hostile and hateful.

“We have got to stop letting people take advantage of us,” Vu said.

At the end of the program, Veronica Laizure Civil Rights Director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Oklahoma Chapter, told her own story about being adopted as a baby from South Korea to the United States.

She said that she was privileged to have been raised by the parents she had but that did not stop and has not stopped the hatred she sometimes experiences from some who hate AAPIs the sadness in Laizure’s voice betrayed a lifetime of growing up within and very familiar with American white culture but clearly being of Asian descent and experiencing the hatred.

State leaders

Oklahoma Representative Cyndi Munson represents one district in the metro and is the first Asian American in the Oklahoma Legislature.

“In a state that I love, it is hard to be who I am,” said Oklahoma Legislator Cyndi Munson from HD-85 in Oklahoma City. “My mother is Korean and my father is from Cincinnati,” said Munson.

“Most of my life people have asked ‘what are you?'” trying too hard to sort out her ancestry.

But she said her mother raised her to strongly claim her country.

“You are American,” her mother would insist. It was often in response to kids at school teasing her about her Asian appearance.

With tears and fighting back the urge to cry, Munson said that sometimes she’s “not Asian enough” and sometimes “not white enough.”

Senator Kay Floyd, SD-46 in Oklahoma City said, “we need to stand next to each other and hold each other up.”

“We are all responsible,” Floyd said.

The Reverend T. Sheri Dickerson of Black Lives Matter — OKC recalled how “the path to liberation there is anger.” She said that challenging the racial hatred toward anyone including Asian Americans is a process of “dismantling the system of white supremacy.”

City officials

Mayor Holt spoke directly to those of Asian descent who were there and said, “You are loved.” Later, at the end of his speech he said, “I love you.”

The Mayor recalled that in the history of Oklahoma City people of Asian descent had always been here but in the earliest days had to literally live underground in basements in the city.

He spoke with pride about the development of the Asian District in the part of the city where the rally was being held.

But, he delivered a caveat. “Just because things are better, that doesn’t mean they are the way they are supposed to be.”

Holt acknowledged that there is hate being expressed toward Asian Americans and “we will meet that hate.”

Ward 2 Oklahoma City Council member James Cooper addressed the attendees and said that “the must be behind us” when Asian Americans have to live in fear.

Cooper has made it his mission to represent all of the various neighborhoods within Ward 2, one of the core wards in the expansive OKC metro. He said that the effort continues because “our children’s lives are on the line.”

Statements afterward

“I feel empowered,” Thuan Nguyen told KOCO’s Porsha Riley after the event was over. “I feel that we have a great way to bring our communities together, not just one minority community but many minority communities.” He said, “it has been really helpful to know that we have support.”

Last Updated March 25, 2021, 11:17 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor