Sacramento grocery stores, casinos and Golden 1 Center will soon be adorned by an image calling attention to a single word: Kapwa. In Filipino, the word means fellowship or togetherness.
The colorful, comic-esque digital illustration of six people linked arm-in-arm in struggle marks the first advertisement in a new campaign by local Asian American community groups launched Saturday in midtown Sacramento to combat Asian hate.
“When we have an issue, solving it takes a community not just an individual,” said LeRoid David, one of eight artists whose work will be featured each month as part of the Laban Group campaign funded with a state grant. “I hope this will trigger folks to find out about it and live in the spirit of kapwa.”
Launched more than a year ago, the Filipino media collaborative led by Everyday Impact Consulting includes the Asian American Liberation Network and Filipino Fiesta News. Its “Reclaiming our Visibility” ad campaign last year featured photographs of Sacramento AAPI leaders.
During and after the COVID-19 pandemic, America saw a dramatic uptick in violence against Asian Americans spurred in part by racist rhetoric. In California, hate crimes against Asian Americans increased by 177.5% from 2020 to 2021, according to the state Department of Justice.
It prompted Gov. Gavin Newsom and the AAPI Legislative Caucus to create an Asian and Pacific Islander equity budget the same year. With $166.5 million in investment over three years to help agencies combat Asian hate, the Commission on Asian & Pacific Islander American Affairs has offered 168 grants to community organizations to highlight awareness.
Caucus Commissioner Cirian Villavicencio celebrated declines in recorded hate crimes against Asian Americans over the past two years. But community leaders were quick to point to the need for continued attention on such incidents, many of which go unreported.
“We need to remain vigilant and unrelenting in our advocacy,” said Villavicencio, who teaches political science at San Joaquin Delta College. “Hate has no place in our communities and in the state of California.”
Megan Sapigao, co-founder and executive director of the Asian American Liberation Network, noted that Friday marked the anniversary of the 1930 Watsonville riots, where white mobs attacked Filipino farm workers.
“Anti-Asian hate didn’t just start (with) COVID. There is a deep history here and oftentimes we don’t learn it in a classroom,” Sapigao said. She said the ad campaign is meant to help the Filipino and greater AAPI community to see their stories in local media, have access to resources and find community.
“What I’ve learned is that communities need trusted messengers to see ourselves with a cultural nuance that white-centric media doesn’t capture,” she added. “Making our ads community-led and -centered is how we’ll get our message across and build trust.”