Religious groups rally in Uptown against racism facing Asian American and Pacific Islander communities

Dan Hinkel, Chicago Tribune
·2 min read

The Rev. Ji Euh “Mori” O of Ravenswood Fellowship United Methodist Church told a diverse crowd of a few dozen on Sunday that she took heart from their willingness to speak out against racism and attacks on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

“I believe there is still hope because of people like you,” she said. “I believe there are seeds of hope that will bloom tomorrow. Today, we suffer violence but tomorrow, tomorrow will be (a) thing of hope because of people like you.”

Her words closed the interfaith Uptown Rally Against AAPI Racism in the parking lot behind the Buddhist Temple of Chicago. There, clergy members from a spectrum of faiths — in garments ranging from clerical collars to T-shirts — addressed the group gathered on a warm, sunny day with signs delivering messages such as “stop AAPI hate” and “racism is a virus.”

The speakers warned of a rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans in some big cities and memorialized the eight people — six of them women of Asian descent — killed at Atlanta-area spas in March by a gunman who allegedly claimed to have a “sex addiction” that authorities described as potentially driving him to lash out. The group also remembered the eight people — four of them from the Sikh community — killed last month by a gunman at an Indianapolis FedEx facility. Authorities haven’t detailed a suspected motive for that crime.

The faith leaders at the event lined up to toll the temple’s bell in honor of the victims.

The rally came a day after a man slammed a pickup truck into a picnic in the Logan Square neighborhood, seriously inuring a woman, according to authorities. A witness told the Tribune the man yelled anti-Asian comments before the crash. Police took the man into custody, but authorities had not announced charges as of Sunday.

At the rally, state Sen. Mike Simmons, a Democrat from the North Side, promoted a bill introduced earlier this year that would add bias against a person’s citizenship or immigration status to the list of motivations that can lead to hate crime charges. Simmons, the son of an Ethiopian refugee, said he worries society is moving backward in race relations.

“We’re not gonna let hatred win in this community,” he said. “I want you all to join with me in sending a message that we’re not going to tolerate hatred and discrimination against our Asian American and Pacific Islander neighbors and countrymen. We’re not going to have that here.”

The Rev. Patti Nakai of the Buddhist temple spoke against the portrayal of people of Asian descent as outsiders that she said makes them targets for violence.

“We do belong here. We’re not others. We’re not foreigners,” she said. “We’re here as fellow Americans.”