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Credit - Courtesy of Silas Lee
On March 21, just days after eight people, including six women of Asian descent, were killed in the Atlanta-area shootings, thousands gathered at Columbus Park in Manhattan for a rally against anti-Asian violence. Activists took turns addressing the surge in hate crimes and hate incidents toward the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, when an 8-year-old stepped onto the stage. “Stop the hatred!” Chance yelled into the mic. Chance, it turned out, was well-positioned to be a muse: the son of rap artist MC Jin, his three words would become the inspiration for—and the title of—his father’s latest track.
“Stop the Hatred,” written in response to ongoing anti-Asian attacks, is a collaboration between Jin and Fugees alum Wyclef Jean that aims to send a message of unity between the AAPI and Black communities. The song was released at the start of the month, with a music video directed by filmmaker Bao Nguyen (Be Water) and produced in partnership with The Asian American Foundation (TAAF) debuting on May 13. Filmed in New York City’s Chinatown, where businesses have been heavily impacted since the pandemic began and multiple restaurants and stores have permanently closed, the music video features shots of multigenerational families from the AAPI community. Some stand side by side with their elders, while others hold up photos of their grandparents—in a nod to how many victims of recent attacks have been elderly people. Jin raps of his grandma’s passing last year: “Part of me sees grace in the fact that she’s not here/ As a grandson this statement’s a fact/ No elderly should ever be victim of such a heinous attack.” In another verse, Wyclef raps about George Floyd as scenes of protesters marching against police brutality play in the foreground. “Racism and hate against underrepresented communities can only be fought with unity,” Wyclef says in a press release.
These images of people of different races unifying on the streets to call for racial justice, much like that late March rally, capture the spirit of “Stop the Hatred.” The music video drops at a time when clips of attacks on Asian Americans, including instances in which the perpetrators are Black, continue to circulate online. AAPI community leaders have warned against statements that generalize about entire groups of people while calling attention to how communities of color have been historically pitted against each other in the U.S.—in part by the model minority myth.
“Solidarity between the AAPI and Black communities has always been important, but now more than ever,” Jin tells TIME in an email. “Although history has shown that there have been moments of unity, those instances may have unfortunately been outshadowed by the tension and conflict between the two groups.” The artist says he hopes healing will come from more dialogue and greater empathy “for each other’s histories as it pertains to discrimination and hatred.” He continues, “Although this song was born out of pain, hurt and tragedy, my hope is that it will encourage people to take part in productive conversations.”
Jaeson Ma, founder of East West Ventures, helped coordinate the collaboration between Jin and Wyclef and spoke of the significance of the music video in this moment. “I do think the fact that media is continually showing these crimes—these hate acts happening between the African and Asian American communities—it’s just so necessary that there is also a visual and a message from both communities to come together and say hey, we’re not about this,” he tells TIME. Ma says that rhetoric from Donald Trump, who used phrases like “Kung flu” to reference COVID-19, played a significant role in contributing to negative attitudes toward the Asian American community during the pandemic. “It was direct from a white man that came out and said, this is what it is—‘China virus,’” he says. “This did not come from the African and Asian American communities.”
“Stop the Hatred” echoes a sentiment of uniting to increase safety for AAPI and Black communities, and activists have discussed what putting that into action looks like in practical terms. One nuance of the discussion has arisen around policing as a response to anti-Asian attacks. Some have cautioned against calls for heavier policing because of police institutions’ history of targeting Black and brown people. When New York City mayoral candidate Andrew Yang—who Jin had created a music campaign in support of in April—took the stage at the March 21 rally, he spoke of increasing funding for the NYPD Asian Hate Crimes Task Force. His words were met with mixed response and a “defund the police” chant from the crowd. (Jin declined to comment on his support for Yang.)
In early May, TAAF—which is supporting “Stop the Hatred”—launched with $250 million from corporations and Asian American business leaders. The funding is the single largest philanthropic gift dedicated to Asian Americans, and is aimed at combating anti-Asian discrimination. TAAF’s focus areas include collecting more comprehensive data on attacks against AAPIs with the goal of informing policymakers, and helping develop school curricula that would teach AAPI history. “Asian Americans have been successful at being successful in this country, but Asian Americans have not been successful at being powerful in this country,” Ma says. “We don’t have the seats in the boardroom, we don’t have the seats in the Senate and the House, we don’t have the seats in media and entertainment in Hollywood.” He is hopeful that the launch of TAAF reflects a larger mobilization effort across the country and that the foundation’s partnership on “Stop the Hatred” signals a belief in the power of art. “This song to me, the timing of it is to be the anthem of this AAPI civil rights and justice movement,” Ma explains.
The final moments of the music video show the link to a page on TAAF that includes resources for reporting hate crimes (through Asian Americans Advancing Justice and Stop AAPI Hate) and bystander intervention training hosted by Hollaback!.
In addition to attacks on the AAPI community, “Stop the Hatred” also urges for an end to violence toward people of all races. “A hate crime against anyone is a hate crime against everyone,” Ma says.