Santa Clara resident Harbir Bhatia has been feeling troubled by reports about violence against Asian Americans. In March, was news of the mass shootings in the Atlanta area where Asian women working at spas were among those killed.
“Then the news about the shooting at the FedEx facility in Indiana in mid-April where four Sikhs were killed charged my feelings some more,” said Bhatia, a member of California Sikh Heritage and Awareness. “Asians have been significant contributors to society in California and across the country. Yet we continue to see the rise. The number of hate crimes against Asians has gone up by 165 percent just this year.”
Bhatia and a team of members from the Asian American community, many of whom are Santa Clara residents, planned the Stop Asian Hate March, held on May 1.
Guiding young people on how to conduct activism was one of the event planning tasks for Bhatia and Karanbir Sekhon, who also worked on this event.
“It’s critical that we get the youth to take leadership and drive change with guidance,” Bhatia said.
“I’ve worked with the youth organizers on how to spread the message of what we are doing, from going door to door to talk to people to going on social media to promote the event,” said Sekhon, a member of the San Jose Gurdwara.
“For this march specifically, by working with both individuals, I have learned a lot about how to approach different people and get out of my comfort zone,” said Natasha Chinnagiri, 15. “I now also understand what websites are the best to use to spread a desired message and how fliers should be made in order to be attention grabbing.”
It appeared that Chinnagiri and her peers’ efforts to promote the event paid off. On May 1, an estimated 100 participants of the march met at Santa Clara’s Franklin Square.
The youth organizers managed a giant canvas sign bearing the message of the event’s theme: “Spread Love Stop Hate.” Some attendees also brought flags and homemade signs.
As the emcee, Shivank Dagar, 15, helped to lead the group to the Civic Center Park near City Hall. During the march, Dagar chanted phrases on a microphone such as, “We are what America looks like,” “Liberty and justice for all,” and “Stop Asian hate now” as marchers chanted after him. Some drivers honked to show support.
At the rally at Civic Center Park, Chinnagiri, Kaylyn Sangston, 16, and Aasees Sandhu, 15, gave a presentation. A number of community leaders also spoke, including Santa Clara Mayor Lisa Gillmor, most of the Santa Clara City Council Members, Assemblymember Alex Lee, County Supervisor Susan Ellenberg and Cupertino Mayor Darcy Paul. At the end of the rally, many community members, including youth, shared their thoughts on the open mic.
“This is an issue for the youth because the future is for the youth,” said Santa Clara City Council Member Kevin Park. “We need to become the majority, not the majority by race, but the majority of people who are saying hate has no place in our community.”