May marks Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, as well as D.C.’s launch of the anti-Asian violence prevention program that includes the “Hate Stops with Us” campaign.
The director of the Mayor’s Office on Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs, Ben de Guzman, said one element of the program involves outreach and education in city schools.
That means “training people in the D.C. public school system — our teachers, our staff, our students, our families — to make sure that they’re aware of our community, its contributions, the unfortunate violence that’s been happening, and the role that they can play in making sure that violence stops with us,” de Guzman said.
There’s also an advertising campaign including posters and #HateStopsWithUs.
The program and campaign’s launch on Tuesday in Chinatown also highlighted D.C. police’s Special Liaison Branch.
“My Asian Liaison Unit is out in the community. We’re interacting, providing services and supporting the community on a daily basis,” said D.C. police Capt. David Hong.
Hong also oversees the Latino, LGBT, Deaf and Hard of Hearing interfaith and African liaison units.
“We never want any community member, in general, to feel underserved, underrepresented and unheard. My team’s daily goal is to ensure that any interaction we have with community members, they never feel that way,” Hong said.
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Officer Michael Kim said that as a member of the Asian Liaison Unit, he interacts daily with members of the community and business owners in Chinatown. He has a familiar perspective on the challenges the Asian American and Pacific Islander community may be facing — during the 1990s, his parents owned a small grocery store in Baltimore.
“I saw their suffering,” he said.
When Kim makes the rounds, he gives out information and safety tips; he listens to people’s problems and issues.
He emphasizes to them that he is familiar with their needs, he’s trying to help them, and he’s doing the best he can for them. Kim also teaches and trains other officers about differences between cultures to help broaden understanding of different points of view.
With the onset of the pandemic and rising animosity and hate crimes targeting the Asian community, many tenants of the Wah Luck House, an affordable housing landmark for the elderly in Chinatown, were reluctant to go outside even to go grocery shopping or to the pharmacy, said Rita Lee, the director of the Wah Luck Adult Day Care Center.
“We are very happy the D.C. government has this program beginning — not only the Mayor’s Office on Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs, but also with the D.C. Police Department,” Lee said, in reference to increased patrols and officers hosting safety seminars.
The Wah Luck Adult Day Care Center opened late last year with a staff that includes a doctor, two nurses, a social worker and 27 caregivers to serve residents of the Wah Luck House who have medical issues. It provides breakfast and lunch and schedules daily activities.
“We help them have a more social and healthy life,” Lee said.
On May 10, the city will host an Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month celebration at the Lincoln Theatre. Everyone is welcome to attend.