Written and photographed by Lillian Zhou and Cynthia Chen
CAPA-MC Junior Reporter Club
The event was in remembrance of the eight individuals, seven of which were women, and six of which were of Asian descent. They were killed in a mass shooting on March 16 in Atlanta, Georgia.
The victims are Soon C. Park, 74; Suncha Kim, 69; Hyun J. Grant, 51; Yong Ae Yue, 63; Paul Andre Michels, 54; Xiaojie Tan, 49; Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33; and Daoyou Feng, 44.
Nearly 400 people came to the event at the Chinese Culture and Community Service Center on the afternoon of March 21.
The vigil was composed of remarks from several organization representatives, a candle lighting ceremony, and several young artists from schools across Montgomery County playing music to pay tribute to the victims.
At a time of crisis, volunteers came together within 48 hours to bring the memorial service together. The community mourned and spoke on the importance of stopping Asian-American Pacific Islander hate in America.
Tongtong Ye and Stephanie Zhou performing the National Anthem to begin the event.
The minister from the Chinese Bible Church of Montgomery leading the audience in prayer.
Dr. Chih Hsiang Li representing the Chinese Culture and Community Service Center (CCACC) and Ms. Ting Mei Chau representing the Chinese American Parents Association of Montgomery County gave statements of support and encouragement.
Ms. Chau wrote in her speech, “We must act, and we must voice our concerns, but we also must continue to contribute, and must continue to love and care, and continue to work to stop hatred in all of its forms.”
Mr. Jay Guan and Mr. Gregory Wims spoke on behalf of the Victim’s Rights Foundation, which is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting those affected by violence, bullying, and/or abuse and their families.
Mr. Wims stated in an interview that he “wants the voice of Asian Americans to be heard...if it happened yesterday, it will happen tomorrow if you don’t speak up and say anything.”
The event received the support of the Montgomery County government, including a statement by Yi Shen, the Asian Liaison in the Office of Community Partnerships for the Montgomery County Community Engagement Cluster.
Mr. Shen described two new curriculum materials which will be released this May to honor Asian American Heritage Month. These packets detailing the history of Asians in America aim to acknowledge and educate about the contributions Asians have made to American society.
After the planned statements, an open mic session allowed members of the audience to express their thoughts and feelings. Individuals of all ages—as young as eight years old—and from all backgrounds spoke out about the tragedy and voiced their support for the Asian American community.
Gabriel Acevero, Maryland State Delegate of District 39, Montgomery County, also spoke at the open mic. He stated his support and recommitment to ensuring “we are safe in our community”, adding that “I will show up and ensure I am pushing the policies” to prevent and punish hate crimes in order to “build a beloved community.”
Asian American youth at the vigil. Students from schools across Montgomery County played moving pieces to pay tribute to the victims. Others made posters onsite, or brought signs and posters drawn at home, such as Jennifer Ren (pictured right) from Montgomery Blair High School.
Top row, from left to right: A message and flowers left for one of the victims; flowers and candles left by the community to honor those lost in the mass shooting; and Elena Li, a sophomore at Montgomery Blair High School, holds up a sign she made with the words “Stop AAPI Hate”.
Bottom row, from left to right: A family holding candles and a sign standing solemnly at the vigil; three girls sitting by the candles and flowers; and Marshall, eight years old, pictured placing a candle.
This article was provided by Chinese American Parents Association Junior Reporter Club (CAPA JRC) with members who interviewed, audio recorded, wrote, translated, and video recorded. CAPA JRC has 19 Montgomery County middle to high school students. They have created a bilingual platform delivering news and serving the community.