By Assunta Ng
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Seattle Rice Society.
The group has more to do with strengthening Asian American voices than with food. It organized the “Stop Asian Hate” rally on April 3 in the Chinatown-International District, in response to the Georgia killing of eight people, including six Asian women last month.
At the rally, the signs of “Stop Asian hate,” “Never again is now,” and “End white supremacy,” caught the eye of speaker and author Eric Liu. Despite the fact he agreed with those signs—in reaction to the Georgia massacre, his message to gain power was not what the audience expected to hear. Liu said while he doesn’t deny what has happened, it’s more important to create something different.
“Come together to make something new.” Liu, co-founder of Citizen University, urged the attendees to do three things.
“Organize on short notice… show up, build the organizing muscle of doing things with other people over and over again. That’s how we build and practice power.”
How does one learn about organizing?
“Join a club,” Liu said. “If you don’t want to join, start a club.” He inspired those who carried signs and would be potential builders of their own club. Tell the story over and over again, and what’s happening today, he said.
Third, Liu said, is to reclaim power.
“Remember all the signs ‘I stand for my elders.’ I am a child of immigrants…it was dumb luck to be born in the U.S. They (parents) took all the risks, all the sacrifices.”
Embodying his immigrant mother’s spirit that “I may be new here and may not know all the languages and all the rules,” Liu said his mother believed that…“ this place is mine. You adjust to me, and (not the other way around)…I am open, curious and…are ready to connect the dots… This is my street, my place, my town, my country…Tell the story of what’s happening today over and over today.”
And Liu said, know our history.
“Organize, remember, and imagine what it’s going to be like …reclaim this place.”
Hundreds of Asian Americans attended the rally, and several speakers were up and coming young AAPI leaders and rising stars. Unlike past rallies, the program featured performances, including singing and dancing. The speakers were Troy Osaki, attorney; Tracey Wong, dancer and instructor; Lloyd Bagtas, creative director; Tomo Nakayama, singer and songwriter; Daneca Trần, culinary artist; Erik Han and Nathan Chan, cellists; Kiko Eisner-Waters, CURA Collective founder; Rayna Mathis, museum educator; and Marissa Childers through Grace Takehare.
Founded by two friends, Grace Chung and Agatha (Aggie) Campana Tutia, the goal of the Seattle Rice Society rally was to strengthen and embolden Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) voices.
“We want to break the ‘model minority’ myth. It’s not real and not only is it detrimental to our cultures, but it is also detrimental in moving America forward,” the founders said in an email. “We refuse to assimilate and instead, be proud of who we are.
”We also want to make a point to include, respect, and honor a pan- and intersectional AANHPI experience. We have AANHPI brothers and sisters who may be of mixed heritage, mixed families, etc. who are still on their journeys of figuring out their most authentic selves. We want to make sure to create a safe, collective space for everyone to express their true, lived experiences.”
“I absolutely believe we were able to amplify and showcase some incredible AANHPI voices in the Seattle community,” said Chung. “The happiest and proudest moment of the rally was seeing everyone be so touched and engaged with each other as part of one, large community.”
This was one of the four major rallies held at Hing Hay Park so far in response to anti-Asian violence all over the country, including Washington state.
Why is Rice part of this organization’s name?
“This may have been the most fun part!” said Chung. “We chose ‘Seattle Rice Society’ because we wanted to emphasize our love of food and culture. And, we figure, rice is a foundation for most, if not all, AANHPI cuisines!”
Food was also served at the rally. Ayako & Family generously donated just under 100 servings of Japanese curry rice.
Assunta can be reached at email@example.com.