By Jason Cruz
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Unveiling a mural at the location of a hate crime, the Wing Luke Museum showcased the brightly-colored pheasant spanning nine windows in Canton Alley during a news conference on Monday. This symbolic artwork serves as a means to foster community healing in the aftermath of the tragic incident that took place last year, and it is set to take center stage in the upcoming Lunar New Year festivities in the Chinatown-International District (CID).
This past September, 76-year-old Craig Milne, a white man, was arrested after he used a sledgehammer to break windows on the museum. He allegedly shouted racial slurs and that the Chinese had ruined his life. He was found incompetent to stand trial due to mental health issues, but received treatment by court order and was later found competent. He faces two felony charges and a hate crime. He pled not guilty to the charges and trial is set for February.
Gov. Jay Inslee, Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell, and Commerce Director Mike Fong were at the news conference to speak about the mural and the $100,000 donation the Wing Luke received from the state and city to remedy structural damages to the museum after the September hate crime.
Seattle-based artists Sam Hilario and Shea Dailey created the mural. According to Wing Luke’s Executive Director Joel Barraquiel Tan, “The pheasant is a symbol of strength and beauty and will hopefully change the energy and stories in that space.” He also explained that the mural “represents divine grace.” The inspiration came from a Chinese platter found in the Sun May Company, a gift shop across the street from Wing Luke.
“It isn’t just the money, we were already on the phone with the Mayor’s office and the state was calling us so there was incredible real concern there,” said Tan of the expedience in which the Wing Luke was contacted once news of the hate crime was reported.
“We have to understand that hatred still exists across the United States,” said Inslee, who viewed the mural with Tan, Harrell, Fong, and other community leaders.
“What happened here this past September went beyond brick and mortar, it went beyond property destruction. It cut to the soul of many people in a country where we are seeing Chinatowns and International Districts somewhat eroding,” said Harrell, who noted that there may be fewer than 50 left in the country. He explained that he met recently with other AAPI mayors across the country and stated, “This is our time in the Asian community to speak so loudly and passionately to speak about the violence we see in our community.”
“It is our obligation to demonstrate that there is no place for hatred in the city of Seattle or the state of Washington,” said Harrell.
Commerce Director Fong recalled that when he was young, his family drove across the state from Spokane to specifically come to Chinatown for dim sum and visit with friends.
“I think in the context of what we are celebrating today, what we see on the streets of the CID, the heart of the community, is reflected in the vibrancy and the activity in the neighborhood, but its soul is in buildings like this.”
The Washington State Department of Commerce and City of Seattle each donated $50,000 to the Wing Luke Museum.
The hate crime was an example of the continued anti-Asian hate and violence which grew during the pandemic because of misinformation spread by some that China was the cause of COVID-19, which ravaged the globe and shut-down society. There has been an increase in crimes directed toward not only Chinese, but people of Asian descent.
Jason can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.