Candlelight vigil honors lives lost in Atlanta

Nick DeMarchis, Opinions Co-Editor

Monday night, Bucknellians from all walks of life joined together on the Science Quad to stand in solidarity with the Asian Pacific Islander Desi American (APIDA) community. This event followed a mass shooting in Atlanta that targeted massage parlors, taking 8 lives, six of whom were Asian women. The audience was about 250, including both community members in person and on Zoom. Organized by Ruby Lee ‘21 and Jasmine Minhas ‘22, and coordinated by the Office of Religious & Spiritual Life, the vigil was designed to help the University community mourn these losses of life.

Both Rev. Kurt Nelson, Director of Religious & Spiritual Life, and Meenakshi Ponnuswami, the faculty advisor for South Asian Student Association, spoke at the event. They were followed by Lee, who remarked, “maybe we will never know what was in [the perpetrator’s] heart, but we do know that he took the lives of Asian women.” She continued, “People say they don’t understand” this sort of bias, discrimination, and violence, “but I do.”

“We’ve been speaking, but have you been listening?” Lee said of increasing and recent anti-Asian violence.

This is not the first time students have shown solidarity with the victims of national and international tragedies. In recent memory, the community stood vigil with victims after the 2018 Tree of Life synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh and the 2019 Christchurch mosque shootings. During the latter vigil, the University was reminded that such acts of violence and hatred are unacceptable and “not normal”.

The Washington Post reports in their online database, “The terrible numbers that grow with each mass shooting,” that nearly 150 Americans have died in mass shooting events since the Tree of Life. In the wake of the Atlanta shooting, satire publication The Onion ran the recurring headline “‘No Way To Prevent This’, Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens” for the 16th time. 

Shin Won Cho ’21, president of the Korean Cultural Association, shared that “the deaths of six Asian-American women should not go unnoticed or unanswered,” and that these events should be a “wake up call to what we all experience.” She further stated that the next steps to addressing this tragedy are changing not only individuals, but institutions to better combat acts of hatred.

Stuart Young, Associate Professor of Religious Studies and Director of The China Institute, emphasized that “anti-Asian violence is not new in our community”, and “racism is the result of ignorance, the result of dehumanizing people.”

Professor Nikki Young, Associate Provost for Equity and Inclusive Excellence, closed the vigil with her remarks. She emphasized, “may the names we speak and the words from our mouths be a message that anti-Asian racism and misogyny are unacceptable.”

Correction (3/31/21 and 4/2/21): This article was corrected from its original version to correctly quote the speakers and use more inclusive terminology.

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