Unity March: Reflections from Our Community

Unity March

By Chrissy Park

On June 25, 2022, the Unity March made history as the first large-scale, Asian American-led multicultural rally and march on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. By raising awareness about issues that affect Asian American and BIPOC communities and amplifying the voices of leaders, activists, and community members, the Unity March sought to advance the fight for socioeconomic and cultural equity, racial justice, and solidarity by urging community members to commit to speaking out, showing up for one another, and continuing the fight for a better and more fair future.

Advancing Justice | AAJC, one of the founding organizations of the event, spoke with some of the headliners, staff members, and partners after the event to hear their perspectives.

From Our Headliners

KHA

KHA, a Vietnamese American singer and songwriter, performed at the Unity March and was amazed by the sense of community at the event. She stresses that the Unity March is part of a larger, ongoing effort for Asian American communities to claim their space in the country.

KHA Performing onstage at the Unity March, June 25, 2022

“What I really hope people take away from the Unity March is that it’s not just a march. It’s not just a day that we came together,” KHA said. “This moment in history for us, as Asian Americans, really [shows] America that we have galvanized and we’re not going to accept being invisible or unappreciated anymore.”

In the future, KHA wants Asian Americans to continue mobilizing and amplifying their voices.

“[The Unity March] was just so important because it was really a call to action that we’re all fighting for the same reasons. And we’re all fighting against the same marginalization and struggles and oppression,” she said. “So it’s just very important that we don’t lose that momentum, particularly for the Asian American community. This is the first time in 40 years since Vincent Chin’s murder where we really have banded together in a loud and noticeable way. And so I hope that this [momentum] can continue, and that it starts to gain more traction.”

KHA also hopes that our communities will work together more prevalently to fight for the same goals. Identifying cultural and generational differences as an obstacle, she is nevertheless hopeful that Asian Americans will unite in solidarity with one another.

“We’re not a monolith,” KHA said. “But within the Asian American community, I do think we need to find our common ground more. If each of our communities only shouts out the message that’s important to them, it’s not going to be as loud as if we all come together to have the same message. And frankly, I think that we are already shouting that same message, but just not at the same time.”

Moving forward, education and awareness are of paramount importance to KHA. Growing up — and even throughout college — KHA didn’t have access to Asian American history, and so she sought to learn from Asian American professors and authors.

“I think educating ourselves and understanding where we came from [are] the only way that we’re going to be able to find a path forward, [a path] that allows us to avoid mistakes of the past and try to build a better future,” KHA said.

Thuy

Thuy, also a Vietnamese American singer and songwriter, spoke with Advancing Justice | AAJC about the Unity March and shared how being present with everyone was inspiring for her. One of the songs she performed, “i hope u see this,” was Thuy’s way of representing her heritage and culture.

Thuy performing at the Unity March

“I’m not a person that outrightly talks about being Asian,” she said. “I feel like I just am Asian. I just want to be a dope artist, and it just so happens to be that I’m Vietnamese American. But this song in particular was really a message to my younger self, and kind of a song for me to inspire other Asian Americans to pursue their dream.”

Thuy acknowledges that “change is something that you don’t see instantly” but is “one of those things that you have to constantly speak up about.” She sees the Unity March as a reminder for people to use their platforms whenever they can.

“I feel like it was a moment in history that needed to happen. And I think it inspired a lot of people to then go back and think about how what they’re doing can make an impact,” Thuy said. “Speaking for myself, after that event I want to encapsulate more of my heritage and where I come from and people that look like me in [my visuals].”

Growing up, Thuy recalls being afraid of “stirring the pot.” But now, she’s learning how to find and embrace her voice. She believes the key to making change is for us to overcome the fear and speak out while always being willing to learn.

“Lean into the fear,” she said. “Lean into the fear of not being as educated on certain things, [and] be willing to learn and hear people out. Don’t be afraid to speak out just because you don’t know all the facts. Never be afraid to voice your opinion or ask questions [or] learn. Sometimes you have to be a little loud for change to be implemented.”

From Our Partners

National Filipino American Lawyers Association (NFALA)

Gage Javier of NFALA at the Unity March

Gage Javier, incoming president of NFALA, emphasized the importance of representation and speaking out against injustices.

“I’m marching today because it’s very important to understand that Asian American Pacific Islander peoples are here. We’ve contributed significantly to the American diaspora and American history, and hate toward our AAPI community is no longer acceptable,” she said. “It’s really important, as AAPI members, to be able to represent and demonstrate to society that we are here and that we want to advocate for our rights.

Anakbayan–Washington, D.C.

Britney (Left) and Arman (Right) of Anakbayan — Washington, D.C. at the Unity March

Arman and Britney of Anakbayan–Washington, D.C. explained why they partook in the Unity March.

“I’m here today because I think it’s very important for the Asian American Pacific Islander community to be united and band together in our struggles. There [are] always a lot of interconnections between oppressed groups, and when we’re fighting together and standing in solidarity, our calls will be stronger together,” Britney said.

“There needs to be a lot of solidarity within Asian American groups [and] among different races, given all the issues that permeate through every ethnic and racial group,” Arman added. “When we come together, it starts to send a message that this is how we take down white supremacy and bring all people toward justice.”

National Association of Korean Americans (NAKA)

Member of NAKA at the Unity March

One volunteer from NAKA shared why he was marching.

“[We are] coming together to speak against hate crimes and violence against Asian Americans. We are here to live and to prosper,” he said. “We cannot live in fear. So we are coming here today to unite against violence, against discrimination, against hatred. We are here at the National Mall to project our commitment to justice and unity.”

From Our Staff:

Joy De Guzman and​ Tracey Ly

Advancing Justice | AAJC Staff at the Unity March

Advancing Justice | AAJC’s Joy De Guzman, Manager of Community Engagement, and Tracey Ly, Community Outreach and Data Coordinator, were part of the core team that planned and led the event.

“Such a wide range of a really big coalition signed on [for the Unity March],” Joy said. “That organizing started even last year to bring people together [is] something I’m really proud of.”

Tracey seconded the praise of the Unity March’s diversity, emphasizing the vast number of partners and the size of the coalition.

“There were so many moving parts and it was amazing to see it come together,” she said.

Joy and Tracey hope the Unity March brought communities together, built connections, and created relationships that will lead to joint work on future initiatives.

“We are stronger together and will continue to lead the way for our community,” Tracey said. “This is only the beginning of the movement.”

“Solidarity is really important. We’re going to rise and fall together, and there’s no way we’re going to do it alone,” Joy added. “[The Unity March] was ultimately a moment of deep care. It was a moment and platform for us to reflect and commit to each other.”

We thank everyone who joined, supported, or watched the Unity March; this is only the beginning of our fight for a better future. Advancing Justice | AAJC expresses our deepest gratitude to our co-organizers: APIAVote; Gold House; Indian American Impact Project; Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance; National Korean American Service & Education Consortium; National Council of Asian Pacific Americans; OCA–Asian Pacific American Advocates; and Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund for their work and support in organizing this multicultural mobilization.

We also thank the 2,000+ people who came to the Unity March in person, as well as the nearly 50,000 people who tuned into the Unity March online in the past month. For those who missed it, you can watch the Unity March program here.

What’s next:

We’re asking members of our community to take the Unity Pledge today. When you take the pledge, you make a commitment to:

  • Vote both on behalf of yourself and on behalf of our community members who don’t have the ability to do so.
  • Get connected with local organizations working on the issues lifted up by our speakers during the Unity March.
  • Get educated and receive informational resources on Asian American and BIPOC histories, issues, and campaigns from our partners so that we can continue to learn, grow, and build together as a community.

Take the Unity Pledge today to make a commitment to amplifying Asian American and BIPOC voices in communities across the country.

Chrissy Park is the Communications intern at Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC.

Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC has a mission to advance the civil and human rights of Asian Americans and to build and promote a fair and equitable society for all. Visit our website at advancingjustice-aajc.org

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Advancing Justice – AAJC

Advancing Justice – AAJC

Fighting for civil rights for all and working to empower #AsianAmericans to participate in our democracy.