700 volunteers in California are escorting Asian American seniors to guard them in opposition to assaults
The worrying wave of violence against Asian Americans across the country has drawn hundreds of volunteers to protect the elderly by escorting them through neighborhoods in Northern California.
Since the pandemic began, more than 3,000 incidents of hatred against Asian Americans have been recorded across the country, many of which were directed at the elderly. In New York City, police data reportedly showed these violent attacks increased by 1,900% over the course of the pandemic.
Recently reported attacks include a man pouring acid on a woman in New York and a 61-year-old being slashed with a box cutter. In San Jose, a 64-year-old grandmother was attacked and robbed after using an ATM. An 84-year-old man died after being knocked to the ground in San Francisco.
Bay Area native and fourth generation Chinese American, Jess Owyoung was devastated by the violence and decided to take action.
Owyoung reached out to Jacob Azevedo after posting an Instagram post offering to join anyone in Oakland’s Chinatown neighborhood to make them feel safe. The post inspired hundreds to sign up and shared the same desire to support the community.
Together, Owyoung, Azevedo, and four others founded Compassion in Oakland in February, an organization that matches escort volunteers with elderly Asian Americans who may feel unsafe walking or running errands. The group also helps with writing police reports and provides translation assistance when needed.
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“We just want our older people to know that we seem to them, that we want to be there for them and hear their stories,” said Owyoung.
Within a few days they had nearly 300 people ready to join. More than 700 volunteers have now registered. The group is working to build new chapters nationwide and hopes to serve more communities.
“When someone doesn’t understand someone, if there’s a language barrier or a difference in culture, it’s easy not to have compassion because it’s different or strange. We really just want to bring unity,” said Owyoung.
Compassion in Oakland
Owyoung said it was “heartbreaking” to see people who look like relatives and loved ones being attacked – but it forced them to act.
“Asian Americans, we weren’t taught to speak and take action. It’s ingrained in our culture. So it’s almost like denying yourself to actually taking action. But I think everyone is in power has to express himself and act. ” You have the right to do so, “she said.” I have a voice. I can do something about it. If I don’t, maybe no one else will. “
Compassion in Oakland urges all volunteers to take a negative COVID-19 test before registering and to get tested for the virus regularly.
Manjusha Kulkarni, co-founder of Stop AAPI Hate and executive director of the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council, said violence against the Asian community is not new but has worsened during the pandemic.
Kulkarni said former President Trump’s rhetoric added to the problem and “put people at risk”.
“We know that many of the reports we have received at Stop AAPI Hate have been incidents where the perpetrators used the president’s language against individuals in our communities,” she recently told CBSN.
Last month, President Biden signed an executive order condemning racism, xenophobia and intolerance against Asian Americans and islanders in the Pacific.
Owyoung said volunteers at Compassion in Oakland come from all races, cultures and ages.
“It’s a wonderful conversation we have together about our individual experiences … and how we can build each other up, how we have so many similarities and differences. But it’s what makes America so wonderful.”