CW: This article discusses gun violence and racial violence. Please refer to the end of the article for on- and off-campus resources.
The Georgetown University Asian American Student Association (AASA) organized a candlelight vigil to honor the victims of two recent shootings in Monterey Park and Half Moon Bay, Calif.
Dozens of members of the Georgetown community attended the Jan. 29 event in Red Square, which AASA co-Presidents Ed Shen (MSB ’23) and Maggie Lin (CAS ’23) organized in an effort to create a safe space for Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) students to mourn those killed in the back-to-back mass shootings.
The Jan. 21 Monterey Park shooter killed 11 and injured nine, and the Jan. 23 Half Moon Bay shooter killed seven and left one injured. The majority of the victims were Asian American, and both shootings occurred in majority Asian American communities; Monterey Park has long been considered America’s first suburban Chinatown, and Half Moon Bay is located just miles away from Silicon Valley, where Asian Americans make up the largest ethnic group.
Shen said it was important to organize the vigil because it allowed members of the Georgetown community to mourn together.
“During tumultuous times, it is important to take care of each other and feel that we are not alone,” Shen wrote to The Hoya. “We figured that a vigil would be an opportunity to stand in solidarity with other AAPI students, reflect upon these tragedies and consider their larger implications for gun control in the United States and violence within communities of color.”
The shootings coincided with the first weekend of Lunar New Year, a time when Asian Americans often throw elaborate celebrations and travel long distances to be with their families.
Shen said the timing of the shootings, along with the growing frequency of anti-Asian violence, made them especially painful.
“During the vigil, members of our community shared how difficult it was to process these tragedies during a period of time that was intended for celebration,” Shen wrote. “We discussed the rising rates of violence within our community and how it often feels like there is nothing we can do in the face of tragedy.”
Hate crimes against Asian Americans increased 339% nationwide in 2021, especially in large cities including New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Many Asian American community leaders linked the rise in violence against the AAPI community to anti-Asian racism during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Aria Nimmagadda (CAS ’26) attended the vigil and said events like it help reinforce a sense of community among students.
“What happened in California is incredibly tragic and horrible,” Nimmagadda wrote to The Hoya. “I thought the vigil was a really strong show of support within the Georgetown community and hearing people share their grieving processes was very inspiring and helpful in knowing that no one needs to go through this difficult time alone.”
At the vigil, Max Zhang (SFS ’23, MSB ’23) spoke about how sharing his initial reactions with those around him allowed him to better process the shootings.
Zhang said events like the vigil are a necessary outlet for students to share their collective experiences of trauma and loss.
“Forums for communal mourning are critical when we face community grief, and I was grateful I got to be there,” Zhang wrote to The Hoya. “It’s important to pursue connection and show solidarity in this time where so many communities on-campus feel affected by violence.”
Georgetown stands in solidarity with members of the AAPI community and condemns the acts of violence, according to an email sent to community members Jan. 23.
“We recognize that in recent years, we have seen growing violence and hatred against our Asian American community in the United States,” the university wrote in the Jan. 23 email. “This is deeply concerning to all of us.”
In the wake of the shootings, Zhang said Georgetown must better support its AAPI student community.
“Translate ‘solidarity’ into material change. Establish the Asian-American studies program we deserve and need to study violence within and towards our communities,” Zhang wrote.
“Create mental health services catered to serve Asian students better. And bolster programs for marginalized students in general — the popular narratives forget sometimes how much supporting Asian people also means supporting first-generation and low-income students, undocumented students, queer students, international students, and more,” Zhang wrote.
Resources: On-campus resources include Health Education Services (202-687-8949) and Counseling and Psychiatric Services (202-687-6985). Additional off-campus resources include the Crisis Text Line (text 741741).
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