Princeton University students, faculty, and staff joined residents of Princeton and other local communities March 27 at a Stop Asian Hate Rally and Vigil at Hinds Plaza on Witherspoon Street. Speakers and participants expressed their solidarity with the Asian American and Pacific Islander community in light of the murders of eight people, including six Asian women, in Atlanta earlier in March and a general rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans.
The event began with a prayer and a moment of remembrance for the victims of the Atlanta shootings. People in the crowd of hundreds — a broad range of ethnicities and ages — listened intently to speakers who included Princeton professors, community leaders, and even local middle school children. Jennifer Lee ’23 and Kesavan Srivilliputhur ’23, co-presidents of the Asian American Student Association at Princeton, were among the first to share their stories of struggle and demands for action.
“I am not a virus. I am a scientist, and I am an American,” said Yiguang Ju, one of the speakers and a Princeton professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering. “Racism has no place at Princeton. Racism has no place in America.”
Samuel S.H. Wang, a professor of neuroscience and a founder of the Princeton Gerrymandering Project, encouraged the audience to channel their emotions into positive change, making an argument for representation and applied data analysis in understanding the prejudice faced by minority communities.
Sadaf Jaffer, chair of the Montgomery Township Diversity and Equity Committee and postdoctoral researcher in the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies (PIIRS), spoke about the importance of minority communities advocating for one another.
“Any one group by itself cannot accomplish things by itself,” Jaffer said. “Gun safety is really an issue of racial justice because it is minority communities that bear the brunt of so much of the gun violence in this country.”
“I want my children to see that America is not perfect,” said Xizhen Xu, a Montgomery resident who attended with his wife, Yun Teng, and their two young children. “I also want them to know that it can be better.”
The rally and vigil lasted three hours and was sponsored by a coalition of community groups, including the Association of Chinese Students and Scholars at Princeton University and the Princeton University Chinese American Parents Association.