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“Solidarity doesn’t begin with an Instagram square or a catchy hashtag. It begins with considering our implication in the violence inflicted upon others. It begins with decentering oneself, to share our time, bodies, and space to protect and support communities in need […] Only in solidarity with Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities will we be able to establish real networks of care to resist the violence of white hegemony.” – Alex Ito, Artist

Though not often visible in school curriculum or media, there is a long history of solidarity between Black and Asian Americans. These solidarity efforts are not only historical, but ongoing. We’re spotlighting one such effort based in Los Angeles: The Black and Asian/Pacific Islander Solidarity Group. The group was founded in April 2020 by Tim Kornegay, Billy Taing, and Diane Ujiiye amid increased anti-Asian violence and growing tension between Black and Asian communities. Over email, the three of them shared with Mochi Mag about their work, their organization, and ways that readers of this column can help build solidarity.

About the Founders: Activists with a Common Cause

Each of these three founders is a transformative activist in their own right, making this collaboration all the more powerful. Kornegay is a lifelong resident of Los Angeles and currently serves as the director of LIVE FREE California, a statewide coalition of 20 Black-led organizations. Kornegay shares that their collective mission is to “reduce gun violence and end mass incarceration, while increasing rehabilitation options across city, county, and state agencies — to include but not be limited to felony record change, job creation, and access to affordable housing.”

The friendship between Kornegay and Ujiiye grew when they both worked with LA Voice, an interfaith community-based organization. As an activist and minister with over 25 years of nonprofit management experience, Ujiiye has worked in areas of substance abuse, reentry, gang prevention/intervention, HIV/AIDS, mental health, and local/state public policy advocacy. Currently, she serves as the board president for Healing Urban Barrios, a gang intervention and reentry program in East Los Angeles.

Kornegay and Taing connected through a mutual friend who had the shared path of incarceration. Taing describes himself as “an immigrant refugee, former lifer, and activist in the re-entry movement,” which has given him the preparation for and commitment to “the proposition of belonging, forgiveness, and compassion.” While incarcerated, he participated in rehab programs and obtained a general studies AA degree. He now serves as co-director of API RISE and is active in many nonprofits, including the Anti-Recidivism Coalition.   

When Taing saw a disturbing video made by an Asian American stoking anti-Black views and violence, he went to Kornegay and they decided to create a solidarity group. They invited Ujiiye to join them. Of her co-founders, Ujiiye says, “I can’t begin to describe how much I have learned from both of them.”

The founders of the Black and Asian/Pacific Islander Solidarity Group want to see more murals like this one, uniting young people from different backgrounds for a common goal.

Project Spotlight: Youth Solidarity Mural

When asked about what project was particularly meaningful to them, the three agreed that it was the Black and Asian/Pacific Islander Solidarity Mural painted by local Crenshaw youth. The project brought together around 20 young people of different backgrounds, along with volunteers, to create a mural that exemplified shared history, unity, and hope. In a video about the project, Kornegay says, “They’re Black, they’re Asian, but the most important thing is: they’re young. We wanted to be able to import some of this positivity, some of this solidarity into the youth so they can spread it, because everybody knows, the youth is tomorrow.”

Over email, Ujiiye adds the context that “K-12 public education is woefully remiss in teaching true history (or CRT), thus many young hearts and minds are fed a narrative through mostly white male publishing companies and euro-centric curricula.” Along with the mural, the program encompassed cross-cultural history lessons, relationship building, and opportunities to practice leadership, conflict resolution, and other skills.

The group hopes to see this kind of solidarity work expand to other cities as well. Ujiiye says, “We are exploring a possible youth mural in the city of Long Beach, which is very diverse, and contends with an array of gang activity, housing disparities, poverty, and other socioeconomic stressors. We are forming relationships with the Pacific Islander community since Long Beach has a large Pacific Islander population.”

Taing also tells me, “For future initiatives, I want to expand our mural project to include youth from the Black, Latino, and API communities.”

Signs of Hope and Points of Pain

From the vantage point within this solidarity work, we asked the three founders what hopeful signs they have seen, as well as what pain points they’d like to work on. For Kornegay, the camaraderie among the youth who participated in the mural project exemplified hope. Places that he sees needing work between Black and API communities are communication, healing, and expanding the circle of human concern so we can all enjoy a sense of belonging. Taing agrees with these three points, adding, “We need to have more conversations with each other. We have to break away from othering. Our communities need more healing dialogues.” What’s given him hope is how leaders of organizations from both Black and Asian communities have come together to renounce violence and fight the common oppressor of white supremacist laws, policies, and practices. 

Camaraderie among Black and API youth is a step toward stronger communication, healing, and solidarity between the two communities.

Ujiiye draws hope from the idea of building upon the rich history of solidarity that came before us. From James and Grace Lee Boggs to the Seattle Gang of Four, we have and will continue to work together. She sees the tension between communities as a means to “keep us distracted from the more fundamental enemy of capitalism, which, in this country, is inherently racist.” Ujiiye also points to how the perception of Asians as “crazy rich” exacerbates resentments from working class and financially poor people of color. Internalized resentments and racism have caused us to misdirect our frustrations onto each other. 

How You Can Help

We need more community builders like Kornegay, Ujiiye, and Taing to keep this work going. They’ve compiled a list of other ways you can contribute to Black and Asian/Pacific Islander solidarity:

  • Watch films and documentaries that uplift our true history.
  • Participate in solidarity movement gatherings, such as healing circles, protests, and dialogue groups.
  • Organize dialogues in your local communities. Be mindful of the people you’re in conversation with, and be curious about where they come from. 
  • Join the Black and Asian/Pacific Islander Facebook group.
  • Hang out with people who are not like you.
  • Visit communities outside of your familiar zip codes.
  • Seek out educators and mentors who are not white, and learn from those in the struggle.
  • Vote for people who stand for your values.
  • Push for local, state, and federal policies that advance a unifying agenda, replete with a budget that reflects that agenda.
  • Donate to www.livefreeca.org and API RISE.

Watch the full video about the Black and Asian/Pacific Islander Youth Solidarity Mural here.

Mochi magazine’s Black Allyship @ Mochi column is an ongoing project that urges an awareness of racial injustice in the United States, particularly the oppression of Black people in America. The articles, resources and opinions we share are a call to action, an open discussion, and a place to take a stance against anti-Black racism. Read more about the column here.

We want Black Allyship @ Mochi to spark productive conversation. We want to know how we can do better: Feel free to email the co-editors at BlackAllyship@mochimag.com.

Author

  • Tria Wen is co-editor of the Black Allyship @ Mochi column and writer for Mochi magazine. Her writing has been featured in The Washington Post, Ozy, the NYT Now app, HuffPost, Narratively, Slant’d Media, Thought Catalog, and the Editor’s Picks of Medium, among other places. When not writing, she co-runs Make America Dinner Again, and has appeared on NPR, BBC, ABC, Mother Jones, and at SXSW to discuss and model how to build understanding across political lines.

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