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Feature: Award-winning LA photojournalists shine a light on community unity against anti-Asian hate crimes

XINHUA 徽标 XINHUA 2022/5/23 unreguser,Gao Shan
© 由 XINHUA 提供

Photo taken on May 21, 2022 shows people visiting an exceptional photo exhibit entitled "Through the Lens: An Anti-Asian American Experience in 2021" at the Arcadia Public Library in City of Arcadia, the Los Angeles County, California, the United States. (Photo by Zeng Hui/Xinhua)

"The message is simple: no hatred, only love; no division, unity," said Susie Shu, director of the Chinese Culture Development Center, one of the organizers of the exhibition.

by Julia Pierrepont III, Gao Shan

LOS ANGELES, May 22 (Xinhua) -- When people walk into the exhibition room at the Arcadia Public Library in Southern California's San Gabriel Valley, everyone can see how the Asian-American community came through the ordeal of 2021.

Opened on Saturday, the week-long photo exhibit, titled "Through the Lens: An Anti-Asian American Experience in 2021," features over 50 photos that document the rise of anti-Asian rhetoric and violence as well as the outpouring of support for the Asian-American community from people of all ethnicities and nationalities.

"The message is simple: no hatred, only love; no division, unity," said Susie Shu, director of the Chinese Culture Development Center, one of the organizers of the exhibition.

Apu Gomes, president of the Press Photographers Association of Greater Los Angeles, co-organizer of the event, told Xinhua that they joined to bring awareness to the escalating situation confronting Asian-Americans, and to celebrate Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) month, the month of May.

© 由 XINHUA 提供

Photo taken on May 21, 2022 shows people visiting an exceptional photo exhibit entitled "Through the Lens: An Anti-Asian American Experience in 2021" at the Arcadia Public Library in City of Arcadia, the Los Angeles County, California, the United States. (Photo by Zeng Hui/Xinhua)

The photos on display were taken by 10 extraordinary photojournalists, including Ringo Chiu, the 2021 Pulitzer Prize Winner, who scoured the Southland during the pandemic seeking to document the historic events unfolding as racially-motivated violence and hate crimes spread across the United States following the COVID-19 outbreak.

One of Chiu's photos depicts a timid Asian American child clinging to a grownup's leg, with a sign that says, "Don't Hurt my Grandparents."

"What we see on the news depends on what is actually reported," Chiu pointed out, explaining why he decided to help launch the exhibit. "Not a lot of photographers cover anti-Asian issues, so we wanted to acknowledge the ones who did."

"This is America and people should not have to fear for their safety just because of the way they look," Richard Vogel, photo editor for the Associated Press Agency, told Xinhua. His powerful photo on display shows a young Asian American girl with a sign that reads "My Skin is Not a Sin."

Around 31 percent of Asian-American residents in San Gabriel Valley, one of the largest Asian communities in California and the United States, said they or their family experienced a hate incident based on their race or ethnicity since the COVID-19 outbreak, according to a survey report published by two non-profit organizations in January.

At the national level, from March 19, 2020, to December 31, 2021, a total of 10,905 hate incidents against AAPI persons were reported, according to Stop AAPI Hate, a non-profit group that tracks violence against AAPI community.

© 由 XINHUA 提供

Photo taken on May 21, 2022 shows people visiting an exceptional photo exhibit entitled "Through the Lens: An Anti-Asian American Experience in 2021" at the Arcadia Public Library in City of Arcadia, the Los Angeles County, California, the United States. (Photo by Zeng Hui/Xinhua)

"These are stories of the AAPI experience in one of most difficult times in our history that has been difficult for everyone, but particularly difficult for AAPI due to the surge in anti-Asian violence," said U.S. Congresswoman Judy Chu.

"These important issues of Anti-Asian hate need to be documented for future generations, so they will be remembered and not be tolerated in the future," Stephen Sham, former Mayor of Alhambra, a city in San Gabriel Valley, told Xinhua.

The exhibition shows the power of images, which can unite people together to fight against anti-Asian hate crimes.

"The AAPI community often feels we live in the shadows. We are fortunate that these talented photojournalists are bringing the shadows into the light," Arcadia Mayor Pro Tem Paul Cheng told Xinhua.

One attendee, Michael T., described the images as more than just photographs. "These powerful images are beacons of light that can touch the hearts of all Americans." 

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