Words can hurt, and words can heal.
As a Black man, this message is reinforced every day, since I am part of the Black, Latino and Asian Caucus in the City Council. The name of our Caucus is not just words. The unity of the African-American and Asian-American communities are part of my practical, everyday life as a legislator. Every week, my office brings free food to hundreds of families, and we see that there is a large Chinese-American community in public housing in Bed-Stuy. And starting every month, we coordinate with UA3, with predominantly Asian-American leadership who donate pallets of food from Sunset Park to community-based organizations in Bed-Stuy and Crown Heights. The unity is real.
Words can hurt, and words can heal. Shirley Chisholm knew this, and she showed that an African-American woman from Crown Heights could be a national symbol of unity.
Words can hurt, and words can heal. Where did Dr. Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. learn this? One of his key mentors was Reverend Sandy Ray, pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Bedford-Stuyvesant. My community has been living this sense of unity for decades.
There was a mass murder of Chinese in Los Angeles in 1871. Around the same time, there was a mass murder of African-Americans in Manhattan, a pogrom called the Draft Riots of 1863. At that time, Lower Manhattan had a large African-American community, and many of them found refuge in my district, in the free Black community of Weeksville.
Words can hurt, and words can heal. Let me go back even further, into my own life. After I got my Masters Degree, I returned to Bedford-Stuyvesant and became a Credentialed Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Counselor. Words are a practical tool of counselors who use them as a tool to fight trauma that can be expressed with drug abuse or violence.
I don’t want to dwell in words of hate. The narrative of Donald Trump and white supremacists is that the Black churches are corrupt and guilty of other vices. The narrative of white supremacists is that Asians are corrupt and guilty of other vices. I am not here to dwell on this hurtful message. I am here to celebrate a positive narrative. I am here to say that the unity of the African-American community and the Asian-American community is nothing new. But events of 2021 make it imperative to say it aloud.
So I want to end with lyrics by author and activist James Weldon Johnson:
Lift every voice and sing
Till earth and heaven ring
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the listening skies
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun
Let us march on till victory is won