BARCLAYS CENTER – A new public art campaign launched today as a testament to the resistance of New Yorkers and to honor Asian and Pacific Islanders and Black New Yorkers in the face of racial injustice, xenophobia, and COVID-19-related discrimination, harassment, and bias.
The campaign titled “I Still Believe in Our City” was launched by the NYC Commission on Human Rights and features visuals with statistics about discrimination Asian and Pacific Islanders have faced amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
The campaign includes an art installation by Brooklyn-based artist Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya inside the Atlantic Avenue Subway Station. It celebrates East Asian and South Asian New Yorkers who were targeted for discrimination during the pandemic and shows solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. The Atlantic Avenue Subway Station was chosen because it connects Black and Asian and Pacific Islander neighborhoods including, Chinatown, Koreatown, Sunset Park, Crown Heights, Bedford-Stuyvesant, and Weeksville. The subway station was also the town square for the Black Lives Matter protests.
“Growing up in the South, I experienced countless moments of anti-Asian bias,” Phingbodhipakkiya said. “I escaped to New York City as soon as I could, seeking refuge in a diverse place that welcomed people from all walks of life. I’ve been proud to call myself a New Yorker for the last 14 years. But the pandemic opened up an ugly side of the city. So many of my friends and people who look like me have been harassed, told to “go back,” had our basic humanity denied.
“My goal with this series was to turn these hurts into something beautiful and powerful. Each piece features bold colors, dynamic composition, and hidden complexity, just like New York City herself. The flowers that surround the defiant figures each have a deeper symbolism in Chinese culture: Chrysanthemum signifies resilience, Peony signifies friendship and solidarity, and Hawthorn berry signifies longevity and protection.”
Since February of this year, the Commission on Human Rights has received over 566 reports of discrimination, harassment, and bias related to COVID-19, of which 184 were anti-Asian in nature. During the same time period last year, the Commission received 26 reports of anti-Asian discrimination.
Examples are awful. An 89-year-old Asian woman was set on fire on July 11 in Bensonhurst. She was slapped, and her shirt was lit on fire by two men as she was walking outside her home. And just a few weeks before the hateful incident on 77th Street and 16th Avenue, anti-Chinese fliers were found posted on lampposts around Bay Ridge.
The fliers said, “Chinese are [destroying] Bay Ridge. Illegal home conversions–ruining housing stock of Bay Ridge resulting in a flight of middle-class homeowners; junk stores: massage parlors (prostitution), nail salons, 99 cent stores, dirty Chinese restaurants; trashed up streets, bottle collecting, scavenging; coronavirus spread by Chinese immigration.”
“About four-in-ten U.S. adults say it has become more common for people to express racist views toward Asians since the pandemic began,” a Pew Research Center study shows. The campaign, which launched today, will last until December 2.
“Over the past seven months, New York City has experienced deep tragedy, and, for some, that tragedy has been compounded by stigma and discrimination,” Carmelyn P. Malalis, Chair, and Commissioner of the NYC Commission on Human Rights said.
“Despite being confronted with anti-Asian bias and rhetoric, Asian and Pacific Islander New Yorkers continue to fight for our city, for our neighbors, and for justice. Amanda’s art gives us something beautiful, moving, and celebratory when we need it most and it encourages API New Yorkers to remain visible and proud. It reminds us that the fight for Black lives is everyone’s fight, that we share in this struggle with Black New Yorkers who face the dual traumas of the pandemic coupled with centuries of anti-Black racism, and that New York City’s recovery is dependent on our willingness to stand in solidarity with each other. Amanda’s art is not only stunningly beautiful; it epitomizes the spirit of New York City.”