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Rally for Inclusion Sends Strong Solidarity Message

By Justine Lee

In the heart of Chinatown, feelings of resilience and solidarity reached all corners of Portsmouth Square; nearly 800 people gathered for the first ever Rally for Inclusion – a stand against recent anti-immigration, refugee and Muslim policies and a call to end all forms of discrimination.

The rally was in part a gathering to remember the Chinese Exclusion Act on the 135th anniversary of its passing, jolting people to reflect on its indelible impact on the Chinese American community, and the dire consequences of all institutionalized discrimination, xenophobia, and racism.

The rally drew people of all ages and backgrounds – seniors from the Chinatown Tenants Association, students from SF State University, UC Berkeley, and Stanford University, trade unionists from UNITE/HERE Local 2 and United Educators, Japanese American concentration camp survivors, Arab Americans, Muslims, and more. They came ready to take a stand, holding signs that read: “No Walls,” “Refuge for Refugees,” “Immigrants Built America,” “Exclusion Never Again,” and “We all belong.”

no more exclusion - rally crowd

While the issues were heavy, the rally kicked off with a charismatic welcome from the Reverend Norman Fong, an uplifting performance from Charlie Chin and his band Seniors for Peace and Justice, and a special Chinese Lion Dance. Emcees Eddy Zheng and Mabel Teng took it from there, warming up the crowd with a simple chant: “Inclusion Yes! Exclusion No!” They also shared the good news that the San Francisco Board of Supervisors had unaminously adopted the resolution declaring May 6 a Day of Inclusion. Several current and former members of the SF Board of Supervisors were in the audience to show their support. The Emcees also announced that similar resolutions had been adopted by the city councils in several California cities including Alameda, Berkeley, Los Angeles, Monterey Park, Oakland and Sacramento. City Councils in Milwaukee, WI, Pittsburgh, PA and Seattle, WA have also adopted May 6 as a Day of Inclusion.

In between the chants, the speakers were a representative group; each being able to speak to a specific form and time period marked by discrimination. They generated enthusiasm and a sense of urgency among the crowd by sharing personal stories that both moved people and educated them.

Activist Helen Zia took the crowd through America’s long history of discrimination, telling the story of Vincent Chin, a Chinese man who was beaten to death in a Detroit suburb in 1982, a full 100 years after the Chinese Exclusion Act had passed. The killers thought Vincent was Japanese and thus blamed him for the loss of their jobs in the auto industry Chinese Exclusion Act. The killers paid his family, but did not serve any time in prison; Zia along with other community organizers stood up for Chin and called for a civil rights trial, but they did not get it.

no more exclusion - helen zia speaker
Helen Zia

Zia urged all people of conscience to stand and insist: “Trump, tear down your wall! Stop the detentions, deportations, and exclusionary laws! We say Yes to an inclusive rainbow America, Yes to liberty and justice for all!”

Echoing Zia’s message, Sameena Usman, the Government Relations Coordinator for the Council on American and Islamic Relations in San Francisco, spoke on behalf of the Muslim community, the group most targeted by the immigration ban. She pointed out the devastating increase in hate crimes against Muslims in the past year and the need to work together to end it.

In her closing, Usman said: “We need to return to values of respect, decency, and inclusion. We must stand together and work together to achieve these goals. I look forward to fighting the good fight in unity with all of you. We are truly Stronger Together.”

no more exclusion - Sameena Usman
Sameena Usman

Dr. Satsuki Ina, who was born at the Tule Lake concentration camp, spoke as someone who had the experience of extensive discrimination first hand.

She reflected on that time, saying: “135 years ago…75 years ago, there were no voices that stood up for us as we were torn from our families, denied citizenship, forced to attend segregated schools, denied employment and housing. No one stood up for us when we were forcefully removed from our homes and held in prison camps with an indeterminate sentence.” This acted as an acknowledgment that while we’re in a different time, there is no telling how the ripple effects of discrimination might play out.

Jean Teodoro, a spoken word artist and activist from Youth Speaks, performed a piece about the fascination, clumsiness, pride, and embarrassment of being bi-lingual in America. For context, Teodoro shared his ancestors’ experience being discriminated against as Filipinos in the U.S.

no more exclusion - jean teodoro
Jean Teodoro

Hong Mei Pang, a young member of the Chinese for Affirmative Action, spoke first in Mandarin, then in English, with a message of solidarity. Pang said with conviction: ” We are here today to build cities different from how we built the railroads—we are here today to build sanctuaries that embrace the 11 million undocumented people for their humanity rather than destroy immigrant families for profit. We are here to stay, and we will break down the wall that separates immigrants from our humanity. ”

Chito Cuellar, Vice President of the Hotel Restaurant Employees Union Local 2, an El Salvadorian immigrant demanded the administration “stop terrorizing our communities,” and led a familiar chant: “Si Se Puede” (or “Yes We Can”).

Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, a representative of Jewish Voice for Peace, took the conversation beyond the obvious and pointed out the thread that connects each one of us. Gottlieb said: “We are here to say, all of us or none of us.”

To close the rally out, Zheng and Teng directed a series of positive chants to tie together all the themes from the day and invited the crowd to gather around the stage for a group selfie. It was an auspicious beginning for a re-invigorated, better informed community with new coalitions to move forward together to end exclusion and champion inclusion.

Justine Lee is a writer, radio producer and dinner host.

no more exclusion - rally folks

Rally Organizational Sponsors

  • AFT Local 2121
  • Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation
  • Arab Resource and Organizing Center
  • Asian American and Asian Diaspora Studies Program,
    UC Berkeley
  • Asian American Studies Department, UC Davis
  • Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Asian Law Caucus
  • Asian Immigrant Women Advocates
  • Asian Pacific American Democratic Caucus of Alameda County
  • Asian Pacific Environmental Network
  • Asian Pacific Islander Council
  • Asian Pacific Islander Social Work Council –
    National Association of Social Workers CA Chapter
  • Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach
  • Asian Prisoner Support Committee
  • Asian Women’s Shelter
  • Asians 4 Black Lives
  • Bay Area Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement
  • Berkeley AAPI Alumni Chapter
  • Berkeley JACL
  • California Faculty Association –
    San Francisco State University
  • Campaign for Justice: Redress NOW for Japanese Latin Americans!
  • Center for Race and Gender, UC Berkeley
  • Chinatown Community Development Center
  • Chinatown YMCA
  • Chinese American Citizens Alliance – National Lodge
  • Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco
  • Chinese Historical Society of America
  • Chinese for Affirmative Action
  • Chinese Progressive Association San Francisco
  • Covenant Presbyterian Church
  • Donaldina Cameron House
  • Fred T. Korematsu Institute for Civil Rights and Education
  • Friends of Roots
  • Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity
  • Japanese Peruvian Oral History Project
  • Linked Fate Fund for Justice
  • National Coalition for Asian Pacific American on Community Development
  • National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights
  • National Union of Healthcare Workers
  • NICOS Chinese Health Coalition
  • #Nikkei Resisters
  • NUHW
  • OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates
  • OCA – East Bay
  • OCA – San Francisco Chapter
  • OCA – San Mateo County Chapter
  • PIVOT –  The Progressive Vietnamese American Organization
  • Portero Hill Democratic Club
  • Richmond Area Multi-Services, Inc.
  • San Francisco Labor Council
  • Senior and Disability Action
  • The 1882 Foundation
  • The Asian and Pacific Islander Caucus (APIC)
    of the American Public Health Association
  • The Progressive Vietnamese American Organization
  • UFCW Local 5
  • UNITE HERE Local 2
  • United Educators of San Francisco
  • United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 5
  • VietUnity
  • Wu Yee Children’s Services

Rally Photos

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