NYU holds vigil for Atlanta shooting victims and victims of anti-Asian violence

The university community comes together to mourn the victims of the Atlanta shootings.


Minji Kim

The Center for Global Spiritual Life, Office of Global Inclusion, Wellness Center and Division of Student Affairs hosted a virtual vigil to honor the victims of the Atlanta shooting, as well as all other victims of anti-Asian hate crimes and racist violence, on Wednesday, March 17. This is an opportunity for the university community to come together after the disheartening Atlanta shooting. (Illustration by Minji Kim)

Mei Lamison, Staff Writer

Daoyou Feng, Delaina Ashley Yaun, Julie Park, Hyun-jeong Park, Paul Andre Michels and Xiaojie Tan were among eight people — six of whom were Asian women — shot dead by a 21-year-old white man at three Atlanta-area spas on Tuesday, March 16.

Seoul’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed that four of the victims were of Korean descent. Officials have not yet said if the killings will be classified as a hate crime.

The Center for Global Spiritual Life, Office of Global Inclusion, Wellness Center and Division of Student Affairs hosted a virtual vigil to honor the victims of the Atlanta shooting, as well as all other victims of anti-Asian hate crimes and racist violence, on Wednesday, March 17. 

The event was co-hosted by Leah Lattimore, NYU’s assistant vice president for inclusive global student leadership and engagement, and Melissa Carter, the interim senior director for Global Spiritual Life and head of Mindfulness Education and Programming for MindfulNYU. 

“While I am glad we are all able to be here in solidarity, I am certainly angry, frustrated, heartbroken at the circumstances that are bringing us together,” Lattimore said as the vigil began. “We are here to honor those lost in yesterday’s shooting.” 

The gunman is in custody and charged with eight counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault. In interviews with investigators, he claimed the killings were not racially motivated. According to police, the gunman might have been motivated by a sexual obsession. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms told reporters that the gunman was on his way to Florida — perhaps to carry out additional attacks — when he was arrested.

“What happened last night is incredibly disheartening,” Steinhardt first-year and Atlanta native Citlalli Alverado said. “Although Atlanta is diverse, there is also so much racial tension within the city. I’m not surprised something like this happened … It’s frustrating that the authorities have not labeled this a racially motivated attack yet.” 

Crystal Parikh, a professor of English and Social & Cultural Analysis and the director of NYU’s Asian/Pacific/American Institute, and Stephanie Liu, the assistant director of Stern’s Breakthrough Scholars Leadership Program, spoke after Lattimore. 

“Emotionally I am exhausted, tapped and drained,” Liu said. “How many people that look like me need to get hurt and die before our society believes anti-Asian hate crimes to be a real issue?”

The Atlanta shootings accompany a recent spike in anti-Asian American hate crimes across the United States. In late February, a 36-year-old Asian man was stabbed in the back in Chinatown “for no reason,” according to prosecutors. On March 9, an Asian American mother holding her baby was spat at and called “Chinese virus” in Queens. A 47-year-old man broke an Asian woman’s car mirror and told her to “go back where [she] came from” in Portland on March 15. Also on March 15, a man was beaten and nearly blinded while walking home in San Francisco.

The NYPD recorded a 1,900% increase in anti-Asian American hate crimes in 2020, as ABC previously reported.

CAS junior Kathy Li, a representative for the student group Asian Heritage Month at NYU, also spoke at the vigil.

“It is so important to recognize that anti-Asian discrimination against our community did not start with the COVID pandemic and it absolutely won’t end with it either,” Li said. “Anti-Asian hatred is not new and these recent attacks are not unprecedented … As a community and society, we have to reach further in our history to reflect on how these impacts are just another iteration of generational racism and generational systematic injustice.”

“We cannot yield to the idea that this way of anti-Asian hatred will resolve itself once the pandemic does, because there is no such thing as immunity against racism or hate,” Li continued.

Following Li’s speech, NYU Spiritual Life Advisors Rev. Doyeon Park, Fernando De Los Santos and Kenny Chau provided religious responses to the events. Dr. Reji Mathew, of NYU Counseling and Wellness Services, reminded attendees of the university’s mental health resources. 

The vigil ended with a moment of silence to honor the victims. The virtual space then transitioned to a “processing space,” where attendees were free to share their thoughts on the events and practice mindfulness together. 

SPS graduate student Kelly Lai was one of the vigil’s 230 participants. 

“More than 68% of reported Asian hate crimes have been from women of all Asian ethnicities,” Lai wrote in the Zoom chat. “How much more evidence does the public media need to recognize these attacks as apparent hate crimes?”

Email Mei Lamison at [email protected]