Safety Not Stigma: A Pandemic Portrait Campaign to Fight Racism

Earlier this month I published 6 of my COVID-19 Safety Not Stigma portraits in the International Examiner’s special BIG issue. This week, I published 7 additional portraits in the South Seattle Emerald. It’s been really special to see the images get out there and do their work providing anti-racist counter narratives during the pandemic. I continue to be deeply grateful for the community members who have allowed me to share their images and stories. There’s more though! In total, I’ve actually photographed 21 portrait sets, so keep you eye out of the others…

COVID-19 Safety Not Stigma: Kert

The Covid-19 pandemic has not brought about racism and inequity, it has exposed it. Our Government has failed us. Our Police have oppressed us. Our School District only shames us. Our fighting is nothing new. There is a long history of activism in so many Communities of Color. I have been inspired by those who came before us, who have laid the path for us to walk on. We as an ENTIRE COMMUNITY OF COLOR must stand alongside each other, take the baton, and SPRINT for change.

KERT LIN

Trigger warning: mention of murder

On Monday, George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, was horrifically killed by white Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. Bystanders begged Chauvin to stop as fellow officer Tou Thao, an Asian man, watched and did nothing. Outrage and protests have swept across the nation at the loss of yet another Black life to state violence, especially in the midst of a pandemic that is already disproportionately claiming Black lives. Meanwhile, the image of officer Thao being willfully complicit in Floyd’s murder has blatantly reminded Asian Americans that though we are facing increased hate for Covid-19, we still have to confront the dangerous anti-blackness running rampant in our communities. At a time when we need to come together more than ever, it’s devastating to see racism, violence, and death getting louder instead. Please, please do better everyone. Precious, invaluable human lives are at stake. You can help by sharing. Thank you.

I am Chinese Korean American
I am Seattle
I am more than just me
I am part of this community

Kert

My name is Kert Lin. I was born and raised in Seattle…both Seattles. I went to elementary school in the Central District, then went to middle and high school in the North End. I went from the top of the class to barely staying afloat. I knew that was when I wanted to work with youth in ignored communities. That journey has led me back to become a teacher in the very classroom I sat in. For far too long, we have been ignored, brushed aside and undervalued. I strict to listen to, understand, advocate for and ultimately empower our community.

[Kert recently made Seattle headlines after being subjected to a racist tirade by three men outside Home Depot. Store management and police did nothing. When I asked him to participate in this campaign he swiftly agreed and showed up for photographs with a homemade George Floyd face mask.]

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COVID-19 Safety Not Stigma: Tracy

This moment in time is similar to Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower. We are witnessing the expansion of the caste system of wellness in the US. We have to BE the community we need and support each other.

TRACY L. STEWART

The US has been willfully slow collecting racial data on the coronavirus but what’s been uncovered keeps painting a bleak picture. Black people are 4 times more likely to test positive for COVID-19 and 3.5 times more likely to die from it than white people. Too many Americans are blaming Black people for dying from the virus (for having diabetes, high blood pressure, etc.) and failing to take into account the racism that made African Americans more vulnerable to infection in the first place. Meanwhile, a Louisiana police officer made headlines this week after posting on Facebook it was “unfortunate” all African Americans weren’t killed by the pandemic. He was fired. Apparently, it can’t be said enough: BIAS AND HATE WILL NOT BEAT COVID BUT COMING TOGETHER WILL. Discrimination is making the pandemic worse. You can help. Please share. Thank you.

i am in collective
i am helping fox to stay safe
May all beings be well and safe

Tracy

Pictured: Tracy L. Stewart is an engaged Buddhist, mental health therapist, and co-director of Gathering Roots Retreat and Wellness Center. She believes that all BIPOC folx need safe spaces for wellness and witnessing. Gathering Roots, in partnership with Covid-19 Mutuail Aid Seattle has been making free masks for health, grocery, shelter and all kinds of workers and community. The collective has sewn and distributed hundreds of masks to the community since the beginning of the first US outbreak in King County, Washington.

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COVID-19 Safety Not Stigma Featured in International Examiner’s limited edition BIG ISSUE

COVID-19 Safety Not Stigma is in the International Examiner! The International Examiner has serviced the API community for almost 50 years and is the only media that provides free community-based Asian Pacific Islander news in Washington State. Covid has been really tough on this historic publication. Ad revenues were slashed with event cancellations and the IE was not able to publish a regular print issue in April. So, for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, they’re holding a very special fundraiser. If you donate $100 or more, you will get a limited edition BIG ISSUE mailed to you with tons of cool print content (including my photo essay!). Please consider making a donation, uplifting API representation, and supporting community journalists like me. THANK YOU SO MUCH

COVID-19 Safety Not Stigma: Vic

A man followed the Chinese-American doctor from the Boston hospital, spewing a profanity-laced racist tirade as she walked to the subway. “Why are you Chinese people killing everyone?” Li recalled the man shouting. “What is wrong with you? Why the f— are you killing us?”

TRACY JAN for the Washington Post

Yesterday, journalist Tracy Jan published a poignant story in the Washington Post about racism Asian American doctors and nurses have been facing on the frontlines of the pandemic. Healthcare workers report patients insulting them or refusing to be seen by them, then being followed when they leave work to go home. And this is just a snapshot of what Asian Americans continue to face across the nation. Others report being spat on, subjected to racial slurs, shunned for wearing masks, or even assaulted. IMPACT Bay Area is offering online trainings for AAPI folks to help us stay safe during racist harassment.The 90-minute classes introduce skills like adrenaline management, de-escalation, and verbal boundary setting, as well as bystander intervention. Upcoming classes are tonight May 20 (register here) and Sun May 31 (register here), at 6:30p PST. Registration required. You can help. Please share. Thank you.

I am strong.
I am Asian American.
I am resilient.

Vic

Pictured: Vic was born and raised on Seattle/Duwamish land, by a family of Teochew-Hakka Chinese boat refugees from Vietnam. She is a deeply curious human who is trying to make her first lo-fi song using Teochew and Hakka dialects of Chinese. Vic just finished watching Naruto Shippuden (500 episodes) and is mining Shonen/Shoujo anime for transformative justice lessons.

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COVID-19 Safety Not Stigma: Nikki

Systemic oppression is always there, but it usually goes on unnoticed, like the humming sound from the fridge or heater –– it’s in the background. COVID-19 brings racism to the foreground and exposes existing inequities. I’m hoping as people feel angered by the racist incidents, that we would also look into the structures that uphold racism and inequities and work to take them down, so that the world after the pandemic can be truly transformed.

NIKKI CHÂU

On Monday, President Trump snapped at Chinese American reporter Weijia Jiang during a press conference, telling her she “should ask China” her question. The same day, rock star Bryan Adams posted a xenophobic rant to Instagram, “Thanks to some bat eating, wet market animal selling, virus making greedy bastards, the whole world is now on hold.” Increased racist rhetoric is leading to increased violence. People of Asian descent around the world are reporting more attacks, beatings, and violent bullying. In Canada, three assaults in eight days targeted Asian women wearing masks. One sociologist at the University of Manchester has begun studying “maskaphobia,” discrimination and racism against people wearing face masks. We can fight this racism with counternarratives and positive images like the ones here. You can help. Please share. Thank you.

I am resourceful
I am versatile
I am joyful
I am ever-changing
I am impatient

Nikki

Pictured: “Nikki” Châu, or Châu Ngọc Trân, is a child of the Phạm, Trần, and Châu families, a child of the foggy hills of the K’Ho, Churu, and Maa peoples, and a child of the waterways of Central Việt Nam that connect to the Coast Salish via the Pacific Ocean. Nikki is dedicated to the lifelong work of learning and advocating for a world without systemic, interpersonal, and internalized violence. She has worked in UX Design and teaching yoga. She is an avid fan of xianxia, cats, durian, and instant noodle.

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COVID-19 Safety Not Stigma: Damithia

Eventually, the country will force all of us to ‘reopen’ and, as it does, police will be more empowered than ever to stop and brutalize black and brown people…On the one side, Covid-19 will be waiting to kill us in even greater disproportion to white folks than it is now. On the other? Our alpha predator, the American police officer.

ELIE MYSTAL for the Nation

Outcries have erupted across the nation after a video emerged last week of Ahmaud Arbery’s murder by a former white police officer and his adult son while Arbery was jogging in February. On Tuesday, a new study was released showing African Americans may be dying from COVID-19 at a higher rate than any other group in the US. Meanwhile, police officers in New York were spotted kindly handing out masks in the West Village (a predominantly white neighborhood) while a Black man was brutally beaten in East Village for allegedly not social distancing. This pandemic is amplifying and exacerbating the racism that was already so rampant here. Re-opening will not make inequity magically disappear. You can help. Please share. Thank you.

I am the light
I am the darkness
I may sparkle you
And enlighten you in a fraction of a second

from “I am the light” by Robin Pandey

Pictured: Damithia is a mother, daydreamer, thought-thinker educator, yoga teacher, plant lover, cloud watcher, sun lover, liberators path seeker. She is the founder of Thrive Yoga which provides movement mindfulness and healing centered restorative practices to youth in schools and community. She works with Yoga Behind Bars as a trauma informed yoga training facilitator and is co-chair of the board of trustees for Space Between.

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COVID-19 Safety Not Stigma: hai shuixian

People of colour, especially Black and Indigenous people, trans and queer Black and Indigenous people, and other trans and queer people of colour, are dying from COVID-19 at frighteningly disproportionate rates compared to whites, and not just in the US. In the US, Black Americans are making up the majority of the deaths from COVID-19 in places like Chicago (even though the city is only 30% Black), Louisiana, and countless other places in the US.Why? Because the often fatal effects of living as Black, Indigenous, and people of colour is a pre-existing condition.

HAI SUIXIAN

The growing impacts of coronavirus on communities of color is increasingly being revealed in reports and studies. The disparities are stark, the challenges are steep, and for QTPOC (Queer and Trans People of Color) in these communities–the challenges are even steeper. Last month, the Trump administration began finalizing a proposal that will allow health care providers to discriminate against patients based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Community centers and shelters serving LGBTQ+ people have been forced to shut down or are struggling to stay afloat. Meanwhile, fear over the coronavirus is also exacerbating homophobia and transphobia. You can help. Please share. Thank you.

i am a diaspora shanghainese chinese human being.
i am mentally ill & disabled.
i am a multiple suicide attempt & severe abuse survivor.
i am alive.

⁂ 海水仙 hai shuixian

Pictured: ⁂ 海水仙 hai shuixian [ pronouns: they/them/theirs ] is a diasporic shanghainese chinese • mentally ill • sick & disabled • queer • trans • nonbinary writer, artist, creator, & mental health advocate. u can follow them on instagram at @fuck_instgrm, & see more of their work at https://rose.blue

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COVID-19 Safety Not Stigma: Cecilia and Jabali

COVID19 has made more than evident the race-based inequities of this country, and the world. Continued adherence to the status quo or normal of pre-COVID19 times is active participation in the oppression of black and brown humans, the other creatures on this planet, and the Earth itself. If we don’t learn and change things this time, it’s going to be far more difficult next time.

JABALI

It’s been two months since coronavirus began spreading across the US and since then, our infection rate has soared. We have the highest case count in the world with over 1.1 million infections and yesterday recorded our highest daily death toll. Because of widespread racial inequity, those infections/deaths are hitting Black, Latinx, and Indigenous communities unfairly hard. Yet some states are starting to reopen anyway which is causing many to sound the alarm. In Georgia (one of the states opening early), a study released Wednesday showed more than four fifth’s of the state’s hospitalized coronavirus patients were Black. Advocates and experts warn reopening states too early will continue to disproportionately harm/kill more Black and Brown people. You can help. Please share. Thank you.

We are love based
We are margin walkers
We are spirit-based and space dust fed
We are creative with words and music and dance
We are for real.

Cecilian and Jabali

Pictured: Cecilia is an eighth-grade student who will be graduating middle school in June and going to ninth grade. She loves to write novels as well as comic books. She tends to draw and sketch whenever she can even if it’s a small margin on her math homework. She plays D&D with her friends, but they rarely ever listen to her and burst into song every five seconds and sometimes it’s funny but not always. Jabali is an inclusion specialist utilizing Peacemaking Circle in schools (K-College), businesses, families, government, and community settings. He has trained in the lineage of Circle Keeping connected to Mark Wedge, Kay Pranis, and Barry Stuart for nearly a decade. His work is deeply informed by his belief and practice of sensible, love based leadership.

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COVID-19 Safety Not Stigma: Alex

With all of the widespread hate, discrimination, violence, harassment, and fear the Asian Pacific American population has seen in the past two months…this is a time where people (myself included) are feeling the most isolated. Despite all the fear and negativity, in some ways I’ve also never felt more connected to my community seeing…how quickly folx have organized and mobilized to assist those who are most vulnerable. It is this that I will take with me and look back upon, as a constant reminder of how resilient communities of color can be.

ALEX JOHNSON

According to a new survey out yesterday, 32 percent of Americans have witnessed someone blaming people of Asian descent for the coronavirus. Of Asian Americans surveyed, 60 percent said they’d seen the same. Overall, three in ten Americans blame China or Chinese people for the pandemic. Incidents of increased xenophobia and harassment are happening all over the country from New York to Iowa to California. Stop AAPI Hate reported around 1,500 instances of anti-Asian harassment in a one-month period since mid-March. Gratefully, POC-led groups across the US have been mobilizing to combat this rise in hate. You can help by finding and supporting those groups wherever you live. Please share. Thank you.

I am Asian American
I am strong
I am supported
I am worthy

Alex

Pictured: Alex is a mixed race 3rd generation Japanese-American, born and raised in Seattle. He works as a civil engineer/construction manager supporting local agencies with their transportation, environmental, and infrastructure projects. He currently serves on the board of the Asian Pacific Islander Community Leadership Foundation as the President.

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