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Harris headlines unity summit for AAPI community

Vice President Kamala Harris will serve as the keynote speaker for a virtual unity summit for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders this week, her latest outreach to a community that has faced a wave of racially motivated crimes during the pandemic and is growing as a voting bloc.

Harris, the first person of South Asian descent to serve as vice president, will address the AAPI Victory Alliance’s first ever unity summit on Wednesday, the group told CNN. The virtual event, titled “From Victory to Unity,” will feature celebrities like Tan France and Simu Liu as well as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Democratic Sens. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii and Cory Booker of New Jersey.

“It’s time we call our communities together to discuss strategies for engaging and mobilizing in the future,” said Varun Nikore, executive director of the AAPI Victory Alliance. “Vice President Harris is an inspiration for all of our AAPI children who now know that the sky’s the limit and you can be anything in this country that they strive for.”

Reported hate crimes against Asians in 16 of the nation’s largest cities and counties are up 164% since this time last year, according to a study from the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at Cal State University San Bernardino. A separate study from Stop AAPI Hate released earlier this month found there were at least 2,410 anti-Asian hate incidents in the first three months of this year.

Hate crimes against Asians often go underreported due to the lack of mandatory national reporting requirements by police agencies, but also because of other factors that could deter victims from calling the police, such as: longstanding distrust of law enforcement, language barriers, and immigration status.

Harris’s appearance, which comes during AAPI Heritage Month, will be the vice president’s latest expression of solidarity with the community. After an Atlanta area shooting spree killed eight people, including six women of Asian descent, the vice president traveled with President Joe Biden to Atlanta to meet with leaders in the community.

“Racism is real in America. And it has always been. Xenophobia is real in America, and always has been. Sexism too,” Harris said at the time. “The President and I will not be silent. We will not stand by. We will always speak out against violence, hate crimes and discrimination, wherever and whenever it occurs.”

Last week, Harris convened a meeting with members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus where she echoed similar sentiments.

“I want to say to every Asian American every Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander. Our administration sees you, cares about you, and you will never be alone,” Harris said.

Rep. Judy Chu, the chair of CAPAC who attended the meeting, told CNN the group spoke about the rising violence against the AAPI community, voting rights, language access and expressed concern for the Covid-19 crisis in India.

“We talked about the gravity of the situation,” Chu said.

Harris told the group she recently spoke with her aunt and uncle who still live there and said she was worried about them. The Biden administration is facing pressure to share excess US vaccine doses with the struggling country. Chu said Harris emphasized “that vaccines cannot just stay in Delhi,” and called for even distribution among the various regions.

Chu said Harris spoke at length about voting rights, highlighting the swell of AAPI voters in Georgia that cast their ballots for Biden and Harris, helping to flip the traditionally Republican state blue for the first time since 1992.

“[Harris] was very much pressing upon this, to talk about voting rights as a key to every issue we’re facing,” Chu said. “She said we have to go out there and draw the line between our voting rights and the way we impact people’s lives for the better.”

Asian Americans represent the fasting growing population group in the United States and turned out in higher numbers in the 2020 election.

While Harris serves as the highest ranking Asian American woman in the country, Asian American and Pacific Islander lawmakers make up 3% of Congress, according to a Pew Research Center analysis.

Only one Asian American serves in the President’s Cabinet: US Trade Representative Katherine Tai. Last month, the White House named Erika Moritsugu as AAPI senior liaison as it faced pressure from Duckworth and Hirono for greater AAPI representation within the White House.

UPDATE: This story has been updated to identify who is hosting the summit.

Article Topic Follows: Politics

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