Cedar Rapids Civil Rights Fee hosts panel to debate violence towards Asian and Pacific Islander Individuals

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) – The Cedar Rapids and Marion Civil Rights Commissions hosted a discussion on Zoom Thursday evening in honor of Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

Panelists discussed issues of education, stereotypes, and violence faced by Asian and Pacific islanders here in Iowa and across the country, with the aim of raising awareness of violence against Asian and Pacific islanders.

The discussion began with the film Do We Belong, a short documentary about an immigrant from India who lived in Cedar Rapids and who was shot and killed in a hate crime in Kansas in 2017.

Panelists, including the late husband’s wife, Sunayana Dumala, shared their personal experiences as members of the American communities of Asian and Pacific islanders. Dumala is also the founder of Forever Welcome.

Benjamin Jung, chairman of the Iowa Asia-Pacific Islander Affairs Commission and a panelist, discussed what he believed was a trend towards underreporting hate crimes against Americans in the Asia-Pacific and Pacific regions.

“Asians can no longer keep their heads down when there are social problems, especially those that involve discrimination, especially those that involve violence against our community,” said Jung.

They also emphasized education as a way of creating a more inclusive environment.

“Really learn about the complex history of all Asian Americans and Pacific islanders. I mean, we can go back to Chinese immigrants, it’s just real, it’s really complex. And we only know from working with the BIPOC communities how whitewashed education can be, ”says Angelica Vannatta of United Way of East Central Iowa and panelist.

During the meeting, Cedar Rapids Mayor Brad Hart delivered a proclamation to pay tribute to the history and contributions of Americans of the Asian and Pacific islanders.

The Cedar Rapids Civil Rights Commission is offering training kits for American Heritage Month for Asian and Pacific Islanders over the next few weeks.

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