Daughter of Fil-Am senior attacked in NY starts AAP(IBelong) project

Elizabeth and Vilma Kari Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Kari

THE daughter of the elderly Filipina immigrant who was assaulted in New York has launched a project that encourages Asian Americans to share their personal stories of racism and belonging in the United States.

“AAP(I belong) is a place to share stories and words of encouragement from those who have encountered anti-Asian hatred,” Elizabeth Kari wrote on the website.

Kari started the project to provide a space for her mother, Vilma, and other Asian Americans who have been targeted by hate and discrimination.

On March 29, the elder Kari was walking to church in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood when the suspect, later identified as Brandon Elliot, assaulted her and knocked her to the ground.

The attack was captured by a CCTV camera, showing Elliot kicking Vilma several times in the head before walking away. He reportedly told her, “You don’t belong here.”

Vilma Kari suffered serious injuries, including a fractured pelvis and forehead contusions, according to the police.

For her recovery, Elizabeth Kari started a GoFundMe page for her mother that has since raised over $270,000.

“Inspired by the hundreds of messages of prayers and love we received on GoFundMe, mom and I started a project called AAP(I Belong) to encourage open dialogue about anti-Asian hatred, and to shed the stigma that comes with being a victim of targeted hate,” Elizabeth Kari said in an interview with Elle magazine.

AAP(I belong) encourages the Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) community to “share any personal stories, sentiments, or words of encouragement,” some of which will be published on the website or displayed in a pop-up gallery space in New York City in honor of AAPI Heritage Awareness month.

“Through this ‘story-telling,’ AAPIBelong’s mission is to share this overwhelming feeling of comfort and love with the entire AAPI community and our allies,” Elizabeth wrote on the website.

“This digital and physical space will be a tool to empower those to speak out and step up. Bringing light, truth, and shedding the stigma as victimized targets of hate will be our goals onwards,” she added.

She highlighted the importance of “not feeling alone,” stressing that Asian Americans need to stand together and speak up.

“We hope to continue in encouraging each other through these personal experiences and to let others know that you are not alone. More than ever, we need to stand together. We need to use our voice and speak up,” the younger Kari said.

The GoFundMe page has raised over $270,000, as of this writing, and Vilma and Elizabeth Kari have selected seven organizations to donate to, including Apex for Youth, National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum and Asians Fighting Injustice.

“We need to continue to report any and every injustice directed towards our community. We should not be told that we are less and made to feel unworthy to be here. My mom Vilma belongs. I belong. We all belong,” Elizabeth Kari said.

Stop AAPI Hate, a national coalition that tracks hate and discrimination, reported that from March 19, 2020 to March 31, 2021, it has received 6,603 incidents of racism and discrimination against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs).

Of the total number, 2,410 hate incidents occurred in the first three months of 2021. (Ritchel Mendiola/AJPress)

Ritchel Mendiola

Ritchel Mendiola is a staff writer and reporter for the Asian Journal. You can reach her at ritchel.mendiola@asianjournalinc.com.

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