TWO months after an elderly Filipino American man was attacked at a park in Cerritos, California, a new anti-Asian hate mural was unveiled at the same location to raise awareness on the ongoing hate and discrimination against the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community.
The mural by local artist MariNaomi was presented to the public on Friday, August 13 at Don Knabe Park, the site of a vicious attack on 70-year-old Cerritos resident Cesar Echano last June.
“When I saw this mural part, ‘Together, we are stronger,’ I feel good. I feel stronger,” Echano said in his remarks on Friday.
Echano was walking with his wife at the park he had frequented for decades on June 5, when a “tall man with a backpack” reportedly started yelling slurs at them and telling them to “go back to your country,” as previously reported by the Asian Journal.
Uncomfortable with the situation, the couple walked away toward their car in the parking lot, only to have the man come up to Echano in the passenger seat, open the door, and punch him in the eye. With no one around to help, the Echanos went back to the park to call 911.
Two months later, the suspect has not been arrested.
The 100-foot mural, commissioned by the Office of Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn, LA vs. Hate initiative and LA Care Health Plan, features comic-like strips showing the history of anti-Asian hate in the U.S.— from the 1871 Chinese massacre in LA to the death of Vincent Chin — and the journey from hate to healing.
“The AAPI community needs to know that we will stand with them, that they are not alone and that we are stronger together. We are united in addressing and ending these unprovoked, hateful acts,” Hahn said.
The mural in Cerritos will be up for the next two years.
The ceremony on Friday was also attended by Cerritos Mayor Grace Hu, Cerritos Councilmember Frank Yokohama, Artesia Mayor Pro Tem Melissa Ramoso, Robin Toma, executive director of the LA County Commission on Human Relations, and LA County Parks Director Norma Garcia.
The artwork features Asian American leaders and personalities through the decades, including activist Chinese American Grace Lee Boggs, Fil-Am labor leader Larry Itliong and Japanese American actor George Takei, and how community members can report (dialing 2-1-1 in LA County), advocate, protest and help others who face hate and discrimination.
A similar mural by MariNaomi was installed at Garvey Park in Rosemead.
Stop AAPI Hate, a national coalition that tracks hate and discrimination since the start of the pandemic, said that it received 9,081 anti-Asian hate incidents from March 19, 2020 to June 31, 2021, according to a new report released on August 12.
The report found that 31.6% of the incidents took place in public streets, and the majority of incidents (63.7%) involved verbal harassment. After shunning and the deliberate avoidance of AAPIs, physical assault comprised the third-largest category of the total reported incidents with 13.7%, followed by being coughed at or spat on (8.5%).