KANSAS CITY, Mo. — On Saturday, Kansas City, Missouri, Mayor Quinton Lucas joined other city leaders in declaring the month of May as Asian American and Pacific Islanders Heritage Month.
It happened at Ilus Davis Park across from the KCMO City Hall during a celebration of the Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) community in the city.
Hundreds of people listened to several speakers and listened to music and watched performances.
"To share my language and have people excited to hear it and clap to hear it a second time, like never would I have imagined that," Bety Le Shackelford, one of the organizers of the celebration said.
This comes as there's been a rise in hate crimes towards the Asian-American community since the pandemic started, due to certain rhetoric being used when describing COVID-19.
"It makes me mad because number one, don’t pick on the weak folks if you have a problem say it and deal with it," KCMO resident Lexi Nguyen said.
Other people who attended the event also agreed.
"The anti-Asian racism and violence that we’re experiencing now across the country is so acute that it’s difficult to ignore," KCMO resident and speaker at the celebration, Pakou Her said.
Her said while Kansas City is a welcoming place, events like what happened in Atlanta impacts her family as her young daughter was frightened.
"Out of the bathroom I hear her say ‘mom are people going to come and kill us too?’" Her said.
Many who attended this event have faced racism first hand.
"We’ve been called communist Nazis, we’ve had people just assume that you can come in and demand whatever you want from us because of submissive stereotype that Asian-Americans have," Fanny Fang who also attended the celebration said.
"I grew up in a place where we had swastikas painted on our house, we had people calling our house telling us that their dogs were missing because they were insinuating that we had stolen their dogs and eaten them those were the kind of experiences I grew up with," Her said.
With everything going on in the AAPI community, having big celebrations like this with many races and walks of life represented gives them hope for change in the future.
"It’s so great to see that it’s not just Asians out here that there are white allies out here," Fang said. "I think if we are going to have change happen, we need some of our white allies to start doing some of the work that we’ve been doing for so long."
While tensions are high, many at the event believe there's momentum to change the narrative.
"We’ve a very divided society right now so I’m not sure it will happen in the short term but maybe in the long-term," KC resident Hallee Pham said.
It's estimated there are more than 45,000 AAPI Kansas Citians.