FALL RIVER, Mass. (WPRI) ─ Mayor Paul Coogan was joined by the Fall River Diversity and Inclusion Committee, the Massachusetts Asian American Commission and local leaders Monday to commemorate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.
Th celebration of the culture is held nationally during the month of May.
Five nations’ flags were raised, representing Fall River’s five largest Asian populations which include China, Cambodia, Hong Kong, India and Vietnam.
“There is a long history of Chinese immigrants coming to the city for business opportunities,” Jessica Wong, project director for the Massachusetts Asian American Commission said. “There was another wave of immigration through the Vietnam War where Cambodian and Vietnamese refugees came over in the 70s and 80s.”
Cambodian Fall River resident William Sem said he wants people to be more aware of Asian American culture.
“We are here in America in major cities and small cities in America, we are very diverse,” Sem said.
Coogan said the raising of all five flags is intended to promote the positive impact that Fall River’s Asian American communities have made on the city economically, socially and culturally.
Wong said this is especially important during a time where there has been discrimination, violence and racism against their community.
“There is a lot of fear, a lot of pain the community is feeling,” Wong said.
Wong also referenced a national group called Stop AAPI Hate, that has taken to social media to try to stop racist and discriminatory acts they say have increased throughout the pandemic.
The group said there’s been nearly 3,800 incidents nationally, including violent ones.
“You’re hearing a lot of hate crimes in New York and California but I have heard direct stories here in Massachusetts from colleagues, friends that I work with, that are actually scared to leave their house,” Wong said. “If you have an Asian neighbor, say ‘Hello,’ see how they are doing, the little things mean a lot.”
Th event was closed to the public due to COVID-19, but was live-streamed on the City of Fall River’s Facebook page.