October 5, 2021 | 10:00am
NEW YORK CITY — Filipino Americans have come together to call for an end to hate crimes happening around the city. As a response, the Fil-Am community, headed by lawyer Lara Gregory, launched Filipino Americans for Racial Action or FARA, an organization empowering the minority to come together, be seen, be heard, and rise above these challenges.
Last year, anti-Asian violence made headlines amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which was further aggravated by former President Donald Trump’s racist rhetoric against Asian Americans.
According to a Pew Research survey in April 2021, 32% of adult Asians experience fear, anxiety and loss of sense of security as xenophobic and racist incidents increase.
Just recently, a Filipino woman who was distributing face masks to fellow passengers onboard the subway was suddenly attacked by two individuals while screaming racial slurs at her. Meanwhile, at the Upper West Side, a Filipino stage actor was assaulted while on the way to his apartment.
The prevalence of these events pushed Lara Gregory to use her voice and call for changes. Through FARA, she hopes to offer a safe space where racial assault victims and other stakeholders, particularly Filipino Americans, can freely share their stories without prejudice.
The organization also serves as an institution that champions legislative changes and racial unity as well as eradicates cultural ignorance through education and pertinent facts about the community.
Atty. Gregory is an immigration lawyer and community activist who is at the forefront of fighting anti-Asian hate by implementing her extensive international legal experience and in defending the vulnerable individuals of minor communities.
She believes that everyone should speak up because the local government has resources to help those who are impacted by the brutal attacks.
“If you remain silent, nothing will change,” she said.
“There are a lot of resources and protection, so there’s no reason to be silent. We need to come together because regardless of our differences in faith, color, race or ethnicity, we are united in wanting the health of our community and the flourishing of the city. Because when the city flourishes, people also flourish.” she added.
In a recent virtual event, letting one’s voice be heard was further emphasized by two esteemed panelists and racial progress activists: founding member of the Filipino
Americans for Racial Action and behavioral psychiatrist, Dr. Romulo Aromin and licensed psychologist Dr. Lirio Sobrevinas-Covey. During the roundtable discussion, they shared significant insights about the cruelties of anti-Asian hate crimes as well as the danger of the myth that is the “model minority.”
Dr. Aromin pointed out how hate crimes are deeply rooted in the lack of cultural sensitivity. “The problem lies in not knowing the culture of others,” he said.
Dr. Lirio mentioned how Asians are not regarded as the first level of social class in the US. “What’s common to hate crimes is that the victim is seen as inferior,” she said.
For these reasons, FARA is determined to proactively terminate cultural ignorance by becoming more than an institution but a community that offers people of different minority groups a space where they can exchange culture, history and heritage without fear and prejudice.
Filipino American guest speakers such as classical pianist Karen Beluso, theater actor Patrick Elizalde and former singer, actor Pia Vicente, were also invited to share their insights.
District Attorney of Queens County Hon. Melinda Katz and New York Congresswoman and author of the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act Hon. Grace Meng also extended their message of empowerment.
As anti-Asian sentiments heighten, racial forums are a great way to address hate, discrimination and violence towards the impacted community. Through FARA, there is hope that no doors will be shut closed.
The organization aims to build trust and confidence to move forward and stand up against ongoing atrocities towards the Asian community.