With anti-Asian violence on the rise and the pandemic still making many in-person events impossible, Unitarian Universalists of Asian descent have found community and support online.
Florence Tang said there aren’t many Asian American members at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta, Georgia, which she attends. But Tang gets sustenance from a monthly Zoom coffee hour for Asian American and Pacific Islander UUs.
The online Asian American and Pacific Islander coffee hour first started meeting in the summer of 2020 and is hosted by the Asian Pacific Islander UU Caucus of Diverse Revolutionary UU Multicultural Ministries (DRUUMM). It came together after a similar event at the UUA’s Virtual General Assembly 2020, according to Tang. “People just really liked being together on Zoom and wanted it to happen more often,” she said. “So we started having it every month.”
Hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders rose by almost 150 percent in America’s largest cities in 2020, according to a study by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino. The surge was fueled by racist rhetoric from former President Donald Trump and others that sought to blame China for the coronavirus pandemic, which was first identified in the city of Wuhan in late 2019. And on March 16, 2021, a white man who claimed to be suffering from a “sex addiction” shot and killed eight people, six of whom were women of Asian descent, at spas in the Atlanta area.
Both the Unitarian Universalist Association and the DRUUMM Asian Pacific Islander UU Caucus released statements in March denouncing the surge in anti-Asian violence and calling on people to take action and continue working to end white supremacy culture. (Read the statements at UUA.organd druummapic.wordpress.com.)
The Zoom group of about twelve to fifteen people now meets on the second Tuesday of every month. They usually have a mix of regulars and people who drop in occasionally, according to Kate Goka, who sits on the steering committee of DRUUMM’s Asian Pacific Islander Caucus.
The meetings are an opportunity for people to talk about issues that they might not want to raise in other settings or to share concerns about violence and discrimination, Goka said. “It’s a great space for people to just talk about being Asian/Pacific Islander, what that means to be UU,” she said. “People have brought just generally things where they don’t feel super comfortable in their congregations.”
People who are interested in joining the coffee hour can RSVP at firstname.lastname@example.org.