By Derek Dizon & Nikki Caintic
API Chaya works to build power in Asian, South Asian, and Pacific Islander communities to address the root causes of violence. As an organization that provides support to survivors, we come together to offer a space of healing as we honor lives lost to domestic and sexual violence. The annual candlelight vigil is held to remember the lives of Susanna Remerata Blackwell, her unborn child, baby Kristine, Phoebe Dizon, and Veronica Laureta. This year, in collaboration with the Filipino Community of Seattle, we sought to transform the pain and rage of lived and relived victimization in our community with a shared sense of healing and survivorship across generations.
Susanna Blackwell, Phoebe Dizon, and Veronica Laureta were shot and killed at the King County Courthouse in 1995 by Susanna’s estranged and abusive husband, amidst their divorce proceedings. This tragedy organized the API community as a group of women came together to form what is now known as API Chaya. While the tragedy and loss of Susanna Blackwell, Phoebe Dizon, and Veronica Laureta occurred 22 years ago, the epidemic of domestic and sexual violence in our communities continue. Studies indicate that about half of Asian women have reported experiencing physical and/or sexual violence during their lifetime by an intimate or domestic partner. In a recent 2011 study, 56% of Filipinas and 64% of Indian and Pakistani women reported experiencing sexual violence by an intimate partner (National Institute of Justice, 2011). In King County alone, over the past 10 years, there have been 132 domestic violence related fatalities (Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 2015).
This year, we chose the theme of: Engaging Across Generations, because the movement to end violence must be forged across our communities with participation from people of all ages. By seeing the deep ways we are connected, our communities can build supportive networks while examining our collective responsibility to end the violence that exists in our world. This year’s theme sought to provide a transformative and healing space by honoring survivors and celebrating our communities’ resilience, survivorship, and intergenerational characteristic.
Kiyomi Fujikawa, former Queer Network Program Coordinator, spoke at this year’s vigil about violence facing trans communities, particularly trans women of color. “In 2017, already 7 trans women of color have been murdered. Although tracking of violence against trans people is relatively new as a data-set and the numbers are imperfect, 2016 was recorded as the most lethal year against trans women, and currently 2017 is on track to be even more so. While we mourn our lost siblings, we rally against bills that block us from public accommodation, from fundamentally being able to participate in daily public life—including here in Washington. We must also rally for the changes that protect our health care, give us affordable housing, and end the deportation and incarceration of our communities. We must hold each other close and support each other on fundamental levels,” she stated. This vigil is also a call to action for our communities to unite and resist the intersecting forms of violence we are facing. Through our collective grief, we also find ways to take collective action.
We call on all generations to come together and to address the root causes of violence in our lives. Together, we will work to support survivors and end violence in our communities. For more information about our annual community candlelight vigil, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.