Beaumont-Wilshire residents gathered in the Beaumont Middle School parking lot tonight to speak out against the recent hate crime reported in their neighborhood by a 22-year-old Vietnamese American man.
On the morning of Aug. 2, Bao Vuong
says four white males verbally assaulted and aggressively approached him at a stop-light on NE 41st and Fremont and threw bagels at him.
Rev. Joseph Santos-Lyons, the community development coordinate for the Asian Family Center, helped pull tonight's rally together.
"The conversation ranged from 'let's get mad' to 'let's not deal with it, it's too stressful,'" Santos-Lyons said. "And we settled on this event to talk about - and focus on - what we can do."
Among the 100 people attending were City Commissioner Nick Fish
, Multnomah County Commissioner Jeff Cogen
, Central Northeast Neighbors Director Allison Stoll
and members of Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon.
Vuong himself opened the night speaking about his experience and his desire to move forward from the incident to strengthen the community. Reading off his cell phone, he thanked supporters and encouraged other victims to not be afraid to speak out.
"This whole thing is beyond me," Vuong told WW, gesturing toward the crowd. "I couldn't have hoped for better."
All speakers echoed the common desire to turn the negative incident into a positive opportunity.
"We're here collectively to say no. No to hate and no to violence...And yes to justice and love." said Fish, who lives in the nearby Grant Park neighborhood. "The silver lining is that we can turn this ugly incident into a beautiful gathering."
Cogen voiced similar sentiment as a neighbor, county commissioner, Jewish man and chair of Portland's Human Rights Committee.
"People say they're shocked, but [these events] are not as rare as you think," Cogen told the crowd. "I thank Bao for his courage that brought about a teachable moment."
The evening of solidarity ended with the crowd mingling and feasting on donated BBQ fixings.
But, Vuong did leave the crowd with one unifying message: "It's like my mom always said, 'If you take one chopstick, it breaks easily," he said. "But if you put chopsticks in a bundle, you can't break them.'"