Compassion in Oakland, launched by 26-year-old Jacob Azevedo, is an effort to keep Asian Americans safe at a time when hate crimes against them have spiked due to coronavirus being called the "China virus."
Ever since the public health crisis hit the United States, Asian Americans have witnessed a sharp spike in hate crimes. This is primarily owing to the narrative that the coronavirus is the "China virus." This has left thousands of Asian American citizens feeling unsafe. When Jacob Azevedo from Oakland learned of the terrible experiences the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities were facing, he decided to take action. Therefore, he launched a project now called Compassion in Oakland. Through the initiative, volunteers escort anyone, but primarily elderly Asian Americans, in Oakland's Chinatown neighborhood to help them feel safe. So far, 300 volunteers have already signed up, CNN reports.
"I wasn't intending to be some kind of vigilante," said Azevedo, 26, in an interview with the news outlet. "I just wanted to offer people some kind of comfort." The good samaritan is Hispanic himself and believes this is a crucial moment for those in minority groups to stick together and stand in solidarity with the Asian American community. This is best represented through his cohort of volunteers: they are a diverse bunch, including people from all racial backgrounds and ages. He stated, "This is important because this community just needs healing. There's a lot of racial tensions going on because of the previous President's rhetoric but in general our communities need healing. This is an issue that's been ongoing for a while."
According to Cynthia Choi, the co-founder of Stop APPI Hate, Asians in the United States are no strangers to crime and violence. Stop APPI Hate is a coalition documenting anti-Asian hate and discrimination amid the COVID-19 pandemic. "This is a problem and issue that doesn't get a lot of attention, especially in low income communities," she explained. "And of course the pandemic, I think has exacerbated the conditions and exposed racial disparities." She found the Compassion in Oakland project to be particularly heartwarming. She said, "In Oakland, they're planning this action and it's really less about controlling and more about supporting the community and showing up. It's showing our elders who are afraid, afraid to leave their house that we're here, we want to support you we're holding you right now."
Between March 19 and December 31, 2020, more than 2,808 firsthand accounts of anti-Asian hate from 47 states and the District of Columbia were reported. Of these incidents, 7.3 percent targeted Asian Americans over the age of 60, data from Choi's organization reveals. Activists in Oakland circles were particularly concerned about a recent surge in attacks on older Asian Americans in the Bay Area. In light of this, Azevedo hopes to work with law enforcement in the future in order to protect some of the most vulnerable in his community. He affirmed, "All of us need to come together if we hope to make this a safer community for the years to come."