"I really hope this program is temporary. This is simply started as a practical effort to keep people safe," she said.
As every passing day brought more and more reports of hate crimes against Asian Americans, Maddy Park — like many others — began to dread using public transportation. Park, who lives in New York City, experienced overwhelming fear and anxiety while taking a ride on the subway last week and decided that she wanted to do something to help keep her community safe. "It was a 30-minute commute and I realized every minute of the 30 minutes, I was terrified," she told WABC. "I was scared that any moment in time someone might say a racial slur or attack me, or worst of all, I thought that if something were to happen to me, nobody would stand up."
Realizing that not everyone can afford ridesharing and taxi rides to avoid public transport — and subsequently reduce chances of hate crime — Park decided to launch the Cafe Maddy Cab, an initiative that pays for private Uber and Lyft rides for female, elderly, and LGBTQ Asian people. She put $2,000 of her own money toward reimbursing people for their travels and word of the thoughtful initiative spread across social media in no time. Within just two days, Park raised more than $100,000 in donations from netizens, which she paid out to riders on Venmo.
"People who are donating are people from all across the nation, across all races, ethnicities, and they just sent me messages saying, 'Listen, we really want you guys to be safe too, and we're donating so that more people can take rides in the cities,'" she revealed. In an Instagram post explaining what motivated her to start the initiative, Park explained: "I took the train to work last week and EVERY MINUTE OF THE RIDE, I was stressed. I was terrified someone was going to walk up and start attacking me, harassing me, push me to the tracks, or slash me with a knife."
"Last weekend someone set a 29-year-old Asian woman's backpack on fire in the train around Ktown. I'm done taking the goddamn train while these hate crimes are going on. And so should you," she continued. "I've been in NYC 10 yrs. I was a broke student for most of it, and I know how many times you choose to take the train home or walk instead of hailing a cab because you can't afford it. [Please], take a cab. and then charge me at Cafe Maddy Cab on Venmo."
"I'm putting down $2000 and reimbursing you until I run out of funds/donations, and I'm doing this IN GOOD FAITH that you actually need it. Don't tough it out, girl. I know being Asian means you're not used to asking for help. But right now It's not worth it. Take a cab, for me. So we see one less headline... I want to do this for you, for us," Park wrote. She explained that those wanting to use the facility can do so by providing a selfie proving they are who they say they are and a screenshot of the ride receipt proving it's in New York City. They can then Venmo request her for the cost of the ride, and she will reimburse them for up to $40.
"We will use funds to support additional rides in NYC and also help fund & jump-start similar initiatives in cities across the nation," Park wrote on Instagram. "So far we have one coming up for LA, SF started one on @calikyecab and expecting more people to organize in their own city." Since launching the endeavor on April 2, she's been bombarded with messages of gratitude from seniors who used Cafe Maddy Cab to get to a vaccine or doctor's appointment and students and volunteers finding an ally for their safety at a scary time. "I really hope this program is temporary," Park told WNYW. "This is simply started as a practical effort to keep people safe."