Black, Asian leaders in Atlanta hope tragedy sparks better understanding between communities

ATLANTA — Local leaders are hoping that unity between the Black and Asian communities in the aftermath of the deadly spa shootings will lead to a better understanding between them.

Channel 2′s Sophia Choi spoke to State Rep. Sam Park and Georgia’s NAACP president, Reverend James Woodall, about what they are seeing following the tragedy that left eight people dead.

Over the weekend, the two communities prayed together inside New Birth Missionary Baptist Church and rallied together at Liberty plaza for a “Stop Asian Hate” rally.

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“Our immediate response was to stand up against injustice anywhere, because that is what we do,” Woodall said.

It’s a continuation of the support that started over the summer for the Black Lives Matter movement. But relationships between the Black community and the Asian community in Atlanta haven’t always been smooth.

Park said he hopes the tragedy can lead to real change.

“I think it’s a great opportunity to get a better understanding of the conflicts that do exist and find common ground and to work together,” Park said. “I think it’s also an opportunity to understand that oftentimes, it’s socio-economics inequalities and inequities that drive interracial conflict.”

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Leaders in both communities say it’s time to take this moment and make it a movement. Some lawmakers think the communities need to show solidarity in demanding gun control.

“We have the momentum to turn back, especially here in the state of Georgia, to look at real common sense gun safety reform,” Dr. Michelle Au said.

Park agreed.

“It is unacceptable quite frankly that in the state of Georgia, it is easier to get a gun than it is to vote,” Park said.

Park was among the Asian leaders who met with President Biden on Friday. The president told lawmakers he plans to meet with the families of the victims privately when they are ready. Park said Biden was clearly moved by the tragedy.

“You know, what really was striking in meeting with President Biden was his empathy and his understanding,” Park said. “I didn’t necessarily feel like I was in front of the leader of the free world or the most powerful man in this country, I felt like I was in front of someone who simply cared.”

Park said Biden agreed to make it a priority to make changes at the federal and state level to fight Asian hate.

“To revamp and re-empower the White House initiative on Asian American Pacific Islanders,” Park said. " I think that is a good first step the White House could immediately take.”

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