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Candlelight vigil honors community vets

In preparation for Memorial Day and the festivities to come, the United Veterans & Fraternal Organizations of Maspeth held a candlelight vigil to honor U.S. veterans and their loved ones.

Many community members, including veterans, gathered in Maspeth Memorial Park on Monday for an evening of patriotic spirit, entertainment, and remembrance.

The St. Stan’s Players performed “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

Rev. Joseph Wilson of St. Stanislaus Kostka recited the invocation, thanking members of the armed forces, police officers, firefighters, corrections officers, and other emergency service personnel for saving lives and defending the rights of citizens.

Following the Pledge of Allegiance, a rendition “America the Beautiful,” sung by Kristinka, and some words of gratitude from the organization’s president, Maryanna Zero, a sentimental poem was recited by the ceremony’s Young Poet Laureate, James White.

White is a freshman at Fordham University in the Bronx, and serves as a lector at Transfiguration Church. He recited “Soldier,” a poem written by retired U.S. Army Major Ed Coet.

“That I didn’t honor him sooner, I will always regret; and I pledged that day to never again forget,” he recited. “I’m proud that my dad was a patriotic warrior; I’m honored to be the son of an American soldier.”

Queens residents Johnny Bee and Rosalia Gattuso performed a musical duet of Andrea Bocelli and Celine Dion’s “The Prayer,” and Gattuso sang “Ave Maria” after the ceremonial lighting of the candles.

The program was also joined by the St. Stan’s Players, who sang “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

Candles for World War I were carried by the American Legion Auxiliary, World War II by Ridgewood Moose Lodge No. 1642 – Chapter 133, Korean War by Polish Legion of American Veterans Chapter 4 of the Kowalinski Post – Ladies Auxiliary, Vietnam War by Vietnam Veterans of America Queens Chapter 32 – The Honor Guard, and Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom and the American Victims of Terrorism by Francis Cardinal Spellman Council, Knights of Columbus No. 6014 Ladies Auxiliary.

Members of the United Veterans & Fraternal Organizations of Maspeth displayed a banner.

Maspeth resident Carole Stines led the event, and also recited a revised version of “My Son,” a Frank Patterson song.

“I reworked some of the lyrics to suit the occasion,” she said. “In keeping with this year’s Memorial Day Parade theme, ‘Maspeth Honors Gold Star Families,’ I recited this poem. This homage is also relevant to all of those who lost a loved one in these very difficult times.”

She was also joined by Hyunjeong Lee on keyboard and Andrew Cho on violin.

During her reading and the musical performance, the family of the late Corporal Robert Rodriguez, who died in Operation Iraqi Freedom, stood in front of the crowd, holding up his photo.

Rodriguez, who was a Maspeth resident, had his name added to the monument in Maspeth Memorial Park 12 years ago.

Maspeth’s Memorial Day Parade will kick off at 1 p.m. at Grand Avenue and 69th Street, with festivities at 11 a.m. at Queens Vietnam Memorial Elmhurst Park, 12 p.m. at the WWI Monument at 72nd Street and Grand Avenue, and followed by a memorial service at 2 p.m.

Vigil honors slain food deliveryman Zhiwen Yan

Last week, the Forest Hills community came together for a candlelight vigil in front of Great Wall Chinese Restaurant to honor Zhiwen Yan, a food delivery worker who was killed at the end of April.

Yan, who lived in Middle Village, was fatally shot on the night of April 30 while riding his scooter on his way to deliver food in Forest Hills.

He was 45 years old, and leaves behind a wife and three children.

Ethan Felder and Donghui Zang organized a candlelight vigil to honor the life and legacy of Zhiwen Yan.

“He was a kind and beautiful soul. And to think how he did everything right in life as an immigrant: he worked three jobs and he leaves three children behind. He epitomizes what we all strive for as Americans,” said Ethan Felder, a labor lawyer and candidate running for NYS Assembly District 28, who co-organized the vigil. “The fact that he had that all taken away two weeks ago… it really strikes at the heart of who we are. That is why we had to memorialize his life and what happened to him and his family, and to our community.”

Zhiwen Yan’s wife, Kunying Zhao, was comforted by the community during her time of grief, and spoke out about how she feels and what the city should be doing to help.

“New York City, you owe me a life. You owe me a husband. You owe an explanation to the Chinese community,” she said through a translator.

She emphasized that Yan and his coworkers had been threatened for months prior to his death, and said that police could have taken protective measures to prevent the worst from happening.

“He should have been able to watch his children growing up, but everything ended,” she continued. “We want New York City to give us an explanation.”

Kai Yang, manager of Great Wall, shared a powerful speech with attendees, demanding justice for his former employee.

Yan was a beloved member of the community, best known for his signature greeting, “Hello, my friend.”

Several residents took turns with the microphone to share their stories about him.

“I knew Mr. Yan for over 25 years. He was the best delivery guy you can ever ask for,” one resident, Ariel, said.
“If you ordered from Great Wall when he was alive, you got your food in 15 minutes or less — no matter how far you lived, or how much food you ordered,” he continued. “I’m so heartbroken.”

“This is a terrible loss to the entire community. He reached so many different people, and I think that just goes to show by how many people showed up to the vigil,” another resident, Michael, said.

“I have met many people over the past several days on my walk to Walgreens, saying they would see him on his scooter, always working,” he added. “He was the hardest working man I know in the neighborhood.”

Kai Yang, the manager of Great Wall who worked with Yan for more than 10 years, shared a powerful speech with attendees, demanding justice for his former employee.

“He was taking care of the neighborhood, delivering to the neighbors who needed food. And then without any notice, that guy came out and shot him. His blood is spilled at the crosswalk of the streets in this neighborhood,” Yang said through a translator.

“This is an insult to the city, and something we need to look into and take care of,” he continued. “My workers and I are still working in fear. We are in fear for our own lives and safety working here every day.”

He addressed the racism against Asian Americans that came out of the pandemic, which has affected the success of his business, and resulted in his workers being verbally assaulted with racial slurs.

Community members from all walks of life stood beside Yan’s wife to support her

“We deserve safety. We deserve peace so we can make our living and we can make this city somewhere worth living,” he said.
Donghui Zang, a candidate for District Leader of the 28th Assembly District, said that despite Yan’s death taking place nearly three weeks ago, his family has still not secured a place to bury him.

He said that he and the community are doing what they can to help them with this process, along with help from Uber Eats, where he also worked, and other Asian community leaders and elected officials.

“Saying ‘stop Asian hate’ is not enough. You need to prosecute and charge the criminals to the maximum extent of the law,” Zang said. “The penalty is too low so it doesn’t scare off the people who commit crimes: murder, robberies, and shootings in the subways. It’s still not enough, and we have to revise the law so people can feel safe and restore the peace.”

Pols host vigil to remember AAPI hate crime victims

Last year, eight victims, including six Asian women, were killed when suspected gunman Robert Aaron Long opened fire in a shooting spree targeting three spas in the Atlanta area.

One year later, elected officials in Queens held a candlelight vigil in their memory. The event was co-sponsored by New York City Councilwoman Sandra Ung, Councilwoman Linda Lee, Councilwoman Julie Won and Queens Borough President Donovan Richards.

Participants held up candles, white flowers and photos of the victims—Xiaojie Tan, 49, Daoyou Feng, 44, Hyun Jung Grant, 51, Suncha Kim, 69, Soon Chung Park, 74, Yong Ae Yue, 63, Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33 and Paul Andre Michels, 54—as speakers addressed the ever-present violence against Asian individuals in New York City.

“He deliberately sought out these businesses because they were owned by Asian women. Make no mistake, this was a hate crime,” Ung said.

“Just this week, an elderly woman was punched 125 times simply because she was Asian,” Ung continued. “Every week, we hear of new accounts of Asian women being attacked, including the recent deaths of Christina Yuna Lee, Michelle Go, and GuiYing Ma.”

Ung expressed how she fears for her safety as an Asian woman walking in the streets of New York City and taking public transportation. She also said AAPI children must be given a sense of dignity and seniors a sense of security.

“No one should fear for their life simply because of the color of their skin, their religion or who they love,” she said.“So many New Yorkers face intolerance and bigotry, and because of that, we won’t stop fighting to make New York a welcoming place for everyone.”

Lee, who became the first Korean-American elected to the New York City Council, said that a multi-prong approach with more culturally competent services is necessary to combat Asian hate.

“We need to make sure that there is teaching of acceptance in schools, and that Asian Americans are not seen as outsiders or others. We also need to continue to work with our public safety police officers and community liaisons so we can advocate and work together,” Lee said. “We need to make sure that we are actually increasing services and resources into the city as well, so people who are homeless have places to go, that the mentally ill are getting services that they need, and that our community groups have enough funding to be able to hire staff that speak in-language.”

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards addressd the crowd, saying: “an attack on us is an attack on all of us.”

During the vigil, Lee also shared that she was disappointed that a self defense instructor she recently met has a lengthly waiting list for classes geared specifically towards Asian seniors.

“They’re targeting women and seniors because we are more vulnerable,” she said. “We need to do as much upstander and bystander training as possible, and look out for each other and be there as a community because it takes all of us.”

Councilman Shekar Krishnan also spoke at the event, emphasizing that violence and discrimination against the AAPI community is not a new phenomenon.

“Hate against Asian American communities goes back generations where we have been invisibilized as communities—where we aren’t seen, we aren’t heard and many of the stereotypes and prejudices about our communities must be shattered,” Krishnan said.

“This invisibilization has meant that the fears and genuine safety concerns of so many seniors and Asian American women have not been recognized for so long,” he added. “To come out and to solve and eradicate this hate, the one thing that’s required first is to listen to the voices of our Asian American communities.”

NYC Councilwoman Linda Lee holds up an image of one of the victims of the Atlanta spa shootings.

Other elected officials who showed their support at the vigil, include NYC Comptroller Brad Lander, State Senator John Liu and Assemblywoman Nily Rozic.

“There have been nearly 11,000 anti-Asian hate crimes across the country in the year since those beautiful souls in Atlanta were lost,” Lander said. “We cannot tolerate that in our city and we must find ways to work together to make it safe. Asian New Yorkers, all New Yorkers, deserve to be able to walk around their city without feeling like they might be targeted for violence just because of who they are.”

Many of the evening’s speakers cited the statement made by BP Richards in regard to Queens. He said, “an attack on us is an attack on all of us,” symbolizing the diversity and sense of unity that is present in the borough.

“How many times must we stand here? We’ve been here too many times,” Richards said. “Almost every single day, we hear news of another Asian American being accosted or attacked, targeted for who they are and what they look like. Asian Americans right here in New York, of all places, have felt the sting of racism and violence.”

“I wish these were isolated events, but they are not. Crimes against Asian Americans have skyrocketed nationwide by nearly 350 percent. We must continue to stand in solidarity with them against this pandemic of prejudice,” Richards said. “Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson don’t have a vaccine for this virus… All of us standing here today are the cure.”

BP holds vigil for Haiti, launches donation drive

Borough President Donovan Richards hosted a vigil in partnership with Haitian Americans United for Progress (HAUP) to honor the more than 2,000 people who died in a 7.2-magnitude earthquake that struck the island nation.
“From natural disasters to political turmoil, Haiti has been dealt blow after blow in recent years, but the resolve of the Haitian people and our Haitian American community is unmatched,” said Richards. “In the wake of this destructive earthquake, Queens stands ready to offer a helping hand to our Caribbean neighbors in their time of need.”
To assist in Haiti’s recovery, Richards launched a donation drive in support of the countless Haitian families impacted by the earthquake.
“As much as it saddens me to see Haiti go through yet another disaster in the midst of its existing challenges, I, along with my Haitian brothers and sisters, remain ever more committed to a better and stronger Haiti for generations to come,” said HAUP CEO and executive director Elsie Saint Louis. “My heartfelt gratitude to the friends and partners of the Haitian people who continue to reach out in so many big and small ways in support, empathy and collaboration.”
Until September 22, donations of bottled water, non-perishable food, personal care products, toiletries and feminine hygiene products can be dropped off at Borough Hall at 120-55 Queens Boulevard in Kew Gardens. The lobby is open 24 hours a day.
“I think the people of Haiti are not just resilient but we are strong, we are smart, we are determined,” said Saint Louis. “What we need is for you to stand by Haiti, this is not the time to give up on this country.”

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