On Wednesday, Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe helped a press conference announcing four proposals that he hopes will make amends with the Asian American and Pacific Islanders after Antioch’s poor treatment of them in the past.
Thorpe referenced how in 1876, Antioch’s Chinatown was burned down and replaced. He then made four proposals which include:
- Funding an exhibit at the Antioch Historical Society Museum
- Designate a Chinatown Historic District with appropriate historical markings.
- Create a mural project (via the youth) that commemorates Antioch’s historic Chinese community
- Official apology from the City to Asian American and Pacific Islanders including the Chinese community.
“We are in the middle of a national awakening that has spun out anti-Asian American and Pacific Islander hate. Ever day it seems like all of us are witnesses to some of the most jarring headlines on social media, our local and national television outlets, and the newspapers,” stated Thorpe who read off multiple headlines. “These are just a few examples that we can no longer ignore let alone normalize in our city, our state and our country.”
Thorpe shared that on Tuesday night, two Asian women both ages 50 and 70, were violently attacked and robbed and Antioch’s only Asian grocery store—County Square Market.
“This is unacceptable by any measure,” stated Thorpe.
Last night, in a unanimous vote, the Antioch City council passed a Resolution condemning anti-Asian American and Pacific Islander hate which Thorpe signed the proclamation during the press conference.
“Our city will not stand by hoping things will get better,” stated Thorpe who then presented it to Andi Li, President of the Contra Costa Community College Board.
Here is what was in proclamation:
Unanimously approved by the Antioch City Council on April 13, 2021
WHEREAS, Antioch is home to diverse communities and has been for many generations;
WHEREAS, we are disturbed and alarmed by the severity and frequency of hate crimes and race-based harassment against Asians and the Asian Pacific Islander Communities associated with COVID-19;
WHEREAS, the Asian-American experience in the Bay Area is a complex and multi-faceted history; WHEREAS, the first major wave of Asians came to the Bay Area during the Gold Rush and many worked on the transcontinental railroad in the nineteenth century and were met with racial hostility and animosity;
WHEREAS, in 1876, Antioch’s Chinatown was burned down and it later became Waldie Plaza. People of Chinese heritage were banned from walking Antioch City streets after sunset;
WHEREAS, during the late-nineteenth century, anti-Chinese sentiment resulted in conflict and extremely restrictive regulations and norms concerning where Asian Americans could live and in which occupations they could work, which were often enforced with violence;
WHEREAS, today, there are nearly 1.7 million Asians in the Bay Area, constituting nearly 24 percent of the overall population. We pledge to not repeat the egregious acts of discrimination in past and present history;
WHEREAS, having Chinese ancestry – or any other ancestry – does not make a person more vulnerable to COVID-19. No race, nationality or ethnicity is responsible for COVID-19;
WHEREAS, ignorance is the lifeblood of conspiracies that hamper our ability to fight the pandemic and endanger the most vulnerable; and
WHEREAS, the City of Antioch recognizes the negative impact of institutional and structural racism, past and present.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, LAMAR A. THORPE, Mayor of the City of Antioch, do hereby proclaim that racism against Asians and Asian Americans shall not be tolerated in any form, AND we stand in support of individuals and communities targeted by association with COVID-19, AND we urge everyone to interrupt instances of racisms and intolerance by speaking up in support of equity, justice, and inclusion.
Li thanked Thorpe and the Antioch City Council for condemning the Asian Hate Crime. Li is currently the only Asian American Pacific community member to serve in office in East Contra Costa County.
“Recently, because of the pandemic and the hate speech from our former President, there has been a surge in anti-Asian hate crime in the united states,” stated Lie while highlighting overall the hate crimes decreased by 7%, but Asian American hate crime it increased by 160% and created hardships for many Asian families.
Thorpe announced a series of proposals in hopes of making amends to the Bay Area’s Chinese Community for “historic wrongs” at the hands of the city’s founding community when xenophobe was at its highest.
“These proposals issued today are aimed at making amends to the Bay Area’s Chines Community of how the city of Antioch treated its descendants over 100 years ago,” said Thorpe.
Dwayne Eubanks, President of the Antioch Historical Society, said in June they will have a reopening of the museum and has articles dating back to the 1870’s—which included the Chinatown Map, Chinatown tunnels as well as photos of chines merchants.
“Its all there for the community to come visit and view,” stated Eubanks who highlighted the Mayor and the historical society is planning to create a permanent program celebrating Chinese history.
Joy Motts, former councilmember and president of the Rivertown Preservation Society,
“Some may say what happened in the past has no effect on who we are today, we believe this to be incorrect and to the contrary to not acknowledge the wrongs or intolerances of yesterday can only make more possible that it may happen again,” explained Motts. “When we speak of atrocities such as 9-11 or Nazi Concentration camps for those that experienced those times, they will tell you to never forget. To not remember, to not discuss, to not teach of acts that cause great pain and human despair, we are most likely doomed to repeat.”
Motts said that today the city of Antioch takes a first step in remembering a very tough part of their history.
“Here in Antioch we will fight against racism and intolerance against people of all ethnicities and fight for equity, justice and inclusion and in doing so we will never forget,” stated Motts.
Marie Arce, chair of the Antioch Parks and Recreation Commission, called today a critical first step in educating the community while acknowledging “our wrongdoings”.
Thorpe called the proposal of creating mural that commemorates Antioch’s historic Chinese community a great opportunity and community building opportunity with students with the Antioch Unified school District, private and charter schools.
Dr. Clyde Lewis, Vice President of the AUSD, called today the “the beginning of intelligence” so they could understand themselves, but they have to take a hard look at where they are and where they have been. He hoped partnering with the city will encourage a conversation.
Thorpe then continued.
“We know the pain of not having your government acknowledge and reconcile through forgiveness its historical wrongs. We live it every day,” stated Thorpe. “To date, no apology for slavery in this country. No reparations, not in the form of some handout check that some people keep exploiting but a concentrated effort to make right for a historical loss. For us, this is very important.”
Thorpe then said Antioch will advance a resolution that will officially apologize on behalf of the city of Antioch for terrorizing Chinese immigrants in our community.
Councilwoman Tamisha Torres-Walker
“When you buy your first home, you don’t say I sure am going to fill it with hate. When you move to a community, you don’t say to yourself, I sure can’t wait to bring as much hate and harm to this community as possible. I stand here today as a black Latina in solidarity with the API community against all racial hate and harm,” said Torres-Walker. “I do not stand here today to apologize for whiteness. That is not my role. It is not my role as a person who has to show up everyday in a dark body to apologize for white fragility, anti-blackness, transphobia, xenophobe, racism, classism, othering fear, white supremacy, patriarchy and capitalism. That is not my role.”
Torres-Walker asked what side of history they were on today was the question where she highlighted people have been denied the privilege to walk freely on the streets and were forced underground.
“We are not born hateful. Hate is learned and passed down through generations and because Antioch has chosen to rise through the ashes of a horrible past into a more inclusive future we stand here before you all today united against racial hate,” said Torres-Walker. “We say that opportunity lives here in Antioch. Opportunity can only live here in Antioch when we all as Antioch residents fight just as hard for belonging as we have to get beyond our past and to move forward to a future where we are not defined by our past and we acknowledge our past so that everybody can belong.”
She thanked the Mayor for standing up today, but they needed to do better and differently for communities of color and poor communities.
“When we say I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America… I cringe,” stated Torres-Walker. “Today, we still do not have liberty which is freedom. We still do not have justice which is slow to come for communities of color and people in dark bodies who face harm.”
Thorpe stated that they would be working with the Historical Society to develop a price tag for the historical society to do what they needed to do and the funding needed for the Historic Rivertown District.
The items are anticipated to come before the City Council by early May.