Asian Americans

These AAPI Groups Are Crowdfunding Safety in Face of Government Inaction

“We went from complete invisibility to hypervisibility,” one organizer said. “Now we’re wondering: How much time do we have in the spotlight, and what do we do with this time?”

Jason Redmond | AFP | Getty Images

On a chilly morning in mid-April, scores of Asian elders lined up outside a senior center in Flushing in Queens, New York, to pick up free alarms that they can clip onto their wrists. Within 20 minutes, all 200 alarms had been scooped up.

In the past two weeks, the nonprofit Asians in America has raised more than $13,000 online to supply 3,500 personal safety alarms to seniors in the city. Organizers work with the social services group Chinese-American Planning Council to distribute them at senior centers it operates, as well as local grocery stores and businesses that elders frequent. 

“One of the things that make victims targets is looking like a victim,” founder Will Lex Ham told NBC Asian America. “Our elders have been scared all year. They’ve been afraid to walk out their doors.”

The wristlets retail for roughly $15 each, Ham said, but the group buys them wholesale from China for about $4. Screeching loud but visually inconspicuous, he said, the alarms are easier to use and more effective at fending off assailants than tools like pepper spray and pocket knives.  

After the Atlanta-area spa shootings in March — in which a white man is accused of killing eight people, including six women of Asian descent — many Asian American activists have shifted their focus from raising awareness to concrete actions.  

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