As COVID-19 raged throughout the world, Michelle, a medical student in New York City (NYC), noticed a second pandemic arising around her: a pandemic of anti-Asian racism and violence. Hate incidents across the country quickly escalated from racial slurs to lethal shovings. Asian elders who reminded Michelle of her grandparents were viciously attacked around her favorite neighborhoods of NYC. On the way to hospital, Michelle’s medical colleagues were violently targeted and blamed for a virus they were helping treat. As the xenophobia worsened, many of Michelle’s loved ones became fearful of going about their daily lives out of fear of getting attacked. Devastated by this escalation of hate and discrimination, Michelle was inspired to act. She worked with her youth mentee to launch Soar Over Hate, an initiative to combat anti-Asian hate and equip vulnerable Asian American Pacific Islanders (AAPI) with self-defense materials, culturally-competent therapy, and other resources.
Soar Over Hate has now distributed over 23,000 safety alarms, whistles, and pepper spray to Asian Americans in New York and California. They prioritized those most vulnerable, such as low-income folks, essential workers, and elderly. Soar Over Hate also hosted multiple community events for over 5,000 attendees, including two popular AAPI Care Fairs in NYC and San Francisco. These events offered free self-defense materials and classes, healthcare screening, puppy therapy, meditation, healing circles, and more. Beyond self defense materials, Soar Over Hate seeks to empower the next generation of AAPI leaders with a college scholarship fund and free therapy designed to promote healing from racial trauma. Under Michelle’s leadership, Soar Over Hate continues to uplift Asian Americans and broaden its reach to impact people around the country.
As a L’Oréal Paris Woman of Worth, I hope to demonstrate that love is more powerful than hate, and that healing can prevail even in the darkest of circumstances.