When they killed us, did you say they killed Americans?
Composed by Felix Jarrar, Text by Robert Feng
When they killed us, did you say they killed Americans? is a piece for Bass Voice and Piano with music by Felix Jarrar.
I wrote this on March 16, 2021 when I had just finished volunteered in giving the first ever round of Covid vaccines. A sweeping wave of relief came over me as now we had the means to prevent Covid-19. That was also the day I learned that 8 people, six of whom were asian women, were killed in a mass shooting targeting two asian owned spas in Georgia.
In 2020, the FBI and the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism released a report that anti-asian hate crimes had increased by 150% that year. In 2021, that number more than doubled to 339%. Despite this, I saw little to no news coverage, nor outcry on any social media platform with exceptions to specifically Asian news sites. But it kept happening. An elderly Thai man was thrown to the ground, killing him. A Filipino woman had her head stomped on the pavement while onlookers closed and locked their doors literally a couple feet away, all while being told “You don’t belong here”. I thought “that could be me, that could be my sister, that could be my mom, that could be my grandfather.”
“When they killed us” is my frustration, my bewilderment and my sadness at this spike in hate crimes. Asian-Americans are often stereotyped as keeping our heads down in silent obedience, and often labeled as ‘other’ or perpetual foreigners. We are not strangers to this type of violence and exclusion, rather we are constantly reminded of it in our history: The Chinese Exclusion Act, the Japanese Internment Camps, the LA Massacre of 1871, the burning of Chinatown in San Jose 1887, the killing of Vincent Chin, the Atlanta Spa Shootings…
Delaina Ashley Yuan, 33, married less than a year to Mario Gonzalez and mother of two.
Xioajie Tian, 49, business owner who immigrated from Nanning. "She was full of smiles and laughter. She was just a pleasure to be around.” She would’ve been 50 the next day.
Daoyou Feng, 44, “kind and quiet” she was described as.
Paul Andre Michaels, 54, a veteran who was thinking opening up his own massage shop.
Hyun Jung Grant, 51, mother of 2 who immigrated and worked at the Gold Spa.
Soon Chung Park, 74, "Everybody said she was going to live past 100-years-old,” her son-in-law said.
Suncha Kim, 69, her granddaughter said that all Ms Kim had wanted was "to grow old with my grandfather and watch her children and grandchildren live the life she never got to live".
Yong Ae Yue, 63, she was laid off in 2020 due to the pandemic, and was happy to start working again at the spa.
When they killed us, I hope you saw us as Americans. When they killed us, I hope you saw us as human beings. May the work we do now not be in vain.
Stop AAPI Hate official logo
Premiere: November 2022
Length: 5 Minutes, 11 Seconds
Robert Ellsworth Feng, bass
Felix Jarrar, collaborative pianist