By Julia Carrie Wong
Little red envelopes are ubiquitous in Asian communities during Lunar New Year. Often stuffed with a crisp dollar bill or two, the envelopes are exchanged between family members, friends and neighbors with wishes for good fortune and health in the new year. This Saturday, as tens of thousands of people crowd San Francisco’s streets for its annual Chinese New Year parade, a group of Asian-American activists will be handing out a special kind of red envelopes bearing a special message: that Asian-American communities should join the #BlackLivesMatter movement.
“We want to use this time when we are all celebrating and sharing wishes for a prosperous new year to lift up the message that the black community also deserves a safe and prosperous year,” says Jennifer Phung, an activist from Oakland, California.
Phung is a member of the group #Asians4BlackLives, which will be handing out the envelopes. Each envelope will contain a card reading, in part, “As Asian Americans, we enjoy many rights that were fought for and won by Black liberation movements. Today, we too have the power to stand on the side of justice. We can create harmony by building strong relationships between Black and Asian communities and standing together for Black Lives. Which side are you on?”
#Asians4BlackLives was formed late last year, in the wake of the non-indictments of the police officers who killed Michael Brown and Eric Garner. The group’s first action was participating in a shutdown of the Oakland Police Department’s headquarters by chaining themselves to the main door of the building while holding a banner reading, “End the war on black people #Asians4BlackLives.” Members of the group have also taken part in civil disobedience protests at the Federal Building in Oakland and at a Bay Area Home Depot where a black woman allegedly shoplifted before being shot and killed by police from Emeryville, California.