‘6 of me were killed today’ – a poem for the Atlanta massacre victims

Edmonton, Alberta

“6 of me were killed today”

A Poem by Mila Bongco-Philipzig

Teodoro ‘Ted’ Alcuitas

Editor, Philippine Canadian News.Com

On March 16, 2021, eight women, six of whom where Asian-Americans, were massacred in several spas in Atlanta, Georgia. The killings are just one of a spate of Anti-Asian Hate crimes engulfing, and currently raging in the United States and Canada.  In Vancouver alone anti-Asian hate crimes have risen over 700% – the highest in the continent, according to reports.

Here is one Filipina-Canadian’s response:

6 of me were killed today

Angled eyes trained to be lowered, now shut forever

Skins that span a spectrum of shades all deemed suspicious, now just cold and bare

Where there was some chatter with accents and strange words that drew judgment and ridicule

Now silence

Silence, shock, and anger over

Lifeless Asian bodies still needing to work minimum wage at 63, 69, 74 years of age

6 of me were killed today.

We were taught early and firmly

To be quiet

Be polite

Study hard

Work hard

Don’t complain

Don’t call attention to yourself.

Try to fit in.

If no one can see us nor hear us

Then no one should hate us.

Yet hate came anyway.

Hate has no borders nor boundaries

Hate crosses time and space.

This hate has existed for

Years, decades, centuries

A constant shadow over our burdened existence

Head taxes

Internment camps, Exclusion acts, immigration bans

Boats that were not allowed to dock

Shops that were boycotted

Housing and services and salaries denied

And now the blows and bullets and blades that attack

The most vulnerable of our people, our elders

Hate came

And keeps coming.

Hate has no borders nor boundaries

It hurts us all.

6 of me are no more.

My grief and rage seek

Sounds and spaces and actions for justice

Truth in history

Unity in shaping a future

Where you can be you and I can be me

And we let the others be.

I will speak up, I will dissent, I will call attention

My angled eyes, I raise in a defiant stare

And I ask you

I challenge and urge you

What noise will you make

What space will you take

How will you engage in change

That no more of me

Shall be killed someday.

Bongco talked to the Edmonton Arts Council who featured her poem, on why she wrote it:

“The past year threw a harsh spotlight on the noticeable increase in anti-Asian hate crimes in North America. I thought I would get numb to hearing news after news of verbal and physical attacks to my community. But the sting and pain did not diminish, and I was especially distressed by the shooting in Atlanta last March – not only because 6 of the 8 people killed were Asian women, but also because of the way this incident was reported in the media and handled by local officials.

I thought that there was an unnecessary emphasis on the spa business and the sexual addiction of the killer that fed the hyper-sexualization stereotypes of Asian women. Many news outlets also did not call this incident outright as a racially motivated hate crime. There should have been more focus on the identity and situation of the victims. In reality, the victims were mostly senior citizens who did not provide spa nor massage services but were there to open doors and cook for the staff. For me, it was a grim reminder that in many parts of North America, a disproportionately high percentage of workers putting themselves at risk of exposure and danger during the pandemic are of Asian descent.

The poem is my very personal response to this shooting incident. In it, I call attention to my connection with the victims and the connection of this incident to a long history of anti-Asian sentiments.

May is Asian Heritage month in Canada. As we celebrate the diverse contributions and the rich cultural heritage and cuisines brought over here by Asian immigrants, I think it is important that we also learn and be more aware of topics like the plight of refugees, migrant workers, and the need to keep combating racism. During Heritage months, may we not only admire and promote multiculturalism, but actively engage in inclusion, respect, and fairness to enable equal opportunity.”

(Mila Bongco-Philipzig was born in the Philippines, and made her way to Edmonton to complete her graduate studies at the University of Alberta, before settling in Edmonton in 2007 with her family. As a writer, Bongco-Philipzig writes poetry, personal essays, and children’s books. In 2020 she received an Equity and Access grant from the EAC which assisted with the publication of Tony’s Wheels, a children’s book about an immigrant boy with polio who becomes a para-athlete for the Canadian National Team in wheelchair racing as well as kayaking. – Edmonton Arts Council)

(Photo: BBC.com)


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