By Peter D'Oench

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – South Florida activists are speaking out on the one-year anniversary of a deadly shooting rampage by a lone gunman that took the lives of eight people at three Atlanta-area spas. Most of the victims were Asian-American women.

Those activists are also expressing concerns amid a surge in attacks against Asian American Pacific Islanders since the start of the pandemic in March of 2020. The organization, Stop AAPI Hate, says there have been nearly 11,000 incidents nationwide.

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While Miami-Dade and Miami Police tell CBS4’s Peter D’Oench that there have been no racially-motivated attacks against Asian Americans reported in recent memory, the activists say they are on guard.

Winnie Tang, who says she founded the Miami-Dade County Asian-American Advisory Board in 1997, says “I think in the back of my mind I always want to be careful. When I walk out of my car and people identify me as being Chinese, I always look back around to see if something suspicious is going on.”

”What is most important at this time is to remember and mourn for the people who lost their lives in Atlanta,” she said. “It is so sad when someone will go to work and never find a way home. What we want to do in this community is not tolerate any hate against anybody. We want to work together to build better relationships to understand each other. I think one thing is true in Miami-Dade County is that we have a very diverse community.”

Tang emigrated from China to the U.S. in 1978.

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Tai Vaz emigrated from Thailand to the U.S. in 1980. She is a member of the Miami-Dade County Asian-American Advisory Board and is also Vice President of the Asian American Federation of Florida. On June 2, in North Miami Beach, she will take part in a seminar to help curb hate crimes and violence nationwide against Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders.

She said, “I am worried but I also have some comfort knowing that the police authorities are working very closely with is, the police department, Homeland Security and the Department. I think we are moving in the right direction. It’s sad not just because they are Asians but it is sad that this can happen to anyone. This should not be happening.”

Tony Delarosa, 32, is a racial equity strategist whose parents were born in the Philippines.

He said, “I am not worried so much about Miami-Dade County, but I am when I go to New York City. As you know, that is the hotbed for the attacks, so I always have to have a plan when I am going out into the community and on using the subway. Instead, I get an Uber.”

He has some words for those committing the crimes.

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“The first question is why are you doing this? What purpose are you serving?” he asked. “You have to think about where you are coming from.”

Peter D'Oench