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Event Aims To Heal Pittsburgh's Communities Following Atlanta Shooting

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Photo by Hannah Colen
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"Rest" co-organizer Anny Chen was also main organizer Asian-American and Pacfic Islander Women & Nonbinary Healing Gathering in Frick Park this week.

Two weeks after a mass shooting in Atlanta that claimed eight lives, including those of six Asian-American women in spas and massage parlors, an event in Pittsburgh aims to help the community heal.

Rest: A Day of Healing and Art: 4-7:30 p.m. Thu., April 1. Carnegie Music Hall, 4400 Forbes Ave., Oakland

Rest: A Day of Healing and Art will offer free wellness services and workshops to anyone who identifies as Asian-American or a Pacific Islander, a massage worker, or a sex worker.

The event, to be held in the grand foyer of Oakland’s Carnegie Music Hall, addresses the intersectional nature of the trauma, which came at a time when attacks on Asian-Americans are on the rise.

“The intention is, if you feel personally impacted by the event in Atlanta, that this is an opportunity for you to receive some care,” said Lena Chen, a Chinese-American activist, Carnegie Mellon University graduate artist, and sex worker. Chen emphasized that other identities applicable to some of the Atlanta victims include immigrant and gig worker. All are marginalized populations.

Some three dozen volunteers will help provide offerings including yoga, qigong (an energy-work practice involving breath, movement and meditation), art activities and children’s activities. DJ Stephanie Tsong will spin music from the Asian diaspora. Distancing and masking are required.

The event is organized by Sex Workers Outreach Project Pittsburgh and a coalition of Asian-American and Pacific Islander women. Sponsors include the city’s Office of Public Art, Intersectional Health Collaboration Summit, and Heal Her, an arts group co-founded by Lena Chen. Volunteers represent groups including East Coast Asian American Student Union, API PGH Response Network, Party for Socialism and Liberation – Pittsburgh, and Pittsburgh Democratic Socialists of America’s Socialist Feminism Committee.

Co-organizer Anny Chen, an arts educator, said many in the AAPI community respond to trauma by trying to simply move on; Asian-Americans, added Lena Chen, are the ethnic group least likely to seek mental-health support, due to stigma and shame. But that’s not always healthy.

“We wanted to create space for people to just really grieve and heal and not have to immediately go right back to work,” Anny Chen said. (Anny Chen and Lena Chen are not related.)

Proceeds from a raffle featuring prizes from local businesses will benefit the SWOP Mutual Aid Fund, the families of the Atlanta victims, and Red Canary Song, a New York City-based organization serving migrant massage workers of Asian descent.

The events will also be a donation point for care packages to be distributed to community members and Asian-owned spa and massage businesses.

Organizers ask attendees to register on the event's Facebook page.

Bill O'Driscoll: bodriscoll@wesa.fm

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