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Celebrate Atlanta's Asian communities along the BeltLine

Learn the ABCs of Asian history.

ATLANTA — As the U.S. ushers in May, and the start of Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, people walking the BeltLine can get a crash course in the community's history.

Starting Saturday, people walking by Atlanta Bicycle Barn near Sampson Street Northeast will notice a new installation that stretches 150 ft. long depicting the alphabet -- but the colorful images hold a different meaning for the diverse Asian community in Georgia.

"K is for Michelle Kwan. F is for Fred Korematsu and N is for not your model minority," Kavi Vu, a co-creative director of the project said.

Vu and a collective of around 20 local artists re-defined the alphabet to reflect terms and icons near and dear to the communities that fall under the AAPI umbrella. The installation is made possible by a partnership with Atlanta's BeltLine.

"We just know that within our communities, A doesn't always look like apple. It looks like Anna May Wong, B looks like Bruce Lee -- and that's what our communities grew up with so we wanted to kind of recreate our own ABCs if you will."

Vu, a 30-year-old artist and University of Georgia graduate said the installation may seem childlike, as it stems from another project, but it's ultimately meant to be educational for all ages -- a mission under the Asian American Advocacy Fund.

The Georgia-based group works to get Asian American communities civically educated and does outreach and advocacy work in the various languages found in the metro Atlanta area.

"Korean is the third most-spoken language in Georgia," Vu said. "A lot of folks don't know that."

To Vu, the daughter of Vietnamese refugees, the installation was a way to advocate for a community that is working to heal.

In the past two years, Asian communities in the U.S. have suffered attacks during the coronavirus pandemic. The violence hit home as the communities experienced the loss of six lives in the Atlanta-area spa shootings. 

According to Stop AAPI Hate, a nonprofit organization that tracks reports of violence against people within the Asian communities, there were nearly 11,000 assaults against individuals who identify as AAPI.

Vu said now it's time to help them move past the heartache -- and show up to celebrate.

"I think we should recognize the tragedies," she said. "And we, our Asian-American communities have been through a lot these past couple of years as with everybody during a worldwide pandemic, but with Asian hate, and especially in Atlanta with the shootings and feeling unsafe, we want this to feel celebratory."

That's why from May to June a piece of Atlanta's AAPI community will be on display -- to appreciate, to learn from and to love.

"I hope that folks will feel what I think Asian American communities feel during May," she said. "I hope that our allies can see that we're celebrating. We're out here making the art that we wished existed and we hope that they can celebrate with us."

Artists will debut the installation Saturday at 4 p.m. People can learn more about the launch party here.