Represent: Stop Asian Hate
At the border of West Hollywood and Beverly Hills, a freshly-dried mural makes a simple, powerful demand: Stop Asian Hate.
It’s a message echoed in protests, posters, and print across the country in response to rising violence against the AAPI community. The US has a long, shameful past of anti-Asian racism, but recent bigoted and xenophobic rhetoric surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic has incited a spike in hate crimes. The three-word rallying cry is heavy with both history and urgency. It must stop.
Represent: Stop Asian Hate, complete in Los Angeles
This particular design was first committed to paint in New York, when legendary sign artist Peter Paid was solicited to make a mural of his Instagram post. “As I had just finished sketching out some layout ideas, my phone rang with a call from Wayne Rada of the L.I.S.A. Project,” said Paid. “While I don’t consider myself to be an outdoor muralist, on (not so frequent) occasions where I believe the artwork, message, and wall space is something that is not above my ability, I’ll agree…this was one of those times where the stars aligned.”
In a testament to the power of the design and scale, the piece quickly caught the attention of Colossal walldog and artist Geraldine Poon. She said, “I saw his mural and thought, I would love to paint that. I don’t know him, but I was inspired to reach out to him and he responded immediately.” With the two artists in enthusiastic agreement, the project was set into motion.
Poon joined Colossal over two years ago, after co-founder Paul Lindhal made a scouting trip to Los Angeles Trade and Technical College. Passionate about lettering and enrolled in the last sign painting program in the country, Poon jumped at the opportunity to join the then emergent LA team.
When asked if this is her first social justice project, Poon replied, “I also had the chance to work on the Represent: Black Arts project in LA. I do have a history of doing different murals – not specifically social justice, but a lot of community development. When I lived in New York, I got to work on a mural city park bandshell, where I designed it and volunteers painted it.” She remembers, too, her experience in the Peace Corps, saying, “As an art teacher in Ghana, we did a lot of murals throughout our town. The kids did a world map mural at the marketplace. At the hospital, we did murals and the children’s ward and a map of the country showing where the different health centers are.”
This experience combined with the personal nature of the Stop Asian Hate movement moved Poon to paint in response to the horrors of the past year’s hate crimes, and in chorus with cries for justice. “I am an Asian woman, and the message resonates with me,” she shared. The design, too, was compelling for her, and she said, “I’ve always loved Peter Paid’s lettering, especially his S – I sound like such a lettering geek! But I just love it.” Paid explained that despite his usual inclination toward pop color, “This message is best kept as simple as ‘black and white.’”
Photography by Nikki Arai circa 1971
You can see that nothing’s changing through these images, or through signs that have the very same message half a century later
With the help of the Start Today program and fellow Colossal painter Mike Garcia, Poon set to work. In the process, she reflected on the history of this messaging. “I’m really interested in vintage protest signs or vintage photos,” she said. “Specifically, I had two in mind from the 70s that show Asian women protesting. There’s a photo of a woman holding a sign at Berkeley, which is also where I went to school, saying Stop killing our Asian people – and this is from the 70s! You can see that nothing’s changing through these images, or through signs that have the very same message half a century later.”
The public response was still heartening. She said, “I can’t think of any other job where you get unsolicited, positive feedback. Just during the workday people walk by saying, ‘that’s so great,’ or, ‘right on,’ or, ‘Yes, stop Asian hate.’”
This project is evidence of desire to uplift every step of the way. The Colossal Real Estate team sourced the wall through LA-based Caruso properties, which is “proud to nurture communities built on respect, inclusivity, and diversity.” Meanwhile, Paid said simply, “All I can hope for is, that in some way, I can show support.” Through this impactful medium, beautiful design, and immaculate execution, the message is clear and widespread. We hope the mural will do it, for lack of a better word, justice.
If you would like to support the AAPI community to stop Asian hate, you might begin with these organizations. Peter Paid can be reached on Instagram or on his website. We’d like to thank Geraldine Poon, Mike Garcia, and the Start Today team for bringing this project to life.