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NP Accompanies Vilma Kari on Her Path Towards Justice 

Date: March 1, 2024

Over the past two weeks, NP's team in NYC provided protective presence and accompaniment to Vilma Kari, a survivor of an anti-Asian hate crime, and her daughter, Elizabeth Kari, on their final day of Vilma's court hearing. 

Before delving into the details of NP’s critical support, we want to share a glimpse into Vilma Kari's perspective, as expressed in her Victim Impact Statement during the court proceedings: 

“...I stand here before you today not only for myself and for my Asian American community, but for all of the individuals and communities that have experienced hate— those that have their own stories and those that have not been as lucky to live to tell their tale. It is on behalf of all that I find the strength to stand and seek our justice.” 

On March 29, 2021, Vilma was visiting a cousin in Manhattan. As her visit was coming to an end, she decided to walk to a church service a couple blocks away. While walking, she took a minute to appreciate the subtle melody of an unseen flock of birds as they competed with the noise and bustle of the city.  

The calming song of the birds was interrupted by the angry voice of a man yelling. It took her a couple seconds to realize he was actually yelling at her. Vilma didn’t know this guy and looked at him in shock and confusion as he began swearing at her and using racial slurs. She tried to ignore him and continue on her way. Suddenly, she was shoved to the ground and kicked repeatedly.  

Vilma never made it to church that morning, she spent over a day in the hospital recovering from her injuries. It took months for her fractured pelvis to heal and the throbbing pain of headaches from her head injuries to ease. She can still remember her attacker shouting at her, “F*** you, Asian, you don't belong here,” as he kicked her. The brutal and targeted attack against Vilma- a Filipino American- left her, her family, and many members of the AAPI community in fear and anxiety.  

Identifying Support Needs with the Kari Family 

Vilma’s daughter, Liz, heard about the work that NP does. A couple weeks ago, she reached out to our staff for support with her mom’s upcoming court hearing against her offender. Members of the NPNY team, led by Kalaya’an Mendoza (Director of Mutual Protection), Julia Dela Fuente (Safety Lead), and Melvin Sharty (Program Manager), met with Vilma, Liz, and Dr. Kevin Nadal to develop proactive safety measures to ensure Vilma’s safety during her Victim Impact Statement and hearing at the court. The agreed upon methods included providing protective presence and accompaniment. As part of the pre-safety activation process, NP drafted an outreach agenda to email solidarity organizations, establishing safety and coordination groups. 

Court Hearing: Big Day 

When the day came for the court hearing proceedings, NP was by Vilma’s side and managed the crowd to ensure that she felt safe. Following a press conference, the NP team accompanied Vilma from the courtroom to an outdoor location, where Ms. Kari shared her Victim Impact Statement with the public.  

Julia, Safety Lead at the event, recounted the importance of communication during this transition outdoors, “When we run a safety team, we always discuss the importance of communicating and being transparent with all actors involved.” This wise way of interacting with all parties came in handy at the courthouse. Julia shared, “As I reached to put on my safety vest, outside the courtroom, I could sense the police officer's confusion and apprehension about our staff’s role. So, we assured the police officers that we were accompanying the Kari family, and they let us join Vilma and Liz as we exited the building.” 

Liz shared the impact of having our staff in attendance, “I felt confident knowing that there was a safety plan, and by having NP present. I didn’t have to think about my mother’s safety the whole time since I knew that NP was there to offer support to us throughout.” The team remained with Vilma and Liz until their ride arrived. 

Dr. Kevin Nadal, a Professor of Psychology at two colleges in NYC, has been supporting the Kari family since the attack. In reflecting on NP’s safety support, he shared, “Nonviolent Peaceforce was instrumental in assisting Vilma Kari during the sentencing of her attacker. The team was diligent, organized, and kind in every step of the process. They were so helpful with escorting the family, assisting the family in navigating the media, and in ensuring the safety of everyone involved. The world would be a better place if every survivor had a group like Nonviolent Peaceforce on their side.” 

Healing Through Community & Forgiveness 

The judge for the case sentenced Vilma's attacker to 15 years in state prison. The sentencing made nationwide news for being one of only a few crimes against the AAPI community to be formally recognized as it was— a hate crime.  

Vilma’s attacker has apologized for his actions, and she courageously found room in her heart to forgive him. Through the establishment of the organization, AAP (I Belong Here), the Kari family continues to raise awareness about the prevalence of hate crimes in NYC and strives to end them. NP continues to collaborate with local communities to reimagine safety across NYC. 

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If NPs work inspires you to action and you're in NYC please contact Melvin Sharty, Program Manager ([email protected]) and support our work by donating here. 

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