A new community nonprofit, organized in the wake of offensive comments from a state representative which ultimately were made public following a mistakenly sent email, has made a very public display of their desire for him to step down from his position in elected office.
"For the billboard, the message is really, really simple," said Delaware Asian American Voice Chairperson Yushu Fu. "'Representative Gerald Brady: resign.' That's it."
Just two weeks after initiating a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for a billboard to be displayed in Brady's own district, Fu said they'd raised the money necessary to make the idea for the space at 3301 Lancaster Pike a reality.
Fu said she was inspired to take public action when an Ethics Committee reviewed Brady's actions and determined they would take no action against him.
"After the scandal came out, the Delaware House leadership, their first reaction was, 'Okay, what he said was bad, but he apologized. So let's move on. He's going to take sensitivity training,'" she said. "No, we were not happy about this outcome. And we also realized where they stood. All the Stop Asian Hate movement didn't make much impact on them. That's where originally this billboard idea [came] from. Back then, the emotion was really high. And so it was like, 'Okay, if that's all you can do, we're going to put a billboard up."
The complaint filed by fellow Democratic state Rep. Madinah Wilson-Anton was dismissed after a secret meeting, per the committee's rules. The five-person committee--comprised of House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf, House Majority Leader Val Longhurst, House Majority Whip Larry Mitchell, House Minority Leader Rep. Danny Short, and House Minority Whip Tim Dukes--said after the dismissal:
"While it is manifestly the business of this committee to ensure the decorum of House proceedings and to punish unlawful and unethical conduct that reflects upon the integrity of the House, there is no precedent for policing the lawful expression of opinions or a member’s choice of words in what he believed to be correspondence with a private citizen. Determining which ideas and manners of expression are beyond the pale is first and foremost the province of voters. The First Amendment of the United States Constitution protects freedom of speech and it would run contrary to those principles to punish 'the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable."
Brady's comment in question was the result of a conversation her was having with a pro-sex work advocate. Meaning to send a report he was issued to a private citizen, and not the advocate with whom he'd been corresponding, Brady mistakenly sent to the advocate this reply:
“Is the dude basically saying, if we provide free [sex acts] for Uncle Pervie there will be few rapes and few [slur for Asian individuals] broads will be shipped in CONEX containers to the Port of Wilmington??”
That Ethics Committee decision is almost more offensive than the comments Brady made which ultimately made their way before the public after the advocate sent Brady's reply to The News Journal.
"The message it's sending me is: You ask, 'What is systemic racism?' It's just making it almost impossible to fight racism, and I think [the Ethics Committee] contributes a little bit here. You can see the rules are written for bad apples," Fu said. "That's the lesson I learned during this journey...What Gerald Brady said was not the worst part. It's like a when we start looking for justice, looking for accountability, things keep getting worse and worse. That's the experience we have."
The project actually achieved more funding than requested, which was a positive, Fu said, since the billboard ended up costing more than initially anticipated. But Fu said that didn't result in strictly joy that people were supporting her cause.
"It's kind of quite sad, because I saw many Asian last names donated, but anonymously," Fu said. "I took it as, they're angry, but they're afraid to show it. So it's like, 'Okay, this is my way to support you. I'm not happy with [what happened,] but for whatever reason, I don't want people know that.' It kind of made me feel like we have a lot more work to do for our community."
The billboard also appears with a truncated message. Initially, Fu said she wanted to include "Stop Asian Hate" on the billboard, but Clear Channel ultimately ruled that message would be "an attack" and the company said they don't run attack ads, Fu said.
On Sunday, Fu added DAAV is going to be rallying at the billboard with activists from the Black community.
"Accountability is important for everyone, not just the Asians. That's why we started working with our Black community. They're going to join us, so we're going to have a rally there this Sunday," she said. "Which is really a great development for us, because we may not have struggled exactly the same way, but racism impacts our life negatively every day. That part is the same. Also, neither them or us could find accountability anywhere in Delaware. So I think that'll bring us together in solidarity. In the long run, we will definitely work with them for their cause, for our cause. We fight racism together."