July 6, 2022

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How a group of Houstonians who began a food festival against Asian hate are using it to help others

3 min read

Following the 2021 Atlanta spa shootings that left eight dead, including six Asian women, Houstonians David Lam, Gabby Nguyen and some friends banded together to raise awareness and money for organizations fighting hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI).

The inaugural event, a food festival called Stop the Hate, tapped into their connections in the restaurant industry to fundraise for Stop AAPI Hate and OCA Greater Houston-Asian Pacific American Advocates.

Stop the Hate returns to Houston this year on April 23, this time with an expanded focus. The event will raise money for OCA as well as the Houston Coalition Against Hate—a network of more than 60 nonprofits—and Operation Blessing, which is currently helping Ukrainian refugees in Poland.

The organizers felt it was important to pivot to the humanitarian crisis that’s unfolding due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In the future, they hope to rotate Stop the Hate’s causes each year depending on where there is the most need.


“Making a positive impact is really important and it’s something we’ve always done living in Houston,” Lam said.

The festival will follow the same format as last year, with a few improvements. About 80 food vendors will operate booths serving at least one small plate of food, paired with a cocktail using spirits from sponsoring liquor brands.

In 2021, Stop the Hate was held in the parking lot of Night Shift in the East End. Ecclesia Houston’s Lindale campus (6615 Irvington Blvd) will host this year, providing both indoor and outdoor areas and about three times the space.

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Restaurants representing the Houston Asian food scene’s diverse spectrum are participating in this year’s Stop the Hate event, including Vietnamese staple Pho Binh, Filipino restaurant Be More Pacific, Ninja Ramen, Dumpling Haus and Shabu House.

The newly opened Loro, Winnie’s, 93 Til, Johnny’s Gold Brick, Grand Prize, Trash Panda Drinking Club, the Toasted Coconut and Present Company are also among the growing list of participants, and featured beverage brands include Balcones Whiskey, Austin Eastciders, Ming River Baijiu, Frankly Organic Vodka, Citadelle Gin and Sanzo Sparkling Water.

Stop the Hate organizers Stephen Caronna, Gabby Nguyen, David Ramos and David Lam are preparing for the food festival's second year.

Stop the Hate organizers Stephen Caronna, Gabby Nguyen, David Ramos and David Lam are preparing for the food festival’s second year.

Thomas Guerrero

Lam, Nguyen and their group of friends started doing charity work together when Hurricane Harvey hit Houston in 2017. They joined fundraising efforts a month later when Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, and have been involved in various events and initiatives since. “Every time something bad happens, we’ve always banded together,” said David Ramos, a private chef who’s on Stop the Hate’s organizer team.

The group didn’t have a name for what they were doing until last year, when they came up with Stop the Hate amid the alarming uptick in hate crimes against the AAPI community. Ramos says he loves the name because “it can connect to anybody” who has been victim to racism and prejudice.

In 2021, Stop the Hate fed more than 300 attendees and raised upwards of $18,000 for Stop AAPI Hate and OCA. 

It’s been a year since the tragic Atlanta spa shootings became a rallying cry for advocates urging more action to protect Asian people from racist attacks. Nguyen, a Stop the Hate organizer and owner of APDAT Print Co., says there’s still momentum around the issue.

“The movement for the AAPI community hasn’t died down,” Nguyen noted. “Different groups, different nonprofits in Houston still put on rallies. I feel like the conversation is still moving forward, people are still reporting hate crimes and trying to find ways to progressively move the cause forward.”

Stephen Caronna, another Stop the Hate organizer, says charitable initiatives come naturally to the restaurant industry, where employment rarely includes benefits like insurance or financial stability.

“You see a lot of times when someone gets sick, the community will rally around and do something for that person,” he said.

Stop the Hate will run from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday, April 23. Tickets start at $25 and include food, drink, live music and other entertainment such as a mural painting. They’re are on sale now through the event’s website.



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