When Linjie Deng moved to New York in 2015 from Beijing, China, it was his first time in the city, and he immediately fell in love with it.
“Just one word, ‘Wow’ and ‘I love it!’” Deng said.
After receiving his master's degree from the School of Visual Arts, Deng was living his dream as a full-time artist. The 28-year-old's work has been showcased in multiple galleries.
Like many New Yorkers, he has moved several times, most recently to the Upper East Side.
"I moved here because I saw this as a safe, convenient neighborhood," Deng said. "That's what I thought, but in reality, not."
Deng said, on March 16, around 10 a.m., he was waiting for a train at the E. 86th St. and Lexington Ave. subway station to head downtown to go to his studio.
"The train pulled in, and the doors opened," he said. "I waited on the side for passengers to get off so I could get in. Suddenly, the guy showed up and pushed me on the floor and started hitting me with his backpack.”
Deng said the man jumped into the train car after the attack, but not before adding to the assault with his words.
"He yelled in my face, ‘Get the f--- yellow out of my way. You f------ yellow!’” Deng told NY1.
Deng remembered other subway riders looked the other way as he lay on the platform in shock.
"I asked myself, what kind of society do we live in?" Deng said. "Do I really have to carry a gun or knife when I want to ride the subway or go out and buy something?"
Deng has stopped taking the subway and said he is fearful something worse could happen.
"I was relieved he didn't have a gun, a knife, or a box cutter," Deng said.
After sharing his experience on social media, Deng said he received more than 100 messages from other Asian Americans who had encountered similar attacks. It inspired him to turn his art into activism.
"Art is my best weapon," he said. "Art is my solution."
Deng did what he knows best. He started paining, creating original works of art that are yellow, to pay respect to the Asian community. He hopes others will find peace in his art. He also hopes the same for himself.
Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story misspelled Deng's first name. It's Linjie Deng, not Lingie Deng.