Asian Americans are under-represented in American politics and media. There is no denying it. Asian-Americans represent 6% of the U.S. population, with about 20.5 million in 2015 and estimated to reach 25.7 million by 2019. As the nation’s fastest-growing population segment, the Asian American sphere of influence touches almost every facet of American culture. From beauty products to food, and even urban infrastructure developments, the culture of Asian immigrants have left indelible marks in American society. Yet the issue of representation pervades today, and the Asian American community rises to the challenge.
Rising to the challenge
Just recently, the Asian community vocalized their frustrations for the lack of Asian representations in American entertainment by starting #StarringJohnCho, a social movement on Twitter and other social media that composited Asian-American actor John Cho (Star Trek, Harold & Kumar) into Hollywood blockbuster posters. It was motivated by the white-washing of Asian roles in recent films, and the response and support by Asians and non-Asians alike show that there are conversations to be had and people are willing to have them.
— #StarringJohnCho (@starringjohncho) October 19, 2016
A political conversation, however, is less entertaining and more difficult to have. According to the Pew Research Center, Asian Americans earn the highest-income, are the most educated and the fastest-growing racial segment in the United States. Nonetheless, we are still the most politically under-organized, under-engaged, and under-represented constituents. Only 55% of Asian American citizens are registered to vote, the lowest rate of all races in the U.S.
There are a number of factors that make politics unappealing to many Asian Americans. For one, a number of Asian immigrants come from countries in which democracy and the democratic habit for voting or political participation are either unavailable, discredited, or just not a big part of their civic virtue. Language barriers are another; In-language information about the voting process to the Asian communities is not as readily available. New immigrants are also more focused on their livelihood and personal goals and values that don’t necessarily include participating in politics.
That isn’t to say that many other Asian Americans do not see the need to be a part of political discourse as well as encourage their family and friends to participate. While a number of non-profit and nonpartisan organizations are already in place to educate and empower multi-generation Asian Americans to participate in the electoral process, the media campaigns these organization have created for the 2016 elections are proof of the Asian American community “powering up” to make sure the Asian American voice in politics is louder than ever.
Power Up and Rock the Vote!
As a minority owned business, KCM Agency takes pride in our Asian American identity. We believe that our stories are unique and multi-layered and that we must be active participants in how these stories are being told. From supporting Asian Americans in entertainment through Kollaboration, to telling our own stories and making sure the stories we believe in are told with the best production value possible through Zenith Division. We love partnering with organizations that have important stories to tell, and in anticipation of this year’s election cycle, we were more than excited to work with two amazing movements, Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote (APIAVote) and Rock The Vote, to bring Asian and Pacific Islander American voter’s stories to a broader audience.
Both APIAVote and Rock The Vote underline the importance of driving the youth vote to the polls. What better way to do it than through pop culture, music, art, and technology? By working together with our sister company Kollaboration and their network of APIA artists that have been inspirations to millions of APIA youth, many more youth can be motivated to vote. Together, we produced 3 PSA’s in the hopes of highlighting Asian American influencers and how their stories have shaped their political outlook. While Rock The Vote has worked with a wide range of artists from global icons such as Madonna to youth celebrities like Kendall Jenner, it was important that the APIAVote PSA be from three influencers that we felt embody different segments of the Asian American entertainment industry. By highlighting each influencer in their natural element we aim to bring to light the struggles of Asian American artists in their respective industries while correlating how those struggles can be used as our strengths.
The PSA’s promote the #PowerUp campaign, a joint release by APIAVote and Rock The Vote “focused on motivating young people to vote spans college campuses and local communities across the country“. The goal is to #PowerUp our communities, starting with AJ Rafael, a Filipino American musician widely known for his successful career through Youtube with his 632,618 loyal subscribers. AJ’s career is a testament to how Asian Americans have navigated alternative platforms to propel their careers, knowing full well that the opportunities in Hollywood are limited for Asian Americans. Through this campaign, AJ Rafael hopes to empower his Asian American followers to vote and challenge the stereotype that the APIA community is quiet and under-represented.
The second influencers are the Kinjaz, a self-made empire rooted in their love for brotherhood and dance. Mike Song, co-founder of the Kinjaz and famously a part of Kaba Modern, shook the nation when American’s Best Dance Crew aired in 2008. Kaba Modern took third place and their close friends the Jabbawockeez took first place, instilling a tremendous sense of pride within the APIA and dance community. By activating the APIA community, he hopes to ignite conversations around the current political climate and its inclusion of Asian Americans.
The last PSA is with Jenny Yang, writer and stand up comedian. She is a true trailblazer for the APIA community. With a background in politics, her commentary on pop culture and social issues is her comedy specialty. Much of her career is dedicated to providing a voice for the APIA community by producing the first-ever, mostly female, Asian American standup comedy tour, Disoriented Comedy and The Comedy Comedy Festival: A Comedy Festival, showcasing the best in Asian American comedic talent. In 2016, Jenny was honored as a White House Champion of Change for Asian American and Pacific Islander Art and Storytelling. Having immigrated from Taiwan, Jenny has exercised her right to vote ever since becoming a citizen and hopes to empower the APIA community to also practice their right to vote.
The #PowerUp campaign has reached millions through social media such as Twitter and Instagram. A short sampling of data shows more than 4.5 million impressions on Twitter alone. This just shows the power of art and technology in driving activism through social campaigns that are relevant to their target demographics. While the fight to motivate our communities to take part in the sometimes difficult political conversations and issues does not just stop with this one election, hopefully, the polls on November 8th still show how empowered we were today.