Take Two®

News and culture through the lens of Southern California. Hosted by A Martínez

How to get Asian American millennials to vote... with a concert

by A Martínez and Lori Galarreta | Take Two®

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#IAmAsianAmerican event poster. Courtesy IAmAsianAmerican

Asian Americans have one of the lowest participation rates in presidential elections of any racial or ethnic demographic. They're the fastest growing minority in the U.S. and yet half of Asian Americans don't vote. 

IAAA PSA

This weekend, #IAmAsianAmerican will host a nationwide concert, anchored in L.A., designed to get at least 15,000  Asian American and Pacific Islander millennials to register to vote.  

For more on the organization and the untapped power of the Asian American vote, Take Two host A  Martinez spoke with:

  • Executive producer of #IAmAsianAmerican, Jeff Yang
  • Campaign Strategist at 18 Million Rising, Taz Ahmed
  • Kollaboration Global Executive Director, Minji Chang

Why target millennials?

Jeff Yang: Among, especially Asian American millennials the group that we're focusing on, just 37 percent are registered to vote and in terms of actually voting, it's less than one in 10 Asian Americans...

It's horrific in a lot of ways because it's not speaking to the fact that millennials and Asian American millennials, in particular, aren't passionate, aren't engaged with the issues, aren't ready to move and act. I think one of the things we're seeing, this group in particular, and we're talking about 4.3 million individuals across the country, they're the most educated, the most technologically savvy, the most media literate of any generation in history...what they're finding is that in a lot of ways the social change that is most productive to them, the kinds of things that they actually feel are getting things done relate to either organizing in communities or organizing online. But when it comes to going to the polls there's a real sense that either their voices don't stand out or their votes don't matter.

How will this event get Asian Americans politically organized?

Minji Chang: Well, that's the creative process of the group we're speaking with right now. We know the power of our artists as being role models and bringing people together to have a good time is a great way to get the dessert with your vegetables and say 'Look, we're here to celebrate and to show everybody these are people that care. These are people that you watch on YouTube and that you watch on television, that you root for. And these are also people that know that they have a role in speaking on behalf of the Asian American community and want to influence and share that story.

I think that the idea of bringing everyone together through a concert is a great way to highlight not only the advances we're making in entertainment but use that as a leverage point to get people to understand and engage in the political process.

Looking towards the future

Taz Ahmed: At 18 Million Rising we do online advocacy, petitions, memes, digital campaigns, whatever it takes to get the Asian American millennial community excited about issues that are important to them and we're going to continue to do that. We do realize that in addition to doing cultural work, we also have to do the on the ground work: Registering people to vote, getting them the materials they need to go vote.

To hear the full interview, click the blue play button above.

#IAmAsianAmerican's Los Angeles Red Carpet Flagship concert will take place at the Wiltern on Sunday, October 16. General admission to the event is free. For more information on tickets and the event, click here.

Voting has begun in California. KPCC is here for you and will help you develop your Voter Game Plan. Use our election guide to find your personalized ballot.

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