Our voices matter. Our votes count. This was the motto the #IAmAsianAmerican (#IAAA) movement was founded upon.
The initiative began only nine weeks ago when its founder, Uyen Tieu, learned of the shocking statistics behind Asian American voter turnout. She was inspired to begin the #IAmAsianAmerican movement to empower the millennial vote, and within weeks, the program planned a concert that took place in four cities nationwide: Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, D.C. and New York.
#IAmAsianAmerican was more than just a campaign about getting out the vote; it was about making a historical statement in the polls that will impact not only the presidential race, but also congressional and local elections.
It was a campaign to shape the future of the nation through the Asian American voice and to remind voters, especially millennials, that their vote mattered.
#IAAA hosted its concert and celebrity event on Oct. 16 at the Wiltern Theater, hosted by comedians Jenny Yang and Parvesh Cheena. The concert aimed to promote its national campaign goal of registering at least 15,000 new voters while strengthening and celebrating the Asian American voice.
The event drew in many notable Asian American artists, keynote speakers and professionals who were united in #IAAA’s mission.
“I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of being called the silent majority,” said Paul Y. Song, a health-care activist and medical professional.
The entire theater erupted with cheers and applause in response to his statement. The recurring message of empowering the Asian American voice resonated throughout the entire event, promoted by musicians, actors and dancers alike.
“I feel like we are the generation of change,” said founder Uyen Tieu as she reflected on the sacrifices of her parents and the older Asian American generations.
The lineup of performers exhibited the change mentioned by Tieu in demonstrating diverse Asian American excellence. The performers and speakers came from unique walks of life — each with a story of their own to tell.
Tony Award-winning poet Beau Sia delivered a heartfelt poem on what the community’s vote demonstrated to American society. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and activist Jose Antonio Vargas spoke about the struggle of being undocumented and addressed the rising numbers of Asian immigrants.
Other performers contributed to the discussion through their art. Artists like AJ Rafael and Megan Lee touched the audience with their vocals and original acoustic songs. Meanwhile, the Poreotics dance team, rapper SETI X and singer DANakaDAN brought their energy to the stage in their electric performances.
In between sets, many notable Asian American figures dropped by through video to discuss the importance of voting. Constance Wu and Randall Park from ABC’s Fresh Off the Boat both had individual video segments speaking about the importance of the Asian American vote and representation.
“Your vote matters,” said Wu, who is a strong advocate for Asian American representation in the entertainment industry.
The child actors from the sitcom also made an appearance on stage, asking the audience to be their voice in November since they are not yet old enough to vote.
Wesley Chan and Philip Wang from Wong Fu Productions cued in through video as well. Their message was clear — it doesn’t matter who you’re voting for, as long as you go out to the polls to make your voice heard.
“When you cast your vote on Nov. 8, you are standing on the shoulders of those before us,” said Kent Wong, director of the UCLA Labor Center.
His powerful speech took the audience throughout periods of oppression in Asian American history, from the Chinese Exclusion Act to the Japanese internment camps.
“We want to encourage a new generation of Asian Pacific Islanders to engage with our electoral system,” said Christine Chen, executive director of APIAVote.
Despite Tieu’s initial goal of creating a platform for Asian Americans to vote, her campaign has become part of a greater message about inclusion.