18 Million Rising: Amplifying California’s Asian American voice

150 150 Mai Yang Vang

Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPIs) is the fastest growing racial/ethnic group in the United States, with approximately 18 million AAPIs and counting. While growing numbers should mean growing influence on the political landscape, AAPIs unfortunately have the lowest rates of registered voters among all racial/ethnic groups, with only 55 percent of AAPI citizens of voting age actually registered to vote in the last Presidential Election.

One newly launched online campaign, called “18 Million Rising” (18MR) is trying to change that. The goal is to amplify the AAPI political voice in a way that leverages the power of technology and media. 18MR was founded by Jee Kim and Ian Inaba of Citizen Engagement Lab, to promote AAPI civic engagement and turn out the AAPI vote in this year’s election.18MR consists of a broad coalition across the United States. Campaign partners consist of community-based organizations, print magazines, college student associations, bloggers and YouTube artists.

“18MR is about building political will and activating AAPIs in a way that is visible and unified while also supporting local organizations and field partners with their civic engagement work,” said Christina Samala, the director of 18MR. “It’s about elevating the amazing work on the ground in our communities and bringing light to it on the national level via technology.”

Thus far, 18MR has over 65 AAPI national and local partners involved with the campaign. Using social media and partnering with community organizations is key in outreach efforts, whether that’s registering them to vote, encouraging AAPI registered voters to pledge or just educating community members on the electoral process.

The AAPI community is economically, socially, culturally, and linguistically diverse and features a range of differing immigration statuses with approximately 60 percent of Asian Americans being foreign-born, the highest of any racial group nationwide. While AAPIs do face unique issues such as access to linguistic and cultural competence, every aspect of immigration, labor, education, housing and health policy affects the group as Americans. “What’s exciting about 18MR is the direction it can go. It would be a strong and positive statement in the current, highly polarized political climate if AAPIs can take the lead and show that a diverse population with distinct cultural differences has the ability to mobilize and collectively help move this country forward” says Samala.

One main target is young AAPIs. Partnering with AAPI bloggers and prominent personalities in the AAPI community like Angry Asian ManKev JumbaDISGRASIANFar East MovementCathy Nguyen and Wong Fu Productions, the campaign hopes to reach young AAPIs who are tech-savvy but not necessarily politically active. With a strong, established online presence, a sizeable blog readership and YouTube subscriber base, AAPI youth can empower their peers, their elders and community at large to organize and amplify the AAPI voice.

As their numbers continue to increase, it becomes more and more critical for AAPIs to have a united voice. “With a growing population, smart leaders in politics, media and business are beginning to recognize the influence we can have, which makes it all the important to have a vehicle like 18MR. We don’t want to have others speaking on our behalf when we can speak for ourselves and our communities.”

With less than 12 days until the registration deadline in California and 27 days until Election Day, it is efforts like 18MR that will ensure the burgeoning AAPI population in California flexes its muscle as a voting bloc and ensures that the community has a voice in state and national politics.


Mai Yang Vang

All stories by: Mai Yang Vang