When Uyen Tieu discovered how very few Asian Americans vote in the United States about two months ago, she knew she had to do something.
“I found out that half of Asian Americans don’t vote, and I was like, ‘Okay, that’s low,’ but then I found out that only 36 percent of Asian-American millennials vote, and I was completely surprised,” said Tieu in an interview with NBC News.
“I started texting with my sisters, and we were just going back and forth with ideas, and thought that we should do something about it.”
She and her sisters began to brainstorm on the best way to get the Asian-American millennials to vote.
“We thought maybe we should do something about food, because Asian Americans spend 40 percent more than the average American on going out to eat,” Tieu said, “And we thought when it comes to millennials, we should do something more, like a concert.”
Tieu, who was a former MTV vice president of strategy, saw her little idea grow as more and more people joined the group chat dedicated to her project.
“Now we have a huge network, a spontaneous movement, of artists, of entrepreneurs, business owners. The list goes on and on,” Tieu said.
Tieu’s initiative has indeed grown, with the outpouring of support from the community, the idea has become a movement.
— Parvesh Cheena (@Parvesh) October 7, 2016
The “I am Asian American” campaign has been engaging in discussions to encourage Asian Americans to register to vote.
Four free concerts are scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 16, where visitors can register to vote while enjoying live music and good food. Comedians Parvesh Cheena and Jenny Yang are scheduled to host the flagship concert in Los Angeles.
Asian-American performers including the world-famous a capella group The Filharmonic and Nickelodeon star Megan Lee are also scheduled to perform. Other concerts are also lined up for some select states.
— IamAsianAmerican (@SoAsianAmerican) October 7, 2016
Tieu chose four strategic locations for the concerts.
“I did my research. I looked at the 85 districts where Asian Americas make up 10 percent or more of the electorate. These [numbers] are so important because Asian Americans can swing the vote,” she said. “I just looked at the numbers of where there are Asian Americans to drive to make an impact.”
“I am Asian American” has also started a social media campaign encouraging participants to create a fifteen second “selfie” video to share their identities and the issues that matter to them, with the hashtag #IAmAsianAmerican.
The campaign is being made possible with the help of the National APIA Panhellenic Association (NAPA), which covers the nationally recognized Asian-American fraternities and sororities at universities across the country. The “I am Asian American” campaign made reference to the blatantly racist Fox News segment, with the statement:
“Let’s speak up and let everyone know what Asian American Voters really think, and film your own #IAmAsianAmerican PSA.”
Tieu believes that the community has the right and responsibility not to miss a great opportunity in the upcoming election.
“I think it’s just really important for me personally and for everyone that has been involved in this movement to make sure that we’re open to as much of a diverse set of voices as possible, to represent Asian Americans in a manner that’s not just broad strokes,” Tieu said. “I want this to be in your face. I want [people to] know your own power.”