Creators at the Forefront of the #StopAAPIHate Movement

Photo Credit: iStock/Xavier Lorenzo

Creators have long been at the forefront of social change and activist efforts. The political climate of American history can be traced through its artistic periods as well as it can its historical milestones. Dadaism, Muralism, anti-war protest, the Harlem Renaissance, AIDS activism, and the Feminist Art Movement demonstrate the power and importance of artists materializing the people’s demand for justice. This critical role of creators continues as America confronts the fruits of inequality and oppression that history has planted in our roots. A facet of this oppression that artists continue to fight against constitutes the campaigns #StopAAPIHate and #StopAsianHate.

The Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community have faced an increasing amount of hate incidents and discrimination during the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020 the Pew Research Center reported that “about four-in-ten US adults (39%) say it is more common for people to express racist or racially insensitive views about people who are Asian than it was before the coronavirus outbreak” and that “Asian Americans are more likely than any other group to say they have been subject to slurs or jokes because of their race or ethnicity since the coronavirus outbreak: 31% say this has happened to them.” According to a national report covering the 3,795 hate incidents recorded by the Stop AAPI Hate Reporting Center, 68.1% of these reports involved verbal harassment, 20.5% involved shunning, and 11.1% involved physical assault, compromising the three largest categories among hate incidents.

The campaign to end AAPI hate and discrimination has been banded together by the hashtag #StopAAPIHate or #StopAsianHate and led by organizations such as Stop AAPI HateAAPI Equity AllianceChinese for Affirmative ActionAsian Americans Advancing Justice, the Asian American Federation, and many more. Among these organizations stand creators who use their platforms to raise awareness and promote solidarity within the AAPI community. The powerful uprising and outcry of these creators and their works spark intercommunal action and are crucial in raising awareness, advocating for change, and ending AAPI hate and discrimination. Noteworthy champions of this cause include Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya, Jonathan D. Chang, and Rohan Zhou-Lee, whose works continue to make a lasting impact and support the cause.

Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya (PUNG-bodee-bak-ee-ah) is an artist, educator, and activist based out of Brooklyn, New York. Amanda currently serves as the 2023-2024 Jerome Hill Artist Fellow in Visual Arts, holds the 2023 Poster House Civic Practice Artist Residency, and the 2023 San Francisco Art Museum Civic Practice Artist Residency. Her previous accolades include a TIME Magazine cover in March 2021 and a Public Artist in Residence with the NYC Commission on Human Rights in 2020-2021. Her installations, murals, and public art campaigns combine bold colors, patterns, and textures to redefine narratives and amplify marginalized voices.

Her art series We Are More was featured in Times Square in May 2021, which spread to national installations. As described by the campaign, We Are More “seeks to break down tired, worn-out cliches and stereotypes of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and forge in its stead a brilliant, multidimensional identity that encompasses the resilience and range of our people.” In addition to the diverse series of colorful portraits portraying members of the AAPI community, the campaign compiles personal stories that celebrate the resilience and strength of Asian Americans amidst the climate of discrimination and racism. Stories sharing first encounters with racism in Americapolitical activism merging feminism and anti-Asian American discrimination, and micro-aggressions surrounding heritage and identity can be found on the site, along with the opportunity for members of the AAPI community to share their own.  

Jonathan D. Chang is an LA-based graphic designer and illustrator who has led multiple charitable campaign efforts for anti-AAPI hate through design and outreach. He was born in Taiwan and immigrated to the US at the age of three, earning his BFA in Illustration from Art Center College of Design and currently working in the toy and entertainment industry as a designer. His fun and unique illustrations have gone viral, utilizing pop culture and design techniques to enact positive social change.

Chang’s series of AAPI Portraits, which illustrate and raise awareness of AAPI stories, was featured in Times Square NYC on January 18, 2022, during a vigil honoring Michelle Go, an Asian American woman killed after being pushed in front of a subway train. His Tee Fundraising Campaign titled F*ck Around and Find Out features the story of Xiao Zhen Xie, a Bay Area Asian American grandmother who fought off her attacker. The campaign raised over $75,000, with 100% of the profits donated to the #StopAsianHate AAPI Community Fund. The activist campaign #TheyCan’tBurnUsAll was a grassroots movement led by China Mac and Will Lex Ham with branding and design efforts led by Jonathan D. Chang activating Asian Americans and allies to fight back against racism after an 89-year-old Asian American grandmother was set on fire in New York in the summer of 2020. 

Rohan Zhou-Lee (They/Siya/祂(Tā)) is a “queer/non-binary Black Asian writer, dancer, trumpeter, and community organizer in New York City.” They trained at Ruth Page Center for the Arts in Chicago and the 2015 Dance Theatre of Harlem summer intensive, leading to their Off-Broadway debut in Over Here! at the Triad Theatre in 2019 and at the 2022 Unite Festival in Zürich, Switzerland, they performed their solo ballet titled Homage, paying tribute to Asian Americans killed by police.

Rohan founded the Blasian March, an annual “solidarity initiative through education and celebration” that united Brooklyn’s LGBTQ Black and Asian communities, and received a certificate from The Public Advocate For the City of New York. Their writing, such as “Reaching Asian Power: To Build Solidarity, Asian Americans Must Know Ourselves First” and “Why Abolition Is Essential for Black-Asian Solidarity,” emphasizes the importance of cross-racial solidarity to fight discrimination and hate across communities. They’ve been seen speaking across the world on human, LGBT, Asian American, and Black social justice movements and rights.   

Empowering Our Future Through the Vision of Creators

The #StopAAPIHate movement illuminates the longstanding struggles of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States and the urgent need for solidarity and support across diverse communities to continue battling racial injustice. The movement is strengthened through the efforts and contributions of creators such as Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya, Jonathan D. Chang, and Rohan Zhou-Lee, their powerful artistic expressions, thought-provoking writings, and inspiring acts of community building. These individuals brought attention to the challenges and injustices that the AAPI community face while offering pathways toward healing, unity, and empowerment. Their works stand as a testament to the ability of all of us to find ways to speak truth to power and unite to ignite lasting change.

AAPI Anti-Racism Resources

As we celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, please join us in supporting the AAPI community and its talented creators through anti-racist efforts and learning by visiting some of the curated resource lists below.

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