By Sonia Tam, AsAmNews Intern
Stephanie Hu first created Dear Asian Youth in early May when she saw a lack of Asian American representation in politics and social justice.
Now, with a team of over 100 members and 50 chapters internationally, the organization has become a community for Asian youth to educate each other and speak on issues affecting their communities.
“Before I joined Dear Asian Youth, I didn’t really pay attention to politics or any issues going around in the Asian community,” said Sunna Mai, Assistant Director of Dear Asian Youth. “I was raised, in that sense, that we shouldn’t talk about these things, we don’t want to make a scene.”
Mai’s situation is not unique: much of the Asian American community remains apolitical, and Asian Americans are particularly underrepresented in both politics and social justice. One of Dear Asian Youth’s goals is to break the mold by amplifying voices in the Asian American community and encouraging political and social engagement: to them, this change begins with the younger generation.
“A lot of power lies in the hands of our political leaders, and when our political leaders don’t represent us as the Asian community, then we’re not going to see the results we want to see in terms of our social justice,” stated Claire Ong, Dear Asian Youth’s Outreach Director.
“There aren’t a lot of political figures that look like us, so we want to influence the next generation of changemakers,” Mai added.
For Dear Asian Youth, increasing engagement in social justice starts with addressing issues within the Asian American community. One of the organization’s recent projects is a Black Lives Matter toolkit, which highlights talking points about the Black Lives Matter movement targeted specifically towards Asian youth hoping to speak to their parents about the movement.
“There are definitely faults in our community that aren’t talked about, and definitely there are taboo topics like mental health, or sexual violence, or anti-Blackness, especially now with the Black Lives Matter movement,” Mai said. “So I think it is important to bring awareness to those, as well as educate other Asian youth and encourage them to talk about it and normalize these topics.”
“There are so many issues in the Asian American community, as well as normalized racism in the Asian American community, that really don’t get addressed, and Dear Asian Youth is a really unique organization, in my opinion, because they tackle these issues,” added Nikhitha Balijepalli, Dear Asian Youth’s Chapter Director.
Additionally, the organization hosts webinars where Asian American youth can educate themselves and get involved in their communities. Their upcoming webinar on Monday, Aug. 17 addresses voter suppression and the low voter turnout among Asian Americans. Attendees will learn about voter suppression and participate in a group phone banking session, according to Project Director Agnes Wong.
Dear Asian Youth also provides Asian American students with leadership opportunities through its recently launched chapter program. Students are now able to create and lead their own chapters of Dear Asian Youth at their schools and operate at the local level.
“It’s been a great way to get not only more young people involved in our organization, but also to encourage them to run their own organizations and become student leaders in our communities,” Balijepalli said.
Ultimately, Dear Asian Youth aims to inspire the next generation of Asian American leaders to get involved and effect change on a national level. Although there is still work to do, the organization’s team is optimistic about the level of engagement from Asian American youth.
“I think, now, Gen Z is very outspoken. We are the changemakers of our generation, and it’s really up to us to define our future, so I think targeting the youth is really important because we have the power to create change,” said Mai.
To learn more or get involved with Dear Asian Youth, visit their site here.
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