By Erin Chew, AsAmNews Staff Writer
Actors Chloe Bennett and Kumail Nanjiani emceed the “2021 AAPI Inaugural Ball” online Tuesday on the eve of the official Presidential Inauguration.
The event celebrated the efforts of AAPI activists, campaigners and volunteers who have worked around the clock over the past year to ensure a Biden-Harris victory. It was also an opportunity to showcase the many AAPIs who have been elected to both state and federal politics and pay homage to Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris who as of January 20, will be the first woman of color to be elected as Vice President.
The event featured remarks from participants including Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris, OMB Director-designate Neera Tanden; Reps. Ami Bera, Pramila Jayapal, Judy Chu, Grace Meng, Andy Kim, and Raja Krishnamoorthi.
“The contributions of the Asian Pacific American community are woven throughout the fabric of our country and I am proud to be with you tonight as our nation’s first Vice President-elect of Asian descent,” Harris declared in closing remarks.
“When I accepted the nomination to be your Vice President, I did so fully committed to realizing the vision of building a stronger, more united America the provides an opportunity for all. It is a vision our President-elect shares. As I prepare to take the oath of office as the next Vice President of the United States, I carry you all with me.”
Celebrities such as former Olympian Michelle Kwan; actors Kal Penn, Daniel Dae Kim, Parvesh Cheena, John Cho, Kumail Nanjiani, and Chloe Bennet joined them. Performances featured Japanese Breakfast, Ari Afsar, Raja Kumar; and a group of Pacific Islander Americans from around the country.
Kumail Nanjiani started the proceedings by congratulating all the AAPI’s elected into State and Federal politics and reflected upon his own family history and how foreign America was for him when he first arrived with his parents from Pakistan as a kid, and how it made him proud to see how much progress has been made.
Both Chloe Bennet and Brad Jenkins, who founded the political mobilization organization “Run AAPI” shared their journeys in creating this movement and how mobilizing the AAPI community was a key to victory. Many other AAPI actors and actresses shared their own reflections.
What they said was personal to them and showcased their pride in the election of Kamala Harris and in the growing number of AAPI’s elected.
Rep. Ami Bera and Pramila Jayapal spoke about the growing numbers of AAPIs of South Asian descent getting mobilized and raising their voices and this has resulted in quite a number of them being elected. They also spoke about how Kamala Harris, being proud of her South Asian background, will only continue to grow and mobilize South Asian Americans.
Rep Judy Chu, Grace Meng and Andy Kim expressed how important it was to continue to stay united as AAPIs against hate and how despite growing anti-Asian racism sentiments brewing in the US, AAPIs still prevailed and continued to fight.
Finally, Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris passionately talked about how proud she is to have the opportunity to serve as Vice President alongside Joe Biden, and shared some history about her mother and how it was the energy and independence of her mother which inspired her to run for politics.
The performances provided needed breaks during the event and sent the vibe of pride, passion and encouragement. Pacific Islander Americans sang about their background and added a powerful moment. The voice of Ari Asfar won everyone over as she belted out her song about being South Asian American and her lived experiences.
This event showed how AAPIs are breaking down barriers and are taking the plunge in a path where they will be able to influence society. It was heartening ( and almost bought tears to my eyes) to see unity at play, among the AAPI community at this event and to hear Harris talk about how she is proud of her South Asian and Black roots and how she will use her position as a woman, an Asian woman and as a Black woman to stand up for the community, and be the voice of reason and change.
For myself, as an Asian Australian living in the United States, the event made me reflect on the poor representation in Australian politics- it’s almost an absolute embarrassment. But the event has also given me hope that things will change and it has given me the energy and the encouragement to work hard so that we Asian Australians too can hold such an event and live up to the achievements AAPI’s are achieving in politics.
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