During this turbulent time of a global pandemic, fear and hate have spread like wildfire. The Asian diasporic communities across America are feeling the heat. With finger pointing and placing blame on “the Chinese virus,” hurtful words morph into harmful actions. Unable to sit back during this time, activists formed the organization Racism is a Virus (RIAV).
It started as a movement to flood the internet with Asian faces as a reminder to the world of their existence. Asian performers amplified the message, calling artists to creative action. A t-shirt campaign resulted from the building publicity. All proceeds went towards amplifying existing activist groups such as the Asian American Legal Defense Fund (AALDF).
As a result of the attack against an elderly Asian woman in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn in July, the #GrandmaProject was launched. RIAV encouraged followers to post pictures of their Asian mothers or grandmothers using the hashtag. They also created a petition to convince the NYPD to classify this attack as a hate crime. Over five thousand people have signed so far.
#RacismisaVirus undoubtedly deals with heavy content. Out of this, Unapologetically Asian (UA) was born to celebrate Asian heritage. Many performers sent in videos sharing stories about their lives and how they are unapologetically Asian.
While the accounts seem like opposite forces of the same brand, founder and executive creator Diane Phelan sees a similar goal for RIAV and UA.
"We are trying to activate Asian American voices in the creation of culture in America. It is all about talking about where Asian Americans are on the spectrum of owning your own voice," she told me.
RIAV strives to raise awareness of the hate crimes happening against Asian Americans. UA promotes Asian American cultural pride. Phelan dreams that the UA organization will grow to render RIAV obsolete. Anyone will be able to look at it and see themselves in the shared stories.
Phelan said, “We are in a time where people are redefining what it means to be American — to look American. By empowering and amplifying our voices during this time, we get to state where we belong."
Both campaigns are taking steps on their social platforms to create a loving community of unapologetic Asian people. They hope to rid the world of hateful acts through unity and expression. They will continue to share stories and promote Asian voices. Check out their website for more information and their social media to stay updated.