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Hollywood figures including Daniel Dae Kim and Steven Yeun came together on Friday for the “See Us Unite For Change” global special, which explored the history and contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to raise awareness and understanding of their cultural experiences.
Hosted by Ken Jeong, the event was part of the See Us Unite cultural campaign led by the Asian American Foundation. The comedian and actor introduced the event acknowledging the recent rise in violence in the AAPI community — which includes 23 million Americans with roots in 15 different ethnic groups — such as the “senseless” killings in Atlanta, which he said has left people feeling “fearful,” but also compelled to take action.
“What can all Americans do to stop the hate?” he asked, dedicating the special to “the little kid watching” who might be the only Asian American at their school. “We see you, this special is for you,” he said.
Intercut with performances from The Black Eyed Peas, Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda — who was the first Asian American rapper to have a number one album — Saweetie, Sting, composer Chloe Flower and more, there were appearances from AAPI community members who shared their varied cultural experiences.
Bruce Lee’s daughter Shannon Lee shared that, while most people know her father as a “superhero,” he arrived in the U.S. with $100 in his pocket. Director Jon M. Chu shared that his parents didn’t speak a word of English when they moved to the Bay Area from China.
“Our house was spray-painted with the word ‘gook,’ said TV presenter Jeannie Mai. “This challenge right now is literally about life and death,” said entrepreneur Bing Chen.
Time’s Up CEO Tina Tchen noted that those in the AAPI community “live at the intersection of race discrimination and gender discrimination.”
Jeong noted that the country is “battling the virus of hate, spread by rumors, misinformation and rhetoric.” He urged viewers to familiarize themselves with the Asian American Foundation, which has been established to serve these communities in their pursuit of belonging.
The bond between Japanese American civil rights activist Yuri Kochiyama and Malcom X was shared as an example of how communities must come together in times of hardship and support one another. In the words of journalist Lisa Ling, the challenge is to “stand united to fight these injustices.”
Striking a personal note, Jeong expressed that when he was growing up, it was difficult to find people who looked like him on TV and in movies — except for character actor James Hong, who at 92, appeared beside the comedian on stage.
Considering his desire for the future, Daniel Dae Kim said that he hopes for the day “that we no longer have to have conversations like this one” — referencing inequality, stereotypes, racism, bigotry and hate that work against common goals. “Our collective journeys lead to a movement. I believe we can do it. We must do it.”
“It is a freaking honor to be Asian,” said fashion designer Phillip Lim. “What we are seeking is space to be ourselves,” said Yeun. “We can be unapologetically ourselves with kindness,” Lee urged, “but with power.”
See Us Unite For Change was broadcast on MTV Entertainment as well as BET and Nickelodeon. It was exclusively streamed on Facebook Watch.
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