In commemoration of the 5th Annual National AAPI Day Against Bullying and Hate, the national nonprofit organization Act To Change honored trailblazers and youth activists at a vibrant gala event held in Washington, D.C. As a profound sense of unity, purpose, and gratitude permeated the atmosphere, awardees such as Daniel Dae Kim, Kiran Ahuja, Ryan Alexander Holmes, Annie Leyao Dong, and the student leaders of AAPI Youth Rising took to the podium. Here, they shared deeply personal stories, applauded the strides made within the AAPI community, and reflected thoughtfully on the significance of continuing the legacy of their predecessors while paving the way for future generations.
The mission to end bullying for the AAPI community is more critical than ever. A staggering 80 percent of Asian American youth report being victims of bullying, and anti-Asian hate crimes saw an alarming surge of 339 percent in 2021 amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of giving in to fear and remaining silent in the face of anti-Asian violence, young people are choosing to rise to the occasion and speak openly about their experiences to advocate for their right to safety. Kiran Ahuja, Director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, former executive director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and 2023 Impact Awardee, passionately expressed, "A big part of what we’re doing here is giving a platform and permission for youth to talk about their feelings and experiences in whatever venue and form they want, and really honoring that."
Echoing the call for the creation of safe environments where the youth can feel both validated and heard, Maulik Pancholy, actor, author, and chair of Act To Change, emphasized the restorative power of shared experiences. “Through the work we do, I see firsthand when a young person shares their experience, it’s healing for them to talk about their stories. It’s healing for another student to hear their story to know they’re not alone. They also find solutions, ways to help each other, and ways to feel empowered by their identity.”