Asian Americans Advancing Justice & Representation in TV and Film

August 31, 2017

AndACTION hosted a one-day pop culture strategy lab to train the communications team at Asian Americans Advancing Justice — plus interns and fellows from the organization’s coalition of more than 20 Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) organizations — in integrating pop culture storylines into their awareness and advocacy campaigns.

About the Organization:

Asian Americans Advancing Justice (Advancing Justice | AAJC) is a national nonprofit focused on advancing civil and human rights, particularly for Asian Americans — the fastest-growing population in the U.S. The organization serves to empower communities by bringing local and national constituencies together and ensuring that Asian Americans are able to participate fully in democracy.

Strategic Aims:

  • Create a new social norm: Asian Americans are not only underrepresented in Hollywood, they’re often “whitewashed” — which means white actors are cast to play Asian or Pacific Islander characters. Elevating storylines featuring AAPI characters and actors can help increase representation and visibility. 
  • Create a community: Developing pop culture communication strategies around AAPI storylines can foster a greater sense of community, inclusion and empowerment.

WHAT WE DID:

Activity:

AndACTION hosted a one-day pop culture strategy lab to help Advancing Justice | AAJC sharpen its knowledge and skills in using pop culture storylines relevant to AAPI communities. The training also gave attendees new ideas for integrating those storylines and themes directly into their campaigns. AndACTION trained attendees on using pop culture strategically in their communications, and provided suggestions for leveraging upcoming shows and movies including “Fresh Off the Boat,” “Hawaii Five-0,” and “The Problem with Apu.”

Background:

Asians make up 5.4 percent of the U.S. population but only 1.4 percent of the leading characters in Hollywood. Even those who do secure leading roles can face discrimination, like “Hawaii Five-0” stars Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park, who left the show after CBS refused to pay them as much as their white co-stars. Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders — especially those who are highly visible, such as Aziz Ansari from “Master of None” — frequently speak out against whitewashing and underrepresentation in media.

Results:

About 20 attendees participated in AndACTION’s pop culture strategy lab, where they received advance intel about shows and air dates suited to their communication goals. Then, they built out ready-to-implement campaigns tied to TV shows, films and events relevant to the AAPI community. Strategies included storytelling and action campaigns specific to “Fresh Off the Boat” and Citizenship Day. AndACTION will continue to assist Advancing Justice | AAJC in promoting these campaigns and measuring their success, including providing metrics required by their funders.

Want to learn more about pop culture and strategic communications? Thanks to our generous donors, AndACTION can assist philanthropic, nonprofit and other social good organizations with training, arranging Twitter chats and film screenings and many other meaningful activities to spark change. Our services are free of charge. For more information and support, please email us at info@andaction.org.

Our team was really excited when they came back [from the AndACTION Pop Culture Strategy Lab]. I love the idea of creating a social media series about actual stories of immigration and the resilience of immigrants in their journey toward citizenship.
Michelle Boykins, Director of Strategic Communications at Asian Americans Advancing Justice