Amid the start of the coronavirus pandemic, hate crimes against Asians worldwide have surged. Racist and xenophobic remarks such as “Go back to China!”, “Get out of our country!”, and “You’re the one who brought the virus here!” have become commonplace across the United States. Accounts of physical assault, verbal harassment, and vandalism have also been reported.
The truth is, many Asian Americans have long felt like complete outsiders in their own country. “But where are you really from?” and “Oh, you must speak Chinese.” are common microaggressions against the Asian community that exacerbate feelings of alienation and shame. Stereotypes perpetuated by the media and an overall disregard for Asian heritage from their peers have caused many Asian teens to feel remorseful for their differences. Not only are Asians extremely underrepresented in mainstream television and music, they also are pushed to the background when it comes to government and politics.
Pictured: Sunna Mai, DAY Assistant Director
This lack of cultural representation is exactly what motivated Stephanie Hu, a rising junior residing in Southern California, to create Dear Asian Youth (DAY), an online platform and literary magazine which hopes to empower Asian youth and amplify Asian voices. Spending most of her early years in Taiwan and China, Hu became deeply connected to her heritage. However, after moving to a predominantly white neighborhood in Southern California in seventh grade, Hu began to feel ashamed of her culture and even tried to detach herself from it. She writes, “People didn’t treat me like a person; they treated me like an exotic animal… My internalized racism only increased, and I consciously tried to abandon my culture.”
Things all began to change when Hu got involved in Speech and Debate. There, she realized the power of activism and her voice. Surrounded by accepting and loving people, she began to fall back in love with her heritage. She hopes that Dear Asian Youth can do the same for other Asians going through similar situations. She wants to create a welcoming community for Asians where they feel comfortable expressing themselves and their culture. Through opinion articles and spoken word poems, Asian writers are able to make their voice heard on various topics covering Asian culture, activism, feminism, and current events.
Dear Asian Youth also has a strong presence on Instagram with nearly 6,000 followers in just two months after its launch. Their feed radiates with eye catching illustrations and warm, peachy undertones. When deciding the color palette for Dear Asian Youth, Hu knew she wanted to do red and yellow, inspired by the traditional Lunar New Year colors. Hu writes, “This choice was quite personal to me. I grew up celebrating Lunar New Year every year, and I loved seeing the bright reds and gold that adorned every red packet, every house, every street. To me, these colors feel like home, and I feel one step closer to my heritage everytime I see them.” By creating a sense of warmth and homeyness, she hopes DAY can be a platform where Asians can go to reconnect with their culture.
Launched in May of 2020, #DearAsianGirl is a movement created by the DAY team that aims to celebrate the unique qualities of Asian girls from all across the world. Hu explains, “To join our movement, all you have to do is share a picture of you under #DearAsianGirl on any social media platform.” By showcasing the beauty, strength, and perseverance of Asian girls, DAY hopes to challenge the racist stereotypes that have plagued the Asian community for far too long. In addition to the #DearAsianGirl movement, DAY has also been working on a video project in honor of Pride Month in which the LGBTQIA+ community can share their stories either anonymously or openly.
In their most recent project with AA Batteries, an online Asian-run clothing company, DAY has promised to donate all of their proceeds to help the Black Lives Matter movement. Another project launched in June was DAY’s sticker fundraiser in collaboration with Students For Black Lives, a nonprofit organization that provides tutoring and college mentorship to students who donate to a Black Lives Matter organization. Each sticker was carefully designed by Dear Asian Youth’s team of impeccable teenage illustrators, and they are now available on their website for purchase. DAY will be donating 100% of the proceeds to Black Lives Matter organizations. Time and time again, Dear Asian Youth has made their devotion to combating racism and social injustices apparent. They have greatly increased the civic engagement of the Asian community, and they continue to encourage people to stand up for the issues and policies that matter to them.
Pictured: Agnes Wong, DAY Projects Director
Dear Asian Youth is not simply an organization or a literary magazine – it’s a community. It has given Asians a platform to stand up for themselves and to push their narrative in a world that too often ignores the issues they face. It has empowered Asians to feel proud of their heritage, despite the discrimination they experience. And, it has allowed for Asians from all across the globe to connect with one another.
From being ostracized at school to feeling unaccepted in their own communities, Asians can find a common home in Dear Asian Youth. Hu writes, “DAY is an organization that I wish was there for me.” Dear Asian Youth is a beacon of hope for underrepresented Asians and the future change makers of our society. It teaches the youth to engage in honest conversation and to share their ideas and experiences with the world. Uplifting the Asian community and encouraging them to embrace their culture, DAY has spread positivity, love, and acceptance throughout the globe.