Engaging Artists, Community Leaders, and Youth to #ActToChange Against Bullying in Los Angeles

by Maulik Pancholy
Cross-posted from the White House on AAPIs Blog
On November 21, I had the honor of joining nearly 200 participants at a live event in Los Angeles as part of the #ActToChange campaign against bullying. #ActToChange, led by the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, the Sikh Coalition, and the Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment, aims to bring attention to bullying prevention and provide resources for youth empowerment, with an emphasis on the unique challenges faced by those in Asian American and Pacific Islander communities.

Alongside those who were able to join us in person, many also tuned in and participated virtually on Periscope, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook using the hashtag #ActToChange. Their pictures and insightful comments have been captured on Storify.

The event included distinguished guests spanning a wide range of professions. Dr. Vivek Murthy, U.S. Surgeon General and Co-Chair of the Initiative, provided a candid and thoughtful keynote on his own experiences with bullying, highlighting the need to both advocate for and empathize with those who are victims of bullying, and to also understand and provide interventions to those who are perpetrators of bullying.

Building upon Dr. Murthy’s remarks, our first panel consisted of Miss America 2014 Nina Davuluri, actress Kelly Hu, rapper Jason Chu, and moderator Christine Minji Chang, the Executive Director of Kollaboration. All panelists shared their various experiences with bullying – either as victims or as having bullied themselves.

They emphasized that no one should feel harassed or unsafe due to their differences. Nina Davuluri shared, “Absolutely no one should be discriminated against for their race or religion.”

Congresswoman Judy Chu of California’s 27th Congressional District provided further remarks, saying “As CAPAC chair, I pledge to you that we in CAPAC, our Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, will be an ally in this fight to ensure that our AAPI youth feel safe in their schools and communities because no American should fear being singled out, or bullied simply because of the way they look, talk, whom they love or the faith they practice.”

Our second panel, moderated by filmmaker and Jubilee Project creator Jason Y. Lee, included Blogilates fitness entrepreneur Cassey Ho, actor Parvesh Cheena, and musician Raaginder “Violinder” Singh. All continued the dialogue and shared stories of personal perseverance and growing up as AAPI in America.

In addition to the wonderful speakers and panelists, the live event included invigorating performances that further celebrated the spirit of our communities: Bhangra dance troupe Apni Sardari Apni Pehchaan, singer-songwriter Brooke Taylor, rapper Jason Chu, musician Raaginder “Violinder,” and DJ Richie “Traktivist” Menchavez.

The discussions and performances created an atmosphere of celebrating each other’s uniqueness while building community across all cultural lines. As the afternoon drew to a close, numerous participants both in person at the event and via social media were moved to share their own difficult stories with myself and staff members from the Initiative.  The common theme was gratitude for addressing a deep need, and a desire to help as we continue this work – reinforcing the idea that together we can #ActToChange.

Join the #ActToChange movement and take the pledge to stand up against bullying at www.ActToChange.org.

Maulik Pancholy is a member of the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.