This September marks 18 Million Rising’s 10th anniversary! We are so grateful for the privilege to organize and build community over these last 10 years. We’d like to take a moment with you to look back on where we’ve been and dream a little about the future we’re working towards.
In 2012, few online spaces existed for young Asian Americans hungry to connect, engage, and organize nationally on the political and cultural issues that were important to them. As we celebrate our 10th anniversary, we’re proud that 18MR has become a progressive political home for thousands.
When 18 Million Rising (18MR) launched, there were approximately 18 million Asian Americans in the United States. Despite making up nearly 6% of the population and growing, Asian Americans were (and remain) one of the most politically under–represented communities. 18MR was created in response to the enormous untapped opportunity to educate, organize, and mobilize young Asian Americans.
In a time when others ignored and erased our political power, we built a network of activists, artists, organizers, media influencers, and organizations to foster belonging on the internet and across the US.
10 YEARS OF ORGANIZING ASIAN AMERICA
18MR started out as a rapid response organization that focused on Asian American civic engagement, voter registration, and pop culture interventions. We developed online influence at a time when many community-based orgs lacked a presence on the internet. Since then, we’ve engaged in an array of campaigns, projects, and creative collaborations on issues from immigrant rights and corporate accountability to media representation and abolition. Here are some highlights over the years:
Racial and Immigrant Justice
In 2014, 18MR launched a campaign to free 37 Sikh asylum seekers from ICE detention who were on hunger strike. We then supported a caravan to the El Paso ICE detention center for an in-person protest.
No Muslim Ban
18MR fought the Muslim Ban, a white supremacist and exclusionary directive that blocked tens of thousands of foreign nationals from entering the US. It specifically targeted individuals from Muslim-majority countries. We also launched Micropoems for #NoMuslimBanEver with Kaya Press to use poetry as a form of cultural resistance.
Justice for Akai Gurley
18MR was part of a progressive coalition of Asian Americans supporting the family of Akai Gurley in their quest for justice after his murder by NYPD officer Peter Liang. We also worked to counter anti-Blackness and a right wing Chinese American movement to support Liang.
Call on Me, Not the Cops
In solidarity with the 2020 uprisings, we wrote a letter to help Asian Americans have conversations with their family members about the dangers of calling the police. The letter was translated into 13 languages by volunteers.
GAP Garment Worker Hoax
In solidarity with garment workers in Bangladesh, 18MR pranked GAP clothing company with a fake website and Twitter account that affirmed their commitment to health and safety measures for workers. The campaign brought national pressure to the company’s unjust labor practices.
Stop COVID-19 Disinformation. Stop Anti-Asian Violence
The racism and disinformation spread online around COVID-19 and Asian Americans are putting lives in danger. We told Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to immediately shut down hate and misinformation about the pandemic on their platforms.
Representation in Media and Pop Culture
Create a Yuri Kochiyama Stamp – Yuri Kochiyama was one of the most renowned Asian American activists of all time. She supported Black liberation, fought US imperialism, and was an avid letter writer. We petitioned USPS to honor Yuri with a stamp and bring her story to millions across the US. Yuri’s stamp is currently in consideration at USPS.
Make Mulan Right
When a draft script of Disney’s live-action film The Legend of Mulan was leaked, 18MR learned that it featured a white man who travels to ancient China and rescues Mulan. We made #MakeMulanRight go viral and Disney promised to rewrite this white savior disaster.
Language barriers and discrimination prevent voting access for millions of limited English speakers. We built an app designed to match multilingual volunteers with limited English speakers to protect access to voting.
No Citizenship Question on Census 2020
It’s critical for our communities to be counted on the Census to advocate for our fair share of resources in education, healthcare, and more. We fought a Citizenship Question on the 2020 Census because it would have depressed response rates, wasted taxpayer money, and killed chances of an accurate count.
Vote by Mail & Count Every Vote
During the 2020 elections, 18MR joined a coalition that demanded the Senate fund Vote by Mail so that everyone could participate in safe voting during the pandemic. We also pressured governors and election officials to count every vote, preventing undemocratic attacks on election results.
We also learned some important lessons along the way.
One year after our founding, we supported this viral media campaign and learned about the limits and dangers of activist celebrity culture.
Mark Wahlberg “Hate Crimes”s
In 2014, 18MR demanded actor Mark Wahlberg not be pardoned for attacking two Vietnamese men in 1988. In 2021, we came out as an abolitionist organization and grappled with the harm caused by the hate crimes laws and policing we advocated for in this earlier campaign.
THANK YOU TO OUR COMMUNITY
We are indebted to the countless friends, partners, and community members who have provided us with encouragement, guidance, resources, insight, and critique – all of which have transformed 18MR into who we are today. Here are only a few of our collaborators over 10 years:
- AAPIs for Civic Empowerment
- Adoptees for Justice
- Angry Asian Man
- artist Ashley Lukashevsky
- Asian American Feminist Collective
- Asian Arts Initiative
- Asian Law Caucus
- Asian Pacific Environmental Network
- Asian Prisoner Support Committee
- Color of Change,
- Daily Kos
- Disability Visibility Project
- DRUM NYC
- Freedom Inc
- comedian Jenny Yang
- scholar Jason Oliver Chang
- Lavender Phoenix (formerly APIENC)
- MPower Change
- Nerds of Color
- People’s Collective for Justice and Liberation
- Red Canary Song
- Rock the Vote
- SEAC Village
- Survived & Punished
- Tsuru for Solidarity
- United We Dream
- Vigilant Love
and many more! We are so grateful to you for making our past, present, and future possible.
HOPES FOR THE FUTURE
We see the internet as a place to build community, learn, and activate our networks.
While we continue to grow and adapt to an ever-changing US and digital landscape, you’ll always be able to find us organizing Asian Americans across the internet.
We’ve grown beyond our rapid response work but continue to partner with grassroots organizations in order to connect local campaigning with national attention and resources. Additionally, we are building out digital organizing and political education trainings to ensure our whole community has the skills to build power online.
This fall, we will be the largest staffed version of 18MR in a decade! Our growing capacity will ensure that we can build stronger relationships across the country and engage in more campaigns and culture shifting work that bring us all closer to liberation.
What are the 18MR team’s hopes for the future?
Bianca: I am looking forward to building more conversations that address the legacies of capitalism and imperialism, having not just a strong analysis but awareness of how we uphold those legacies and how we want to move forward, together.
Charlene: I am hopeful that we’re part of seeding new movements that can equally tear down oppressive systems while building up beautiful and liberatory futures for all of us.
Irma: I am looking forward to building an inclusive movement centered in the spirit of internationalism that allows everyone to have a place where we can all contribute in the struggle against imperialism, capitalism, racism, and other forms of oppression that have damaged our homelands and communities.
Turner: I am ready for a new generation of Asian American abolitionists who find a place for themselves in this movement while staying rooted in their own radical cultural traditions.
Kari:I look forward to finding creative ways to not only organize, but genuinely connect with our community as we build collective power. I also look forward to intergenerational organizing spaces because there is so much that we can learn from one another.
Leyen: I look forward to continuing to grow our collective consciousness, whether that’s learning new cultural norms or ideals or unlearning harmful mindsets so that we, as Asian Americans, can continue to build a thriving community for us all.
See you on the internet and in the streets!
-The 18MR Team