Phi Nguyen, litigation director for Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Atlanta and photographer Kavi Vu founded the web series “Wake Up Atlanta” in 2017, “for Asian American ATLiens to become more civically educated and engaged, thus increasing voter turnout in a historically under-represented community,” according to the series’ Facebook page. To discuss how they engage the Asian American community to turn out the vote, Nguyen and Vu spoke with Rose Scott, host of WABE’s “Closer Look” on March 23. 

“Asian Americans report the lowest levels of contact from political parties and political campaigns of any racial group so I think it’s critical that we invest in our communities. The other piece of it is we need to do culturally-competent outreach,” Nguyen explained. Being Vietnamese American, Nguyen said that she and Vu can tap into that community’s needs quickly, but that when they perform outreach to different communities, “It’s always good to bring somebody on board who has a good understanding of that ethnicity.” 

Read more below for additional highlights from the interview.

On engaging voters:

Vu: “Young Asian Americans need to be civically educated first. For example, I didn’t become a citizen until I was 17 or 18 and the things I learned in school about getting a bill passed or how to register to vote, I didn’t feel like any of those things applied to me. So we realized we needed to do a lot of voter education first before we could get people to register to vote. If you don’t, there’s just going to be a lot of people registered to vote but they don’t know or care about any of the elections moving forward.”

On why Asian American voter turnout is so low:

Nguyen: “Kavi and I joke that Asian-American millennials are at the bottom of the barrel but millennials, in general, have low voter turnout…I think part of it, speaking from my experience and some of the experiences that our friends have, is a lot of Asian Americans come from countries where there’s not a history of democratic participation. So if you’re an immigrant from Vietnam, for example, our parents were refugees and they weren’t really given an opportunity to vote and in fact, they were persecuted for speaking out and it was dangerous for them to speak out against the government and I think there’s a lack of generational knowledge that our community suffers from. It’s not something that we grew up with and it makes it that much harder to understand the ways that our lives are dictated by political policy.”

To hear the complete interview, visit WABE here.