The region is home toAsian American residents — the eighth-largest population in the country. Chou, a Sugar Land native, piloted drive-thru voting in Harris County during the elections. Tell me about your work expanding voter access in Harris County.
Chris Hollins and I met through a mutual friend; he asked me to come on board to work with him as he became the new county clerk. Almostpeople used it, which is kind of insane that it was so successful.
The other thing was I helped triple the early-voting locations. So we tripled to over and had over Election Day sites. What drives you to continue this work? And that just blew their mind.
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Well, one, yes, we do exist. For the future of Asian Americans — not to buy into the model-minority myth — there are going to be a lot of us in the top of the top. The question is, are we going to make decisions that accommodate the progressive views a lot of us share? Or are they going to conform to what the people before us have tried to maintain?
Are we actually pushing forward policies that ensure we have a stronger middle class? That we have wages acceptable for people who are working class and allow them to not live in poverty? Representation is looking at how well the least among all of us, regardless of race and gender, are doing. Uliya Yashtala, 31, singer-songwriter.
Benjamin chou, 30, senior adviser for policy and innovation at the harris county elections office
How has your identity shaped your ambitions? I understand the culture we live in is very rarely inclusive. My identity has formed that sensitivity and compassion, but that only can go so far. My intention is also to continue to grow and learn and understand the ways I can extend what I know of different experiences and be more inclusive myself. We inhabit our cultures and identities in ways that feel authentic to us.
What does equality and representation mean to you? And that goes with queerness and gender fluidity. Equality and representation are nuanced.
How do you see yourself fitting into that role? I feel like a changemaker in the small corner of the world that I inhabit — the conversations that I have with people, I am always true to myself — and I believe I do things differently. Would I say I have a heavy influence in the Houston music industry? But I am happy to be visible and authentic to who I am. Why are you passionate about this work?
Working with the community, finding out their issues and working alongside others to address these issues gives me purpose. For example, language and technology really kept our committee members from being able to access the vaccines when they were first released. My family members all had issues accessing the vaccines. So it was up to me and my sister, the younger generation, to help our elders get vaccinations. How have your identity and upbringing shaped your ambitions?
My parents are both refugees from Vietnam. Over the years, they were able to make a life for themselves here. For me, recognizing the struggles they went through to self-actualize and make a life here in Houston.
“let's dream big. let's just do crazy things and see what we can actually get done.”
I still recognize those struggles here today. They realized that coming together as Asian Americans was the best way to unify ourselves, despite having different experiences to achieve social equality. I identify as an Asian American broadly because I understand the best way forward is if we all come together and champion true equality despite our differences.
Learning about compassion and putting it into practice is one of my tenets. The compassion extends to all community members regardless of background. Diane Yoo, 39, entrepreneur, founding partner of Parliament Venture Fund.
Yoo, a ant winner and venture capitalist, co-founded Identity Unveiled IUa national media platform that amplifies the voices of female Asian American pioneers. I was 5 feet, 8 inches at 13 years old, so I got scouted to model. I was so embarrassed. In college, I was scouted again, and I went full time; I started getting booked.
How do I make it so I can advance in the middle of this competition? When I was doing runway, I was the only Asian, tall, lanky model. It made me really fierce, internally.
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You know, the glittering lights and in front of thousands of people on the runway — I had fierce focus to say that I am going to overcome and continue to forge my own success. As an entrepreneur, we need to provide more opportunities for Asian Americans. I just think growing up in Katy, being one of maybe five Koreans in the entire high school, growing up with a lot of cultural identity. What barriers have you needed to overcome to claim a position of leadership in venture capitalism? I knew that was a challenge, and I was going to be a founding partner or general Asian women houston.
I was able to do that, starting from scratch as an intern, continuing to advance, evolve and pivoting until I made it to the top. What do equality and representation mean to you? I live in New York as well, and I see firsthand the crime.
Because one wrong eye contact, and boom — you might get hit. The fear people live in because of the rise in this violence is horrific. I feel like this is truly a monumental, historic time, where a movement is really happening for Asian Americans across the U. We should paint the real picture of how successful Asian Americans are. The most powerful thing we can do in the movement is representation. Jenny Wang, 37, clinical psychologist, founder of Asians for Mental Health. Why did you choose to focus on Asian Americans with your Instagram ? The drive is realizing that mental health is so stigmatized within our community.
The goal is to help others find culturally relevant resources.
Knowledge about a culture is not quite enough. How have you felt providing those resources during a time of need?
I feel really lucky people are open to the idea that mental health is the foundation to health. Being able to speak on these issues comes from a very intimate part of who I am, as somebody who has lived through an immigrant experience, as somebody who has experienced racism and hate, as a minority in this country. A lot of Asian American mental health professionals are experiencing the same type of trauma or retraumatization, experiencing the same level of fear for our elders and children going to schools and, at the same time, having to find strategies to help ourselves while also helping our clients.
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How do you see Asian American leaders shaping the future? I am very hopeful Asian American leaders in Houston especially, since we have such a high Asian population, will feel emboldened to amplify and pursue causes that really improve the lives of not just Asian Americans but people of color in general. Coming from a different country where everyone looks like you to come to the United States where there is no average way America looks, it was a really great place to grow up and meet people you would normally not interact with from around the world.
When I moved to Stafford and introduced myself to a few of the city council members, most were so excited to see someone young and someone who represented Asian women houston different facet of society. They were very willing to take me under their wing and allow me an opportunity to get involved. You just had your first. How do you envision leaders like yourself making the future better for kids like your son? My son is the first to be born in the United States in our family. His upbringing is going to be very different than what my wife and I had.
I really want to create a place where he feels like he can be a leader, where he sees people who serve the community that look like him and represent similar backgrounds. There was a sense of intimidation. To you, what do representation and equality look like?
Often, people think about it as just meeting a quota system where if we have this many, we need this many. True representation is having your voice heard and having a seat at the table. More like this No one should turn a blind eye to wave of anti-Asian violence.