Bund to Brooklyn

Episode 4: Andrew Yang, AAPI Political Engagement with Brian Yang

Episode Summary

On Episode 4, Hollywood producer, actor, and Andrew Yang's former regional fundraising director Brian Yang joins us to share his recent journey into politics and civic engagement through the Yang 2020 campaign and producing content to raise awareness against Anti-Asian hate crimes. Before Brian, Siyuan and Lucia discuss how Chinese citizens think about civic engagement through the lens of netizens' reaction to Meng Wanzhou.

Episode Notes

(2:53) Chinese netizens' sentiment around Meng Wanzhou

(5:57) Chinese netizen's sentiment on the racist attacks against Asians in the West

(8:19) Chinese immigrant parent's approach to politics through Lucia's parents

(11:20) Lucia and Siyuan share their own personal experiences with civic engagement

(13:34) Sean highlights the 1990 Institute's recent work on voting and how Asian Americans have started to vote more

(16:31) Brian Yang joins the podcast and shares his background and history with the 1990 Institute

(22:35) Brian shares his history with Andrew Yang and how he got involved with Andrew Yang's Presidential campaign

(26:05) Brian and the hosts discuss the rise in political engagement from Asian Americans and whether it will be sustainable

(38:49) Brians work raising awareness about the hate crimes against Asian Americans through media

(48:25) Brian shares his work on Giant Leap: a writing accelerator for AAPI


NPR: The Growing Power of the AAPI Vote

Grace Meng's COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act

All of us Movement

Brian Yang's Giant Leap Accelerator

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Episode Transcription

(This is an automatically generated transcript) 

[00:00:00] Lucia Liu: Hi, everyone. Welcome to Ben to Brooklyn, where your hosts, Lucia and. Today we speak with Brian Yang. He's an actor or producer, but more importantly for this podcast, we focus on his work with Andrew Yang and stop Asian hate. We talk about Asian Americans becoming more politically engaged. And how do you sort of keep this engagement going? 

But before that, I think Sianna and I want to chat a bit about, you know, civic engagement for Chinese citizens as well. What's happening and with Asian-American. So, so again, how do young Chinese people sort of approach politics and civic engagement? If, if at all. 

[00:01:01] Siyuan Meng: Yeah. So my understanding of the civic engagement is citizens participation in activity that address some aspects of the social problems. In a way to improve public goods. So I think I see more of nonpolitical civic engagement here happening in China, among young people. Like people would organize some very grassroots activities, such as caring for the children or donation to children in rural areas and organize some. 

Disaster relief whenever there's some disasters like gentle flooding or COVID, but I don't see that much of political civic engagement, like advocacy or activism in China. 

[00:01:55] Lucia Liu: I see that it's. So you're saying that there's a lot more like philanthropy or session, right? Like 

there's a lot of like organized philanthropy work to help society move forward. And I mean, I think in a way it is kind of advocating for reducing poverty. Right, but not like active engagement in like politics and criticizing politicians or criticizing like policies or, or actively trying to change policies. 

And like, so again, was it surprising for you when you came to the states and sort of witnessed the difference in political engagement? 

[00:02:33] Siyuan Meng: Yeah, it was quite a surprising experience for me. It's my first time to see student groups or community groups coming together to support a candidates. No matter is presidential or city level, county level. Not too sure. If you guys have a saw the news about one, one, Joe. 

[00:02:58] Lucia Liu: I did, and I sort of read it and it's kind of interesting. There's so much to unpack but so you had, why don't you sort of explain to our listeners what happened here? 

[00:03:11] Siyuan Meng: Yeah. So Mo when Joe was released by the Canadian government and. Returned to China a few days ago, after three  

[00:03:20] Lucia Liu: And can you explain who is. 

[00:03:23] Siyuan Meng: So Mowen Joe is the current CFO of the telecommunication giant in China, mulatto was detained in a Canadian airport. In 18 and has been in house arrest at her home in Vancouver. So after three years of negotiation and core sessions Mo on Joel was finally approved to. 

Returned to China. So Chinese netizens or really excited about this news. And the level of patriotism I saw on the Chinese internet was pretty unprecedented, even compared to previous years, like compared to 2008, such an earthquake, like. I kind of see similar level of pitch artismal they're like people post on there, which are moments and the way bore about how a national hero moment was. 

[00:04:27] Lucia Liu: And why do you think like that sort of reaction happened? 

[00:04:31] Siyuan Meng: So it's quite divided. Some people do think the whole thing about Momento is the us plot and more handle it really well. And for national interest as well. But others do think Chinese government was trying to use this case as a tour to few. More nationalism. And also the sentiment against us 

[00:04:57] Lucia Liu: And just to be clear to the audience. Right? So Milan Joel was she's like charged with. Or like charged with fraud. 

[00:05:04] Siyuan Meng: was flawed. 

[00:05:05] Lucia Liu: Uh, okay. Yeah. So she was, she was charged with fraud and the U S wanted to extradite her from Canada in order to try her in the U S but what happened was she got detained under house arrest, and then there was negotiations between 

China and the U S. I guess like where Chinese citizens felt like her going home to China is like a big political 

win for China on the global level. Because in the past, like China never had soft power, right? Like it never had the sort of power to be able to negotiate for things. China's always had to sort of like take a step back and not be able to like when these things, and I think she just became this like figurehead for China being able to win a soft power battle, essentially with the U 

[00:05:56] Siyuan Meng: Yeah. 

[00:05:57] Lucia Liu: And did you see, I guess, like any sort of. similar reaction or like any sort of different level of reaction for like the last year where Chinese people outside of China were getting abused or harassed or scapegoated for, for COVID like, did you see any sort of like netizen reaction towards that in, in a similar level? 

[00:06:21] Siyuan Meng: Yeah, I feel the reactions are quite divided as well. Like for those who have typed with us, like who has been to the U S before or are studying the U S they. Uh, very empathetical about this situation, but for some other people, they will be just like, oh, like, why did you go to the U S at the first place? 

Like, no wonder you will get abused by, by them because it's very, oh, still a white dominated society. So some of them will say this kind of sarcastic words. So it's pretty much very divided. 

[00:06:58] Lucia Liu: But as in like, what about the level of interest? Like, was there a less news coverage about it versus, you know, this more recent thing, if 

[00:07:07] Siyuan Meng: Yeah, there's definitely very little coverage about the API hate compared to Milan Joe's case, like Milan Joe's case. When I opened my way, John Bowman's like it's full of momentous updates and about how people. Or receiving her at the airport, ancient German and posts about the speech or speech. So it has been dominated for a few days already. 

So the level of interest is very different, 

[00:07:40] Lucia Liu: Do you have thoughts on why. 

[00:07:42] Siyuan Meng: I guess right now. At this moment, a lot of Chinese that isn't as anxious kind of turn inwards as well. They kind of care about what's happening in China. the unfair treatment Chinese citizens got overseas as well in this kind of geopolitical conflict between China and the us. 

They. Get more defensive about their opinions. So it's come at very interesting time. Yeah. So Lucia, so you have this experience both in China and the U S your parents are based in Shanghai right now. So do you and your parents care more about Chinese? So U S. 

[00:08:31] Lucia Liu: The funny thing is. Is that my dad kept his Chinese citizenship and my mom naturalized to become American. I think just at, at the core though, like my mom has been very proud of how far China has come. And so she usually shares like opinions of. Chinese perspective. And I think that's very appreciated and that's like interesting to just hear from, you know, her generation, her perspective, because it's not like she hasn't left China either. 

Like she she's lived in the states for, I would say like over 15 years, And, you know, she went back when I was in high school and have stayed there since. And so she kind of sees both views. So they talk about both sides, but my parents are kind of interesting in that they strongly believe in, in the Chinese government, they strongly believe in the direction in which the Chinese government is going. 

Cause they have like a proven track record and, you know, they have this like a lot of national pride. Which is interesting because like, they also have a lot of like gratefulness towards America. And they're really thankful for like their experience in being able to come to America and provide a really like good life for, for me and like for themselves. 

And so when we talk about like Chinese and American politics, they're pretty Frank about it when they were in America, they used to like, look at China and they're like certain times they would like criticize China. Right. But now that they've like live in China, They criticize America. And so, like, I think the thing that my mom always says is like where your butt is, is where your political. 

Alliance lies. I think that's very true. And that's why I think podcasts like these and discussions, like these are so important because you can't see the full picture sitting where you are, unless if like you've been in the other person's shoes or, or been across the pond, so to speak, or like, you know, been across the ocean and recognize that how, how big of like a political win this. 

Well, when Joel thing is, but I think vice versa, Chinese people can't fathom feeling the way that Asian Americans have felt here being othered and being bullied or being harassed, or like constantly seen as the foreigner, after generations, upon generations of being here. Right. So, so it's just, it's pretty interesting hearing both sides. 

[00:11:10] Siyuan Meng: Yeah, I agree with you. You mentioned about the perspective, like whenever you're in China, maybe you got another perspective about what's happening in the U S yeah. So Lucia, have you participated in like any phone banking, protests, or any civic engagement in the U S. 

[00:11:30] Lucia Liu: Yeah. So since we're talking about civic engagement, shamefully, I have not actually participated in any sort of like active, like phone banking or like volunteering at a poll booths. My really good friend Lynn , who is my former cohost in my last podcast. She's very involved in the political sphere and like, she's done a lot of. 

I would say that, you know, later on, as we talked to Brian, similar to Brian, like I ran for student government and that's like the extent through which I had encountered assemblance of, of politics. Right. So I think it wasn't until 2016 when like sort of the election happened and I was looking around and I was also hosting the, the. 

My other podcast, rock the boat and recognizing like how important it was for us to be involved in politics, how important it was for us to have a seat at the table and government, and to have people who look like us who think like us, who've like sort of experienced what we've experienced advocating for, for us and our rights. 

Because if we don't have people like that, We don't really have a way to make change. Like we don't have a way to inform, we don't have a way to get funding and it's just really hard to push things forward that way. 

[00:12:47] Siyuan Meng: Absolutely. Uh, actually, while I was in LA I had internship. Yeah. Uh, this organization called Asian American advancing justice. So at that time I was helping prepare some documents for phone banking, also some ESL for immigrant parents. So that was my first time to get to know all this concepts. And I really learned a lot  

[00:13:13] Lucia Liu: Well, you've done more than I have. So you're more civically engaged than I am. mean with that, I know Sean, like there's some background on like, you know, how Asian Americans participate in politics that, you know, we'd like to walk through with our audience before jumping in with our conversation with. 

[00:13:34] Sean Niu: Yeah, thanks for having back on again, prompts to Sudan. Engage as you got in the country, you know, that's awesome. I personally felt. Once our previous president got in power, there was many lines that were crossed that made me feel compelled to kind of get involved and did some phone banking, did some protesting and also kind of as a reason why I joined the 1990 Institute, the first thing I worked on was writing a script for. 

And a video to urge people to go vote for the 20, 20 presidential election. You know, we focused on the fact that, you know, Asian Americans are usually in the historically not very engaged. Part of the reason is because politicians don't reach out and kind of message their platform in a way that many Asian Americans can understand. 

Part of that is language access, which is a big. Thankfully in the most recent election, there have been a number of more initiatives and emphasis to reach out to this Asian American voter base, which has been largely ignored. And we saw a very large increase actually in voting and participation. I think. 

From my understand there's NPR article that came out recently that cited that of the eligible voters for Asian Americans. There was a 25% jump since 2008 in the number of people who actually voted and in the number of swing states that really decided the election given the closeness of it. Asian Americans were very prominent amount. 

Like for instance, in Nevada, we're over 10% in Florida and Texas, where. I think four to 6%. So it's great to see. Kind of Asian-Americans being coming more galvanized to come out and engage with the community and kind of make their voice heard. And hopefully we get to see more of that and looking forward to hearing what Brian has to say about that too. 

But before we get to. Please subscribe to us on Spotify, apple podcasts, or wherever else you listen to podcasts. You can also email us with any questions, feedback, or requests at B2B at 1990. That's 1 9 9 0 institute.org. You can also follow us on Instagram and Twitter at bond to Brooklyn. That's B U N D T O B R O K. 

[00:16:08] Lucia Liu: Alright, thank you so much shine. So onwards to Brian. 

[00:16:13] b2b_ep4_music_sound_effects_20211008-1: Um, 


[00:16:31] Lucia Liu: Hey, Brian, welcome to the 1990 podcast. So excited to have you on board. today as a, as one of our guests, I'd love to have you introduce yourself and also. No, that you've been connected to 1990 from a long time ago and way, way back. So I'm really curious if your involvement with 1990, as well as what you're currently working on now. 

[00:16:51] Brian Yang: Well, it's good to be here. Good to connect with you again. We've crossed our paths. Cross our paths, keep crossing and various ways. But, this is an exciting new podcast you guys are launching and yeah, my history with 1990 goes back. A number of years, I was asked by previous executive director at some point in time through my work in association with Hawaii to be a juror for. 

Uh, this student, a short film contest that 1990 sponsor, a number of years back probably predates even your guys's involvement. So for two years running, I was a juror for these films that students were tasked with telling a short story about the U S China. Intersection and whatever inspired them in their, in their three minutes to tell that. 

And so I remember it was like high school and college students. And so I, since I was working on Hawaii, Five-O for a number of years, you know, I got connected to Hawaii and that year 99. They asked me to go out there to speak to students at Poona hoe and a couple of other schools on the island on just about what, like my career, what I did, and also just kind of like sharing my experiences with China as well. 

[00:18:12] Lucia Liu: Not a bad place to be. It was the, I was there myself just a few weeks ago. I think it's really exciting to have you on the podcast because you've just have. Plethora of experience spending across entertainment, politics, production, and a few more. So, you know, for the purpose of this podcast in particular, like we'd love to dive into a bit of your work with Andrew Yang, obviously, as, as you like, sort of managed his campaign, uh, especially around fundraising, but yeah, like sort of curious, like what that was like and CN, if you have additional sort of questions to kick it off, 

[00:18:54] Brian Yang: Well, I, you know, I'm, I'm, I'm someone who works a lot of hats. Um, as you alluded to just now, The old sayings, Jack of all trades master of none. Right. And I think I fit that description pretty well. I have a lot of different interests, but my core interests lies in. In storytelling. I've always, always wanted to be involved in, in, in telling stories and TV or film format. 

And now that's kind of spilled over into audio format, too. Podcasts have become such a fierce platform of being able to share stories. And so, so ever since I was in college, you know, I knew that this was what I wanted to do. And I went to school up north in the bay area. I'm in LA right now. After I finished college, where I found myself in New York city and through a college friend actually made a connection with a fellow named Andrew. 

Who at the time was just starting out with a venture that he, he and a fellow, a colleague from their corporate law firm decided to leave their jobs to start and chase this.com dream. And I was one of the early hires there, and this was in the late nineties. And so, I mean, he knew my deal. I started off as an actor in this business and today, um, I wear a lot of hats I produce and I act, but as an actor, I needed to be able to kind of leave and go for an audition and come back, you know, do my, as long as I got my job done, kind of have the flexibility to sort of come and go. And you know, it wasn't like so disruptive to the point where I was just gone all the time. 

A couple of times a week need to hustle out. So Andrew was really cool about that, especially in this sort of startup environment where anything went and that's how I came to know him and, 

[00:20:43] Lucia Liu: Brian, sorry to interrupt. But the, the startup that you worked with Andrew on is called star giving, right? 

[00:20:48] Brian Yang: yeah, yeah, yeah. It's called star giving in. So, so this is all, I guess, kind of. Backfire for like my foundation of like, getting to know Andrew, building myself up simultaneously as like. You know, I w I feel like working for Andrew was kinda my, like real life MBA. I considered for a time going to business school. 

I mean, like I said, I really, I really was like a Jack of all trades master of nothing. I was like, okay, maybe I'll, I'll do this. I'll do that. I had my hands on all these different things. And the working there really opened my eyes to what startup life was like being an entrepreneur and just really eventually. 

Even like segwaying into becoming a producer because the producer is essentially the person who has to each and every project you work on. Every film, every show, every podcast is like its own mini venture and, you know, Uh, CEO, you need an operator, you need someone behind each one of these things. And so, so I think, you know, looking back, I really credit Andrew for giving me that foundation just by starting that idea and me coming and working for him, it gave me the. 

I guess the mini wings to, to learn how to like, I mean, I wouldn't say fly exactly, but start to like, you know, go from crawling to walking, to running and like gaining the confidence in myself to be a business person in this world. So I don't even know if Andrew knows that I'd never really, I I'm just thinking about this aloud right now, but that's how I came to know him and how I, how he indirectly helped me even become a producer later on. 

Thanks, Andrew. 

[00:22:35] Siyuan Meng: So, so later you join NGS presidential campaign as a campaign manager. So how did you get involved with that? 

[00:22:43] Brian Yang: Yeah. Um, so my, my official role was actually the director of regional fundraising director on the west coast. I wasn't a long, hard road to that decision, but I didn't come to that role right away. He called. A bunch of his friends. I mean, he likes to tell all this story when he decided to run for president, he liked, he called everyone basically in his phone book and said, Hey, I'm running for president. 

And this was like sometime late in 2017 for me. And I like probably every one who picked up his phone call at the time. What do you mean, you know, you running for president of what? Because there's no way he meant the white house. We didn't know Andrew as someone with those kind of aspirations. And eventually when building that, he was totally serious about that. 

I was like, okay, here we go. Uh, so what, what do you do when your friend calls you to tell you he's doing something? I basically. I said, all right, here we go. I, I changed my, my, my social media banners to gang 2020. I started to just tell my, my own family and friends. Um, I organized a very informal mixer with, with Andrew in Los Angeles when it came out here in summer of 2018. 

And basically just as a friend, try to share the word, get people to. read up on him, listen to his, you know, sending, sending them like a podcast or some kind of appearance that, you know, he had made and early days, I mean, no one was really listening. Right. It was like people, even that mixer. I remember thinking, yeah, we felt like it was in a friend's backyard and a lot of people came, but I think they came for the free. 

And, you know, it was a nice summer day and it was just like, I have nothing better to do on this Saturday afternoon, but I don't think anyone like walked away thinking this guy's serious. Right. And it wasn't until he went on the Joe Rogan podcast and that kind of flipped a switch and turned up quite simply millions of people onto him because Rogan has a large listenership. 

And after that things really started to pick up with his campaign. He started to make more mainstream appearances, more podcasts. Like he, his popularity has just soared and, and his campaign had to grow as a result, right. To keep up, like, people are like, oh crap, it's actually working now. So they started to open field offices. 

They started to hire more people. And then that's when I got involved more officially on the gang 2020 campaign, because I was. Oh, this stuff like as a friend on a volunteer basis and then got to talking to some of their campaign people. Cause I knew them from day one and they're like, well shoot, you can help us grow yang 2020. 

And on the west coast, you're like already doing all this stuff. Why don't you just do it within official email? And get put on the staff. So I said, yeah, why not? I it's all the same to me then, like, as a friend, I probably wouldn't have gone to some of the debates, but as a staffer I did, I went to, I think, two of them, like in Ohio and Atlanta, and that was, I never thought I'd ever go to a presidential debate. 

So it was, it was interesting to get the, see that from the inside, but yeah, that's, that's basically the story of how I got. 

[00:26:05] Siyuan Meng: That's really interesting. So I was wondering, did you have any history of political engagement in the past? 

[00:26:13] Brian Yang: Uh, not unless you count my sixth grade class president experience. 


[00:26:19] Lucia Liu: Nice. Did you in 

[00:26:21] Brian Yang: I did, I did when I did win that race in sixth grade, but that was more like my mom like forced me to run for class president. uh, it was like a resume builder thing. 

[00:26:31] Lucia Liu: your mom forced you to 

[00:26:33] Brian Yang: Oh, yeah, I had this strict, like classic, like sort of tiger mom situation, you know? 

[00:26:39] Lucia Liu: How would you, how would she force you to run for class president? Like did you have to campaign and everything? Did you have to make speech? 

[00:26:45] Brian Yang: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. You have to speak. You have to make a speech. She would, she drilled into me because I remember at that age, I was also like, I'm glad they did this. In retrospect, my parents like forced me to go to Chinese school. And so, although I have to say all of my Mandarin was not learned through, through that school. 

Like I can speak 

[00:27:04] Lucia Liu: Same 

[00:27:05] Brian Yang: Yeah. Chinese school is like, it's just an obstacle. It's like, oh my gosh, you're eating into my cartoon time on Saturday. Or like Friday night, I could be hanging out with my friends, whatever, you know, but the one thing from Chinese school that I. I, I feel like, I don't know. I gained something out of, I got something out of was the speech contest. yeah. You remember it? Every Chinese kid, we got pours to do that. And my mom was like, she was my coach and she like. She cracked a whip and like basically made me just go re recite over and over until I perfected it with every little like hand gesture and the direction I looked and the, the pauses, you know, like bathing them in with the way I would, I would deliver the speech. 

And so, um, man, so, so essentially that was what I had to do for the, for the sixth grade class presidency, which was my mom was like, all right, we're going to do this as well. 

[00:28:04] Lucia Liu: you remember the speech? 

[00:28:06] Brian Yang: you  

[00:28:06] Lucia Liu: you remember your campaign promises? 

[00:28:08] Brian Yang: I do remember. Okay. I'll tell you why I want, I'll tell you why I won. I don't remember the speech entirely, but the one point that I. 

I really got everyone excited about was this idea of bringing to the school at the end of the year, something called Olympia. basically it's what it sounds like. So one day at the end of the school year, when people have mentally checked out maybe the last day or close to the last day of school, there's no school. 

Everyone just gets to go outside and play and you do like relay races and like tug of war and like, you know, whatever, like you play, you play on the playground and do sports. And so when I said I would bring Olympic day to the school. The audience, they went nuts, they went bonkers and they, they like, literally I remember started like chanting and like, that was it. 

I said, I would bring that. Nothing else mattered. 

[00:29:04] Lucia Liu: you created the original yang gang. 

[00:29:11] Brian Yang: Uh, I don't know about. It was a, it wasn't like gang gang, but it was like some of the early iteration of yeah. Like, like, well, no, it was my slogan. My slogan was, start your year with a bang vote for yang. So I had all these signs made that said that and yeah. And that was also, I think my mom's idea. My mom was my campaign manager. 


[00:29:39] Lucia Liu: you know what this means, right? Brian, this means that you're going to have to send us a photo as proof is for our audience. 

[00:29:47] Brian Yang: see if my mom still has that. But look, I went off on a tangent because I'm sure that's not what you meant in terms of my experience politically. So I have to admit before working for Andrew and helping my friend run for president of the United States, I was a very typical sort of like I'll vote when it comes around kind of politically engaged person. 

And I probably didn't even vote all the time. I certainly didn't vote in local elections on a regular basis. I was one of those people living in New York for 12 years. I didn't have to vote for mayor a single time. I lived there, which should come as no shock. Like I learned through Andrew's mayoral run this past year that historically 12 to 15% of New York city residents actually bothered to vote in the mayoral race. 

I mean, that's like 12 to fit, like, think about that. It's like shocking. Right? He, he admitted, he had never voted in his 25 years of living there and he got a lot of flack for that, which is, I understand. But at the same time, like the 85% of you, like who are being hypocritical, like, come on, give me a break. 

And so I voted for like presidency and stuff like that, but I, would've never dreamed I'd worked for presidential campaign. I would have never dreamed I'd actually worked for any campaign or get this politically involved in a million years. To be honest with you. It wasn't just to Andrew, you know, that, that also galvanized me. 

And I think a lot of people in the last four years, I think there was a certain president in office that made us pay a little more attention to politics in general. You know, when he came in office in 2017, and then we were like, wait a minute, like, what is going on here? And you see the sort of the polarization of America. 

And so you can't help, but like care or want to get involved in something. So when, when that happened, coincided with my friend, deciding to throw his hat in the ring, I was like, whoa, wait a second. And then I, I became, for me, I became super political, you know, in the spectrum of political illness, against the world at large, I'm still nothing. 

But like for me, it was a total 180. Yeah. 

[00:31:56] Siyuan Meng: Yeah. So Asian Americans used to be at the sight line of the civic engagement, but since NGO is president of the campaign, we can see Asian-Americans have become more active politically. Did you see that engagement stay in the long run or you think that's kind of a short-term thing? 

[00:32:17] Brian Yang: I mean, look only the future will tell, right? History is still being written, every election cycle that comes around. But I think that. I've seen a noticeable increase in interest from the AAPI community in politics. Certainly we saw that bear out in the Senate race and early part of this year. I think that again, the last presidency. 

Really opened a lot of people's eyes. I think Andrew and people like, you know, Michelle Wu who's like on the verge of becoming mayor of Boston, right? Other, other political figures or people who have aspirations in the field are bringing people, bringing the traditionally sort of like non engaged Asian American. 

Over to the other side, you know, I, I, I see my friend who runs API vote, right? Christine shed. I know that there's an organization that's brand new, that based out of New York that is going to try to activate the Asian vote through. The blockchain and other like digital means, which I find fascinating. So I think, I think a lot of people are waking up. 

A lot of people are actually doing something about it. And I think I'd like to think it's going to stay. I think once the genie is out of the bottle, you can't put it back in, is it like night and day? I still think it's like incremental, but we're making progress and that's definitely encouraging. And you know, there's always work to be done. 

Until every last person is registered until every last person exercises their right to vote until every last person makes a donation or gets involved like beyond just voting. But there's always something more you can do. But I do think there's been a lot of progress to make, and I don't think that's going to go back. 

[00:34:11] Lucia Liu: I think I, Brian. W what you're saying, how prior to a certain president being elected, a lot of folks just kind of went on with their lives and the most recent, I think, awakening towards how important it is for us to be involved, how important it is for us to have a seat at the table in order to move forward. 

The things that we care about or advocate for our own communities. Isn't didn't really come through. I think personally as well, like I feel like I wasn't as civically engaged or civically involved, or as like aware of what sort of happens in the. You know, space or the closed room where decisions are made. 

Right. And so I think that awakening to your point has like brought a lot of folks who are interested in making change. It's given them a lot of power and it's given them a lot of drive to continue moving forward. So I definitely think that's, that's super helpful. I guess the question is like, how do we kind of maintain that drive? 

Because it is work, right? Like it's, it's a lot of work to like, keep up with politics. There's like elections happening all the time. Right? There's the Memorial race. And then later there's like the governor race and, uh, folks that might be listening to this podcast have like a lot going on. It's like, how do you sort of balance and like keep abreast of all this stuff and, and be a good citizen while still making sure that you can kind of go on with your day to day. 

[00:35:43] Brian Yang: Yeah, that's a good question. Cause I think we all, we all lose sight of like, I mean, I think it's there there's like a. Going on right now as we're recording this, right. It's like national voter registration day or week or something. I'm just like, again, like I know we, we get voters, we get political fatigue, just basically it's like, man, we just got off of like raising all this money and raising awareness about doing this, you know, and already it's like midterms. 

And so what I would say is like, in order to like put perspective around this, like. Look, if you want to see a better world for you, your children, your grandchildren, you know, just as like every day you wake up, you go to work every year, April, whenever it comes around, you have tax filing. Every, you know, there, there are certain things that are just entrenched into our existence, right. 

And civic engagement is, it's not sexy. I get it. You know, no one wakes up and goes, I can't wait to go like knock on some doors or like share this information on online or, or go read up on, on all the policies that 

[00:36:59] Lucia Liu: because nobody's offering 

[00:37:01] Brian Yang: I get. 

[00:37:01] Lucia Liu: day at the end of the school year. That's why 

[00:37:06] Brian Yang: Yeah, exactly. If they only 

[00:37:08] Lucia Liu: people are, would be super excited if I'm vague and super excited to, to go vote, you know? 

[00:37:15] Brian Yang: yeah, I know they got this all backwards. Um, just listen to my mom. No, so, but anything that's good. I feel like you have to work, you know, Commit and lay the foundation. And I think this comes with age too. This is something that, you know, and I mean, I'm inspired by the millennials and the gen Z blocks where I feel like they're waking up to things earlier than, than we have traditionally. 

And I think social media has a lot to do with that, but at the same time, You know, I think, I think once you have kids, once again, perspective is more around you actually, Andrew, the reason he ran for presidency, if, if people don't know was, you know, he always says it's because I have kids and I want to leave the place that we live in a better place than I found it for them. 

Right. And for them to leave it for the next generation. And so, so again, it's not necessarily fun or, or 

[00:38:11] Lucia Liu: It's a responsibility. 

[00:38:12] Brian Yang: Sexy to share. It's a responsibility it's responsibility that we all by simply agreeing to. It's a contract that we have with this country, right. You live here. I mean, for that matter, wherever you live in this world. 

Right. And, you know, I just wish people would take that responsibility more seriously. Um, numbers are still very apathetically low just for, even as simple as. But when it, when you dig in even deeper to like, just when we talk about a real engagement, you know, it drops off even further from donations to, to banking to the rest of it. 

And so but that's, that's the world we live in. 

[00:38:49] Lucia Liu: I guess I have a question for you sort of transitioning into like a different and broader topic around like the recent environment around Asian-Americans and violence towards Asian Americans. Like, do you feel like. Any of that has sort of awakened the community to the fact that in order to make changes across this nation, like we have to have a seat at the table. 

Politically. We have to have, you know, more representation in media. We need to be seen as human. And I think from like a broader topic perspective, just sort of like, I guess curious about your involvement there, because. It, although it's not sort of like directly political it's, it's still like a form of activism. 

Right. Getting other people to see us differently. It's advocating for our community. It's making sure that we're seeing not just as like perpetual foreigners in this country, but more so as humans, right? Like that just came here that, you know, have the right to pursue happiness and want to live good lives here in America. 

[00:39:55] Brian Yang: Right. No, that's totally. I mean, I would never call myself an activist. I mean, that term really belongs, you know, other people truly who deserve and earn that, that label should be carrying that. But, but I, I feel like my form. Of activism, if you will, is like you just said is through what I do. And in terms of storytelling and media portrayals of our community, people that look like me or, or asked, I always feel like the media has such a huge responsibility and shaping the way that others or even ourselves think about. 

Ah, right. Because if you think about it, all of us growing up, we grew up on media. We all have our favorite shows, starting from cartoons to, to whatever you you're currently, you know, what's ever in your queue on your, on your Netflix now. And it's you grow up, not even thinking about it, but, but like when, when you consistently see image. 

Asians being the professional foreigner, being a martial artist, being other, right. It's it just steeps into the mainstream consciousness. That's that's all Asian people are good for and it works. It works the other way to buy, you know, for that matter, like our parents, where, where do people in our community get stereotypes farmed around the black community or the brown community, right. 

For that matter, like it just, it works. Waste right up and down left and right. So, so I, I never take that responsibility, you know, or what I've chosen to do with my life. For the most part, lightly telling these stories and putting a lens on people in our community. That's authentic, that's three dimensional. 

It doesn't mean we're perfect people. There are, there are people in our community that are doing really bad things. Right. There's always that, but, but I, I feel like when. Always portraying us as gangsters. It's always portraying us 

[00:41:59] Lucia Liu: Fu 

[00:41:59] Brian Yang: not American. Yeah. Food man shoe. That's where it gets really like, okay. 

We have to paint the holistic picture of our, of our non monolithic community. And so, so that's yeah. That's what drives me every day. I do think that, yeah, it goes hand in hand with politics and, and all the things, that thing, things that have been happening last year. Year and a half around Asian hate and the Sinophobia that rose from COVID-19. 

Absolutely. I mean, that's why you see so many. Entertainers and politicians out there Armand are shoulder to shoulder, trying to fight this fight together. Right. And I, I got really involved with that last year in producing a number of messages, you know, video messages, social media messages. We had a campaign where we were selling apparel that we took money from and donated it back to various causes that were, were fighting the good fight. 

So it's all kind of. 

[00:42:58] Lucia Liu: That's like the All-Americans campaign, right? Ryan, the one that. 

[00:43:02] Brian Yang: Yeah, it was, uh, it was, well, it was evolved into being called all of us. 

[00:43:07] Lucia Liu: Okay. 

[00:43:08] Brian Yang: It's actually something that was founded by Andrew coming on the heels of his presidential loss. And so he's always thinking of ways to try to improve society for America at large, but definitely also for Asian Americans. So, um, I give him a lot of credit for that. 

And, you know, as long as they've known them, as long as he's known me, he knows that this is very passionate cost for me. Right. And I do through media, but if you need me boots on the ground to go do something. For the community. I'm more often than not as long as I have the bandwidth. Like, I'm all about that. 

So we're all in this together. And that's why, again, going back to this, like the original sort of question that set this off is like, in terms of why, or, or how do we get people engaged and staying engaged and what's, what's it all for, you know, like even though it's not fun or sexy or there's no Olympic day guarantee at the end of it, W we, we need to do this because every, every voice matters every, every ounce, right? 

To, to keep propelling our community, our voice, our, our standing in this country. And it's, I see strides being made, which is great, which is tremendous. There's, there's still a lot of work ahead. There's still a lot of things that are outside of our control that are very disappointing and depressing, quite frankly. 

But, but when I see grace Mang, you know, making strikes. In Congress getting bills passed. When I see president Biden in responding to that, I mean, that's, that's huge. Those are things that you only could take someone like grace, right. To get that, that anti Asian hate bill, massive hats off to her. And the people that worked on that to get that passed. 

Those are the things that we don't, we don't see day-to-day but you know, these are the things that are going on behind closed doors that need to be deed. 

[00:44:54] Lucia Liu: absolutely. 

[00:44:54] Brian Yang: And so, yeah. 

[00:44:55] Lucia Liu: I think I really like what you said about politicians and entertainers coming together and using their platforms to reach more people. Because I think at the end of the day, it's like, it's an educational process for, for the community. Right. And, uh, Sean, just to paint over. So it's the COVID-19 hate crimes act. 

That's the act that, uh, grace Mang passed in Congress. Um, But back to sort of the like politicians working together with entertainers to like spread the word. Right. Like, I think at the end of the day, like when you're campaigning, it's all about like educating people, right? It's about educating people about like who you are, what you stand for. 

And. Yeah. I love the fact that like, you know, entertainers can use their platforms to spread messages and, and help support causes that they're passionate about. And we're starting to see more and more Asian American entertainers, um, not just like become lead roles and superheroes, but also stepping out and using their platforms to advocate for the community. 

And I think that's so important. And I think that's also where it's going to help bring us for. 

[00:46:04] Brian Yang: Oh, yeah, definitely. A lot of my auto, my friends, I think of Daniel Dae, Kim instantly. I mean, he's, he's been the flag bearer of our community. The messages that we all are trying to get absorbed into the mainstream. You know, he's, he's been in on so many hearings on Capitol hill in the last year. He's he's, he's constantly doing the yeoman's work and I appreciate him so much for doing that. 

[00:46:31] Lucia Liu: I think you should give yourself some credit. 

[00:46:33] Brian Yang: think we can only, 

[00:46:34] Lucia Liu: We really appreciate the work that you've done in bringing entertainers together with politicians and like advocating for the community. And even though you don't credit yourself as an activist, I do feel like the work that you've done has really spurred a lot of activism and have inspired the next generation of Asian Americans to be more involved and use their talents in order to like push agendas forward. 

So give yourself some 


[00:46:58] Brian Yang: you. Thank you. I, uh, I thank you very much. I'm just, you know, I'm a foot soldier in this community, so that's, that's how I see myself, you know, just doing what I can. 

[00:47:10] Lucia Liu: I feel like you're more than a foot soldier. I think he'd definitely be the, in the, in the air commanding, commanding tears. Yeah. 

[00:47:22] Brian Yang: As only if I bring Olympic day. 

[00:47:24] Lucia Liu: Only Ellie, if you bring Olympic day. I mean, just to kind of, I guess like bring it all back, Brian. So did you participate in the Olympic day 

[00:47:32] Brian Yang: Well, oh my gosh. So I hate, I hate to inform you guys that I never delivered on that promise. Uh, I, I tried to get the school to do. Oh, yeah. I was just another politician that was making some stuff up, but the school wouldn't allow it. I pushed for it. And even though I said it in the speech when push came to show up and they were like, we can't, we can't take a whole day just to goof around my mom's school. 

Didn't they weren't. 

[00:48:06] Lucia Liu: you go full circle, but then that still means you should, you should still vote and you should still be involved and you should still try to make changes even when people tell you no, that's the spirit of our nation, right? 

[00:48:23] Brian Yang: Definitely. 

[00:48:25] Lucia Liu: I feel like this is great. Is there anything in particular that you're interested in talking about that you feel like we've missed or any like upcoming projects? 

[00:48:34] Brian Yang: I mean, there are, there are few things. Our giant leap program just had a pitch day today. 

[00:48:41] Lucia Liu: Congrats. And, and can you explain what giant leap is? 

[00:48:44] Brian Yang: So in line with the sort of, uh, storytelling activism I recently, uh, helped co-found. This is like within the last year, a writers accelerator program, that's focused on finding evolving Asian-Americans screenwriters, television, and film screen screenwriter. Who are trying to get their voices heard, get their stories set up, sold, produced out into the mainstream, into the, onto the airwaves. 

The model is basically kind of like a Y Combinator tech model where you, you find a bunch of different startups and then you, you incubate them and then you help them grow over the course of, in our instance, it was 12 weeks where each of the fellows, the writers, there were seven of them that got mentored by. 

Um, more established writers. And then at the end of the 12 weeks, which culminated today, they have a pitch day with, um, today we had about 40. Different executives, Hollywood executives, people who are looking for ideas and content, they all came and in a zoom room, they sat in on and listen to all the pictures. 

So we got incredible response. Every project afterwards, people reach out to us and say, we want to talk to this. We want to read this. We want to talk to this group, read this. So that's the whole idea. So we're hoping, you know, time will tell, but this class of projects, hopefully we'll, we'll get some of these things produced and, and we want to keep repeating this to model. 

So we just had this just, uh, just happened today. Like literally wrapped through that a couple hours ago as a combination of last it's like three, four months of work. And we really, we started this. In response to the encouraging statistics of sorta the increased amount of interest in a pie stories in Hollywood. 

And at the same time, the dearth of established writers write and create. Because what we found, like there's a bottleneck in the industry here where in response to crazy rotations, front, a strike from 2018, the doors have opened, right. And people are all the exact same Hollywood studios and networks for like, oh, Asian, Asian stories can sell. 

[00:50:57] Lucia Liu: Well, what a 

[00:50:58] Brian Yang: Maybe we should look into that. Yeah. What a concept, maybe we should look for more of these ideas when we've been trying to kind of sell them on that idea for the last, oh, I don't know, like a hundred years, but it finally through, I think a combination of different things, social media, the rise of the far east. idea of content being with the sort of travel more, more seamlessly, because he saw in crazy rich Asians, like it was well received in other parts of the world. It was a story that was set in Singapore and used like international stars, like Michelle Yeoh, as well as in Henry Golding, as well as Asian American stars. 

So there's this kind of this hodgepodge of different like energy. Eastern Western energies like that got put together and it made a lot of money and that's what a Hollywood response is and color green. And so they, so everyone is like, oh, we've got to, we've got to find the next crazy miniature or story by an Asian American. 

Right. And so what happens though is this bottleneck is, is, has been created because everyone wants to what they want. Uh, Delta who wrote crazy rotations. They want to work with John Chu, who directed crazy rotations. They want to work with the same set of actors who were in crazy rich Asians. Everything is just became about, let's just hire everyone that worked on that movie. 

And so that's great for them. All of them are booked for the next 25. Because now everyone wants to work with them. And only then, well then, okay. If you only want to work with these people, like how are you ever going to break out of that bubble? So we need to, we need to have, and I borrow this term from Vietnam. 

When the appeals for winning novelist who wrote a book called the sympathizer, he uses the word narrative plentitude right. Like that's all we're asking for any marginalized community in Hollywood is always asking. We can't be just this sort of. And we can't just keep using just this filmmaker or this writer. 

There should be, we can't be treated as a quota. There has to be again, options, choices. Plentitude right. So giant leap was a direct response to saying, okay, we need to create a pipeline of more writers and more voices that, that the industry can choose from. Someone's got to cultivate these voices because there's only like a small set of approved vendors that are like, oh, I worked on this big show, this big movie, so we can only work with them. 

[00:53:27] Lucia Liu: yeah. To like step up and in and make a big splash. Um, yeah, but like, Brian, I mean, just to tie it all back in, right? Like you're kind of creating the next generation of screenwriters. Hopefully tell our stories and, or just tell like great stories in general. And maybe like down the road, there'll be Asian representation in politics. 

And maybe down the road, like in one of your scripts that one of the writers that you incubate, there's going to be an Asian American president. 

[00:53:56] Brian Yang: I hope so. I think that's definitely around the corner. I, I I've heard these ideas actually, you know, inspired by Andrew's run. People had asked me about, you know, what do you think about this show idea? So you're definitely on the right track. I think there's strength in numbers. That's what it's always about. 

Whether it's voting, whether it's supporting a film that comes out, whether it's creating a platform for more writers to grow. But the more we come together, the more opportunities we create, the more we support and uplift one another, the more we're going to just continue to flourish. It's not like we aren't already here with a seat at the table, but the more we're going to own that and take up the space. 

And just be entrenched in this country to continue to combat this idea of being an other, being a foreigner, you know, that's, that's what informs me. That's what, that's what drives me. Whether it's an entertainment, politics, sports, that's all tied together. 

[00:54:55] Lucia Liu: Absolutely. Thank you. Great way to end the end, the interview. So, Brian, thank you so much for your time. This is great. I'm really 

[00:55:05] Brian Yang: Yeah. Thank you. Thank you all.