May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, and each year the celebration kicks off with the A100—a list of notable Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) leaders across entertainment, politics, business, fashion, sports and tech.
This year’s A100 list features an incredibly diverse selection of people across the Asian diaspora who are breaking boundaries. From Saturday Night Live’s Bowen Yang and Best Picture winner (for Parasite) Bong Joon-ho to transgender model Geena Rocero and comedians Hasan Minhaj and Awkwafina, celebrities are well represented. But the list also features business leaders, including New York Stock Exchange executive vice chairman Betty Liu, Boxed CEO Chieh Huang and Sephora CMO Deborah Yeh.
The full list of 2020 A100 honorees is available on a website created by Asian-owned creative agency Barrel in partnership with Gold House, the nonprofit coalition of Asian cultural leaders that puts together the annual honors. For this year, Gold House decided to introduce a new lifetime achievement award called the Legend Honor. Its inaugural recipients include Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and fashion designer Prabal Gurung.
There are even two former Democratic presidential candidates on the list: Kamala Harris and Andrew Yang.
This year, celebrating those with Asian heritage is perhaps more important than ever. Along with the global spread of the coronavirus over the past few months came anti-Asian sentiment, fueled by misinformation and ignorance. From verbal attacks to violent hate crimes, the problem has become so widespread that multicultural marketing firm Admerasia partnered with nonprofits and other groups to track anti-Asian incidents on an interactive map.
“It is as important as ever to highlight leaders in the Asian community and support one another,” Gurung told Adweek. “When we uplift each other, it is a show of solidarity to the world that we are here, we are united, and we aren’t going anywhere. Also, unity within our own community allows us to be stronger allies to other minority groups. Right now, you can support the AAPI community by speaking out against racism using whatever platform you have (big or small) and supporting small businesses.”
Asian Americans across all industries appear to be impacted by the wave of discrimination. In early April, Adweek partnered with Fishbowl to survey Asian Americans in advertising and marketing; over 70% said they had encountered bias related to the pandemic.
So a little good news, and a lot of celebration, is especially welcome.
“Recognizing AAPI leaders feels particularly important during this difficult time because it helps to show other Asian-Americans that we are a community—something that a lot of us have felt was lacking until recent years—and that we are truly a force to be reckoned with,” said Allure editor in chief Michelle Lee. “In the current climate, with racist acts against Asian Americans on the rise, it also shows that we’re a group that can’t and won’t be silenced.”
The website Stop AAPI Hate received over 1,100 reports of anti-Asian hate incidents in just two weeks after it launched on March 19. But discrimination isn’t the only reason why the 2020 A100 honors felt especially impactful to Gold House and many of the leaders on the list. It’s also the year of the U.S. Census, and despite being the fastest-growing population in the country, Asian Americans are the group least likely to respond to the census survey.
Gold House partnered with the U.S. Census on this year’s A100, and plans to hold a virtual event in May with honorees speaking about the state of Asian America and the community’s future.
“America is at its best and is the strongest when the country is united,” Huang said. “History has shown that rising to challenging moments together is our most effective cultural antibody against any threat. Unfortunately, we find ourselves in one of those moments today. By highlighting Asian American leaders now, the world can see that this diaspora has made, is making and will continue to make important contributions to pre- and post-Covid America.”