Make Noise Today aims to combat Asian American hate crimes through stories, education and empathy

Following the rise in negative media and hate crimes against Asians since the beginning of the pandemic, the initiative was launched as a way of standing up and taking action against racism.

29 June 2021

A New Angle is an editorial series that aims to give a platform to creative industry changemakers who make it their mission to disrupt the status quo. Each week we’ll chat to a person or team doing important work in the sector, making it a fairer place, championing vital causes, supporting underrepresented groups and tackling pertinent issues facing creatives everywhere

This week we hear from Make Noise Today, an initiative launched in May 2020 in honour of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. Following negative media and hate crimes against Asians which escalated over the course of the pandemic, the founders decided it was time to take action and be heard. Through education, increasing empathy and inspiring action, the initiative aims to combat racism by sharing personal stories of all aspects of life for the Asian American community and those from minority groups. Below, Julia Huang, CEO of Intertrend and Make Noise Today, discusses mindfulness, standing up, and taking action when it comes to racism and amplifying stories of heritage.

It’s Nice That: What about the creative industry are you hoping to change, and why does it need changing?

Julia Huang: I’m not sure if it’s the change in the industry I hope for so much as awareness. The creative industry needs to be more aware of the impact it can have on the issue of racial equity. Not everyone needs to be an activist, but the industry needs to be mindful of the blind spots regarding injustice in what we create and the environment we work in.   

Already, designers and authors such as Kat Holmes in her book Mismatch, are advocating how creativity and design can remedy exclusion. Such awareness should carry over to social justice as well.

INT: What have you built, and how does it tackle these industry issues?

JH: We started an initiative in 2020 called Make Noise Today to advocate narrative plenitude — to stop Asian American stories from conforming to only how we are perceived, relying on monolithic narratives to shape Asian American identity. We believe it necessary to work ourselves out of narrative scarcity: to combat racism by amplifying our stories of heritage and accomplishments, challenges and grit, inspiration, and culture. We deliberately focused on empathy building rather than the recent rise in hate around Asian Americans through storytelling. It’s a step in making sure the Asian American viewpoints and stories shared build an economy of narrative plenitude and inform the public about the rich texture of Asian American history, culture and identity.

INT: What other organisations are out there like yours, and what sets yours apart?

JH: Many official and grassroots organisations focus on stopping violence against Asian Americans and building allyship – Stop AAPI HateAct-to-Change and Rise are among a few. We highlight, include and update these organisations on Make Noise Today’s website. There is no one organisation nor an initiative that can tackle the existing number of social injustices or the growing number of anti-Asian incidents. As I mentioned earlier, Make Noise Today focuses on storytelling to combat racism. Most recently, we have specifically directed our effort in education involving youth. Along with educators, we have begun developing toolkits that teach brands, youth and educators how to be empowered to tell stories and create space for discussions on race.

INT: What are the significant challenges you’re facing?

JH: The challenges we face are both internal and external. Personally, the helpless rage I have been feeling since the rise of anti-Asian incidents has been heavy. To say that we have to come out of our comfort zone is an understatement. To push ourselves to “stand up and speak up” is an easy enough hash-tagged slogan to have on a placard but taxing to act upon. But we cannot let mental fatigue prevail and let these incidents fade from our memories when another headline takes over the current one.

INT: What can the creative industry do to support your mission?

JH: Being a thoughtful listener is a good start. Unlearn the hierarchical way we look at multicultural markets. We cannot prioritise one race over another to achieve social justice. If you are already starting a conversation on eradicating racial injustice, make sure Asian American voices are included and heard. The most significant step we need to take for the changes to happen is to work together at the same table, with all voices heard.

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About the Author

Ayla Angelos

Ayla is currently covering Jenny as It’s Nice That’s online editor. She has spent nearly a decade as a journalist, and covers a range of topics including photography, art and graphic design. Feel free to contact Ayla with any stories or new creative projects.

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