SAN ANTONIO — It’s hard not to smile when you’re making a difference. Members of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders for Justice in San Antonio smile proudly at their voter registration table.
On National Voter Registration Day, the organization visited Ali Baba International Food Market, which attracts Middle Eastern and South Asian shoppers. They also stopped by Filipino restaurants Kain Na and Jollibee.
Lead Community Organizer Myra Dumapias said the most impactful part of their effort was the reaction from customers.
“The look on people's faces when they saw the posters in their own language,” Dumapias said. “When shoppers at Alibaba International Food Market saw the posters, stickers and National Voter Registration Day in Arabic and in the Filipino restaurants they saw the material in Tagalog.”
AAPIs for Justice turns 1 year old in October. Dumapias said a rise in anti-Asian American crimes during the pandemic spurred their movement. They speak up against racism.
“The U.S. is our home,” Dumapias said. “We still sometimes feel some of the hate that is still out there.”
On National Voter Registration Day, they raised the volume of the voices in their community.
This weekend, they’ll also visit Chock Dee, an Asian grocery store, and Noodle Tree, an Alamo City ramen restaurant that was vandalized in March when the owner took a stand on the need for masks.
Vandals spray-painted racist and anti-mask messages on the windows and tables outside the UTSA-area business. People later helped wash away the hateful messages.
“I still remember how the community came together, the Asian and non-Asians came together,” Dumapias said. “Us being at Noodle Tree is symbolic of how, you know, we're still here. We still very much care and we still have a voice.”
According to the U.S. Census, the combined Asian and Pacific Islander population in Bexar County is more than 72,200.
“The 2020 elections and recent data have revealed some key insights,” Dumapias said. “That Asian Americans are the fastest-growing population and despite being usually overlooked in voter outreach, we are becoming a powerful voice in electoral politics.”
Based on estimates from Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote, more than 14,000 Asian Americans in Bexar County are not registered to vote.
Dumapias hopes their participation and persistence change that.
“Being able to vote will allow us a chance to remain conscious of our own identity, our own history, and our capacity to have a voice and impact in our own country,” Dumapias said.
To connect with AAPIs for Justice, visit their Facebook page.