Still from White House video soliciting votes. “My Asian Americana” is highlighted on top left hand corner.”
In November 2011, the White House launched the “What’s Your Story” video challenge, asking the AAPI community to submit videos about the “issues that matter the most” to them. The Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders office received over 200 submissions and narrowed it down to 10 videos the public could vote on. But the video with the most votes (by a landslide) was ignored in the end.
The film that earned the highest numbers of votes, “My Asian Americana,” looks at the intersection between the criminal justice system and immigration. The video features a dozen men and women talking about being deported to a country they don’t know and what they remember and miss from the United States.
The videos submitted “remind us of why we do the work we do here to make sure your voices are heard,” a White House staffer says in a video thanking those who submitted videos. “With your help we’ll invite an exceptional group of finalists hear to the White House to share their stories in person with officials from President Obama’s administration,” says another staffer in the video.
But the filmmakers say the White House “formally refused to invite” them to an April 5th, 2012 event that included the finalists.
Still from White House video detailing what videos should address.
“Although ‘My Asian Americana won the votes,’ we didn’t win the trip to the White House,” reads a statement from the filmmakers on their site. “Instead we won the hearts of over 13,000 people who cared enough to give this issue a voice.”
“It is election year and the Obama administration has done a great job to avoid addressing real concerns. So much so that they would ignore a democratic process that voted the issue of deportations as a critical problem facing AAPI communities,” the filmmakers said.
Colorlines.com contacted White House communications officials on March 2nd and the 14th to ask questions about the winners of the challenge shortly after it ended. Both emails went unanswered.
“The video is just too true for this administration to handle so it was excluded,” said Seth Wessler, Colorlines.com’s investigative reporter.
“The point is that this video does too good a job of calling out fundamental flaws built into our immigration enforcement system and laws: that there’s little judicial discretion in the deportation process that regularly deports people who are Americans but for a piece of paper,” Wessler said.
“For the administration to admit this would be to acknowledge a deep structural problem in a system that it has otherwise embraced, expanded upon and entrenched more deeply within the daily function of our criminal justice system.”
On April 2nd, Studio Revolt, the collaborative media lab that developed “My Asian Americana” held their own event celebrating their win. They dubbed the event “Champions of Change, too” honored the creators and collaborators of the film. Organizers say the event was a statement against the White House’s attempt to silence voices criticizing deportations.