"This isn't just for us, it's for future generations," Ling tells PEOPLE

By Sean Neumann
May 06, 2021 01:09 PM
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A group of actors, musicians, athletes, politicians, advocates and executives are joining together to support the launch of The Asian American Foundation — "to try and change" the problem of misrepresentation "for good."

The foundation will aim to increase awareness, representation, funding, education and more for the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. TAAF has already raised $250 million — the largest funding for an Asian-American organization in history.

"As long as Asians have been in this country, we've been pretty invisible," TV host Lisa Ling, a member of the group's advisory board, tells PEOPLE.

"On all levels, there's just been a gross misrepresentation of Asians," Ling says. "What we are all coming together to do is to try and change that for good."

In a new video announcing the foundation's launch, exclusively debuted above, Ling, Naomi Osaka, Steven Yeun, Kevin Durant, James Harden, Jeremy Lin, H.E.R. and more discuss the importance of racial and social equality.

"We need to create an America that belongs to all of us," journalist and Define American founder Jose Antonio Vargas says in the video.

"This has to be an all out effort and it has to be action oriented," adds Yahoo! co-founder Jerry Yang.

TAAF has also launched a website laying out upcoming projects, including the two-hour See Us Unite television event later this month airing on MTV, Nickelodeon, BET, Facebook Watch and more.

The event will be hosted by actor Ken Jeong and will feature performances by artists like Jhene Aiko, Saweetie and Sting. Ling and actor Daniel Dae Kim will also appear in the special, which will "explore the history and contributions of Asian Americans," according to TAAF.

"We just want people to recognize the fact that we are here, we've been here and we're no longer going to remain in the shadows anymore," Ling, 47, tells PEOPLE. "The last few months and the last year while we've been seeing these attacks on people who look like us, it has been so disheartening and devastating."

The findings of a study released in March of police department statistics shows that hate crimes against Asian Americans rose by nearly 150 percent in 2020, despite hate crimes overall dropping by 7 percent.

Many celebrities and public figures who appeared on TAAF's launch event on Tuesday night — which included messages from Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama — said the recent rise in violence, specifically the Atlanta spa shootings in March, had accelerated the importance of launching the foundation.

"So many of us are spending at least 75 percent of our headspace on this issue every day," Ling says. "It's been hard to focus on anything else. This is life or death for us, and everyone recognizes the significance of this moment."

Ling and others involved with TAAF say that while the recent rise in hate crimes has led to an increased focus on racial injustice against the AAPI community, the foundation's aim is to make permanent change.

And with $250 million in funding and a slate of initiatives like this month's See Us Unite event on the horizon, members of TAAF are confident their work will be enduring.

"It's about fundamentally transforming how we invest in the AAPI community," Indra Nooyi, the former CEO of PepsiCo's and another member of TAAF's advisory board, says in the foundation's launch video.

"This isn't just for us," Ling tells PEOPLE. "It's for future generations."