Westminster political organizers paint murals to inspire Asian American representation in polls


Photo credit Isabel Kase

Lagisetti’s mural across a stone wall inspires viewers to vote.

In light of a historical election and the recent victory of president-elect Joe Biden and vice president-elect Kamala Harris, many Americans have focused their attention on the future of this country. Senior Akshadha Lagisetti, a political organizer at Westminster, has specifically worked to increase awareness of the underrepresentation of Asian American voices in the polls.

Lagisetti serves on the leadership team of the organization Asian Youth for Civic Engagement (AYCE), acting as the co-director of civic and creative engagement. This organization, led by Asian American high school students from across the country, seeks to increase political engagement and inspire activism in Asian American youth, which Lagisetti and junior Diane Chen aim to do through their latest project. 

“Asian American Pacific Islanders are actually the most underrepresented group when it comes to voting,” said Chen. “We have the lowest turnout rates, so the goal of this project is to encourage those people to go out and hit the polls. We’ve been painting murals at different sites in AAPI (Asian American Pacific Islander) neighborhoods, like Buford Highway, on bubble tea shops, and Indian restaurants.”

The murals are most effective in places such as Buford Highway, which have a large concentration of Asian Americans. Lagisetti and Chen hope to reach a wide array of Asian Americans through these murals.

Lagisetti and Chen have also been working with an organization called Paint Love, whose mission is to empower youth through art and murals. The murals display groups of people standing under slogans such as “Vote!” and “Register.” Lagisetti’s favorite mural is the largest one that they have created yet: an eight-by-ten-foot mural painted on the side of a bubble tea shop. The “VOTE!” slogan is simple, yet effective.

Lagisetti, Chen, and senior Charles Campbell have participated in the on-site painting of some of these murals, six of which have already been completed and four of which are still in the works.

“[The project] is amazing,” says Upper School visual arts teacher Michael Reese. “Bringing awareness to the idea of people voting is a civic duty. She’s not the age at which you can vote, so I think that’s an amazing way to participate in the democratic process without actually having to legally vote.” 

Lagisetti made the point of making one thing absolutely clear: she is not an activist. She says most people who attend Westminster can afford not to be affected by real world issues that need real activism. Instead, she prefers to be called a political organizer. One day, she might become a lawyer, or work on political campaigns. She’s not exactly sure about a career, but she knows that she is passionate about increasing Asian American representation. 

Just after an election fraught with discussion of which demographics are voting for who, it seems that the work of Lagisetti and other political organizers like her may have paid off. Through the work of organizers like Lagisetti and the board of AYCE, hopefully the number of eligible Asian American voters will continue to increase. According to a survey done by AAPI Data, 54 percent of Asian American voters said they would vote for Biden, 30 percent said Trump, 15 percent said they didn’t know, and 1 percent said they would vote “other.” Since the recent victory of Biden, it remains to be seen whether this year was a banner year for Asian American representation in the polls. 

Lagisetti’s work, partnering with AYCE and Paint Love to create murals, is representative of her true commitment to civic engagement. Students like Lagisetti, Chen, and Campbell, who committed an extensive amount of  time to paint these murals, hope that their work will continue to inspire many young people to get up and get engaged, just like them. 

Editor’s Note: If you’re interested in getting involved with AYCE or becoming more politically active, you can email Lagisetti and Chen at [email protected] and [email protected] respectively. You can also visit the AYCE website at aycevote.com.