Stop Asian Hate Crimes with SquidTropica
When your canvas is an entire wall, it’s not hard to draw attention. Los Angeles-based artist Lauren YS’s vibrant murals can be found turning heads all across the United States, and their art has featured in galleries across the globe. Lauren’s art draws on their background in academics, writing, teaching, and animation, and features themes inspired by dreams, comics, psychedelia, and their mixed Asian American heritage. With their partner, Polartropica, they formed the art collective SquidTropica in 2020 to support LGBTQ+ BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) artists across the country through informational resources and microgrants.
For mediums as high-profile as murals, it’s important to consider what message you want to send with your art. Covering a sprawling wall in Los Angeles’ Chinatown, Lauren’s most recent mural was a direct response to the rise in racism against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI). The design is an homage to Asian resilience, and with the text “STOP ASIAN HATE CRIMES/PROTECT OUR ELDERS” featuring prominently on the piece, the message is loud and clear.
Initially, Lauren printed the design on posters to raise money and share the art outside of Los Angeles, but the demand for shirts was too much to ignore. Says Lauren, “Since launching the poster campaign ‘STOP ASIAN HATE CRIMES’ we have been inundated with requests for tees, so the collaboration with Custom Ink came through at the right time to help us spread the word and awareness of the increasing and unprovoked attacks on the Asian American community. The tees and hoodie are part of the ongoing effort to curb anti-Asian hate and raise awareness about the history of the Asian American Diaspora.”
With Custom Ink’s Fundraising platform, Lauren could spread this message through the power of custom apparel. Printing a simplified version of the design on unisex t-shirts and pullover hoodies in a broad range of sizes provided the most inclusive options for supporters. Regardless of which option they choose, people can promote this message of solidarity across the world in addition to supporting SquidTropica and the non-profit organization Stop AAPI Hate.
Through SquidTropica, Lauren and their partner have been able to use funds raised from the use of the Stop Asian Hate Crimes image to support queer AAPI artists who are creating art that confronts anti-Asian rhetoric. It is extremely important to Lauren to give resources to these artists and to amplify their voices. “We belong here. Asian American stories are our own; we will choose how to tell them, how we are seen, and who we are,” says Lauren. “If we can all commit to solidarity, kindness, and education throughout our communities instead of leaning to racism to inform the way we scapegoat, what if we focused on the systems and structures that create racism in the first place? I have a lot of hope for a world where we protect each other, we give each other power.”
Stop AAPI Hate, the non-profit that the fundraiser benefits, is a reporting center created in March 2020 in response to the rise in xenophobia and bigotry against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the U.S. as a result of COVID-19. Realizing that addressing anti-Asian racism requires an end to all structural racism directed at Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color, Stop AAPI Hate takes a multi-level approach to their work. Backed by the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council, the Chinese for Affirmative Action group, and the Asian American Studies Department at San Francisco State University, the group has been able to raise national awareness about anti-Asian hate with their reports and advocacy for justice for the community.
Custom apparel can be more than just fashion, and art can find an audience outside of a gallery space. Making a statement like “Stop Asian Hate” helps raise awareness of the racism experienced by the community and shows the wearer’s solidarity with others to make the world a better place. Being able to support a great cause in the process just adds to the importance of setting up a fundraising campaign.