Mari Matsuda, Professor of Law at University of Hawai’i at Manoa, Aasif Mandvi of “The Daily Show,” and John G. Chou of AmerisourceBergen Corporation were honored with the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) 2014 Justice in Action Awards on March 25, 2014, at AALDEF’s 40th Anniversary Celebration held at Pier 60, Chelsea Piers in New York.
Since 1987, AALDEF has presented the Justice in Action Awards to exceptional individuals for their outstanding achievements and efforts in advancing social justice.
The awards were presented by Charles Ogletree, Jr., Harvard Law School professor and former Justice in Action Award honoree and Judge Ida Chen, the first Asian American female to serve as a judge in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Juju Chang, Emmy Award-winning co-anchor for ABC News Nightline, and Cindy Hsu, Emmy Award-winning anchor for CBS 2, were the co-emcees for the banquet of over 800 to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of AALDEF.
For the 40th Anniversary, AALDEF Executive Director Margaret Fung and Board president Tommy Shi shared the story of the creation of AALDEF 40 years ago. “Our first office was on the second floor of a tenement building in New York’s Chinatown,” said Fung. “We were passionate about our work and believed we could change the world one case at a time.”
Among the challenges ahead for the Asian American community, Fung pointed to the glass ceiling faced by many Asian Americans, the attack on affirmative action programs, the standstill of immigration reform in Congress, and the continuing struggles of human trafficking survivors and immigrant workers seeking to earn a living wage.
AALDEF client Hong-Mei Pang, now organizer of AALDEF’s undocumented youth group RAISE, spoke about the lack of options she had faced prior to garnering AALDEF’s legal representation and joining the movement for immigration reform. “My call to AALDEF became a turning point in my life,” said Pang.
Judge Ida Chen introduced honoree John Chou by thanking AALDEF “for recognizing John Chou for advancing the status of Asian Americans all over the country.” Chou said that by receiving the Justice in Action Award, he was “following in some really big footsteps.” He described AALDEF as representing “lawyers at their best.”
Former honoree Charles Ogletree Jr. introduced honoree Mari Matsuda as a “living legend.” Matsuda shared her advice for young people seeking to stand up for their beliefs. “If you were sitting still and doing nothing, you would get no pushback,” she said. “We need to do the work to make this a better, stronger country for everyone.”
The evening came to a close with honoree Aasif Mandvi taking a rare break from satire to describe the impact of his hit political comedy show “The Daily Show” on addressing racism and bias. “What AALDEF does in a real way, I do in a very small way, by pointing out the absurdity,” he said.
Past Justice in Action Award recipients include Rep. John Lewis, David Henry Hwang, Fareed Zakaria, BD Wong, Sandra Leung, Mira Nair, Deval Patrick, George Takei, Salman Rushdie, Seymour Hersh, Harry Belafonte, Margaret Cho, Yoko Ono, and the late civil rights icons Fred Korematsu and Gordon Hirabayashi.
The 2014 Honorees
John G. Chou is Executive Vice President, General Counsel of AmerisourceBergen Corporation, and two-time past president of the Asian American Bar Association of the Delaware Valley, now the Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Pennsylvania (APABA-PA). Chou actively supports community organizations in Philadelphia including Asian Americans United. He serves on the Boards of Directors of the United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey and Episcopal Community Services in Philadelphia. He has participated in numerous conferences with the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA). “Chou’s principles that professional success must come hand-in-hand with community responsibility make him a role model for Asian American lawyers,” said Margaret Fung, Executive Director at AALDEF.
Mari J. Matsuda is a founding critical race theorist, “activist scholar,” and Professor of Law at University of Hawai’i at Manoa. Matsuda is one of the founders of critical race theory and remains among its most significant voices. In 1998, Matsuda became the first tenured female Asian American law professor in the United States at the University of California at Los Angeles. Through her prolific writing in both law journals and books, Matsuda has had a lasting influence regarding how Asian Americans have fared within the legal system. She continues to work as a volunteer attorney in civil rights cases and serves as a board member in public interest organizations. “Professor Matsuda exemplifies the power of legal scholarship and activist energy that is at the heart of AALDEF’s mission,” said Fung.
Aasif Mandvi is an Indian American actor, comedian, and regular correspondent on the groundbreaking political satirical television show “The Daily Show”. Mandvi is among the most significant Asian American comedians today. In 2008, he won an Obie Award for his critically acclaimed one-man show Sakina’s Restaurant. More recently, he co-wrote and starred in the movie Today’s Special and the Pulitzer Prize-winning play Disgraced. Through his hugely influential platform as a political comedian on The Daily Show, Mandvi has highlighted racial injustice and intolerance in post-9/11 America and has been outspoken about the stereotypes facing actors of color. “We honor Aasif Manvi’s ingenious ability to share hard truths on racial intolerance with a mainstream audience,” said Fung.
The AALDEF Justice in Action Awards recognize exceptional individuals for their outstanding achievements and contributions in advancing justice and equality. Past recipients include the late civil rights icon Fred Korematsu, Congressman John Lewis, David Henry Hwang, Fareed Zakaria, Jose Antonio Vargas, Harold Koh, BD Wong, Mira Nair, Deval Patrick, George Takei, Salman Rushdie, Seymour Hersh, Nicholas Kristof, Sheryl Wu Dunn, Harry Belafonte, Margaret Cho, and Yoko Ono.
Social Media Raffle
Enter AALDEF’s Fourth Annual Justice in Action Social Media Raffle! The rules: If AALDEF reaches 2400 Facebook Likes and 3000 @aaldef Twitter followers by 11:59pm, March 31st, every one (new and old fans and followers both) is automatically entered to win the prize!
PRIZE: Specially donated by Melissa Harris-Perry, we have a “Nerdland” goodies gift basket with an autographed book, towel, hoodie, mugs, and other goodies!
TO ENTER YOUR NAME: Follow @aaldef on Twitter or LIKE AALDEF’s Facebook Page, (do both and double your chances!) If there are up to 3000 followers and 2400 FB fans by 11:59pm on March 31st, everyone is entered.
Share the message with hashtag: #jia2014 and #aaldef40
A winner will be chosen and informed immediately.
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Lia Chang is an actor, a performance and fine art botanical photographer, and an award-winning multi-platform journalist.Lia recently make her jazz vocalist debut in Rome Neal’s Banana Puddin’ Jazz “LADY” at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe in New York.
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