AALDEF: Report from 2012 Gala

February 10, 2012 – CNN Host Fareed Zakaria, Yale Law School Professor Jean Koh Peters, and Parkin Lee of The Rockefeller Group were honored with the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund’s (AALDEF) 2012 Justice in Action Awards on February 8, 2012.

Juju Chang, Emmy Award-winning correspondent for ABC News Nightline, and Sree Sreenivasan, Dean of Student Affairs and digital media professor at Columbia Journalism School, were the co-emcees for the banquet, with Daily Show correspondent, actor, and master of satire Aasif Mandvi as the special guest. Chang and Sreenivasan, both long time supporters of AALDEF, began by sharing their highlights of the past year, from Chang’s interviews with celebrities like Celine Dion to Sreenivasan’s ambush by right-wing activist James O’Keefe.

Over 800 leaders in civil rights, law, business, and the arts attended the ceremony at Pier Sixty in New York City. Among the guests were past Justice in Action Award recipients including actor BD Wong, AB Cruz III, Harold Koh, Sandra Leung, and Don Liu. Elected officials and judges were also part of the crowd, including New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, U.S. Circuit Judge Denny Chin, and Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, who currently graces the cover of TIME magazine (leading emcee Sreenivasan to joke that his celebrity factor was compensation for New York Knicks player Jeremy Lin’s absence.)

AALDEF Executive Director Margaret Fung wished the audience a happy lunar new year and reminded them of the necessity of their support. “There are reports of the NYPD’s targeting of Muslims and South Asians under the guise of national security,” said Fung. “Just this week, the Superbowl featured a racist political ad by Republican candidate Pete Hoekstra mocking Chinese people. So in the Year of the Dragon, we have our work cut out for us.”

The power of the immigrant experience in the United States was a theme throughout all three acceptance speeches. “We are creating the first universal nation,” said honoree Fareed Zakaria. “Ten years before I became a citizen, I began using the word ‘we’ to describe the United States. There isn’t a country like this where people from all over the world come and are entirely included in the process.” (View clip on YouTube)

Parkin Lee, former president of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) Law Foundation and Vice President of The Rockefeller Group, spoke about his childhood growing up in a Chinese hand laundry after World War II. “This country was built on the strength and creativity of immigrants who came here and made lives for themselves,” said Lee.

Honoree Jean Koh Peters, the renowned children’s rights and immigrants’ rights scholar, reminded the audience of the value of public service. “Never let your skill exceed your virtue,” Peters said.

The night ended with Aasif Mandvi’s hilarious and deeply politically incorrect stand-up. “I thought they were filming this portion of the show for Comedy Central, but really it’s for the NYPD,” he began. Mandvi added, “AALDEF is at the forefront of fighting for the rights of Muslim Americans. If you believe that all Americans should live in a free and equal society – and I can’t imagine why you would – then please support the organization.”

Since 1987, AALDEF has awarded the Justice in Action Award to exceptional individuals for their efforts in advancing social justice and human rights for Asian Americans. Past Justice in Action Award recipients include the late civil rights icons Fred Korematsu and Gordon Hirabayashi, David Henry Hwang, Mira Nair, Deval Patrick, Salman Rushdie, Seymour Hersh, Charles Ogletree, Jr., Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, Harry Belafonte, Juan Gonzalez, Margaret Cho, and Yoko Ono.

The Rockefeller Group was a 2012 Justice Circle sponsor.

All proceeds from the Lunar New Year Gala will go directly towards supporting AALDEF’s legal and educational programs in immigrant rights, economic justice for workers, voting rights and civic participation, affirmative action, language access to services, youth rights and educational equity, housing and environmental justice, Census policy, and the elimination of hate violence, police misconduct, and human trafficking.

View video clips from the awards at the Justice in Action webpage >

Please credit the following images to Lia Chang.

For more information, photos, videos, and updates, visit our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter.


Ujala Sehgal
(P) 212.966.5932 ex.217
© 646.207.1497
[email protected]


Wednesday, February 22nd, 6 – 9 p.m.
New York University
Kimmel Center for University Life, 10th Floor
60 Washington Sq. South, New York, NY

Women’s Foreign Policy Group Mentoring Fairs provide an opportunity for students and young professionals to meet with international affairs professionals and learn from their career experiences. Unlike a career fair, the focus is on entering and succeeding in international career fields, not just opportunities at particular companies. This year we are cosponsoring the event with New York University.

Mentors are mid- to senior-level women and men working in international affairs who want to sit down with aspiring leaders to give career guidance and practical advice. Sectors include international development, NGOs, human rights, international law, international health, international business, diplomatic service, the UN, journalism, and communications.

Join as a mentor, register as a student, or just find out more at [email protected]

Building Our Legacy: The Murder of Vincent Chin – A Trial Reenactment

Thursday, February 16, 2012
6:00 – 9:00 PM
Fordham Law School,
140 West 62nd Street
South Lounge, Lowenstein Cafeteria.
The Vincent Chin Trial Reenactment is part of a series of historic Asian American trials, which Judge Denny Chin has edited and adapted from actual court transcripts.  The public outcry and media attention surrounding the trial prosecuting the murderers of Vincent Chin served to catalyze the birth of the modern Asian American civil rights movement.  Come see Fordham APALSA’s production of this historic trial, which will be accompanied by a reception and Q&A discussion with Judge Denny Chin.

Please RSVP using this link

KAPA presents: What Happened to Danny Chen?

Last October, Private Danny Chen was found dead in a guard tower in Afghanistan, allegedly from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Although admitting that Pvt. Chen was subject to daily physical abuse and race-based hazing by his superior officers and comrades, the military initially provided little information about its investigation to the grieving Chen family. This changed only after Organization of Chinese Americans-NY Chapter (OCA-NY) spearheaded a tremendous organizing and advocacy campaign to bring justice to Pvt. Chen and his family. Eight soldiers are now facing charges ranging from dereliction of duty to involuntary manslaughter in connection with his death.

On Wednesday, February 15, KAPA will host a speaker series event featuring OCA-NY President Liz OuYang and Board member Esther Choi. They will speak about the history of this case, the likelihood that those responsible for Pvt. Chen’s death will be brought to justice, civil rights issues and lessons learned for the Asian American community, and next steps.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012
6:30 – 8:30 p.m.
Arnold & Porter LLP
399 Park Avenue (between 53rd & 54th Streets)


RSVP via Facebook here or email KAPA Steering Committee member Jennifer Kim at [email protected].