On Sunday, March 30, at the Flushing Library, members of the Asian American and Specialized High Schools community, including education activists, SHS alum, parents, and students, met to address the NAACP complaint leveled against the single test criteria for admission to the NYC high-performing Specialized High Schools, backed by AALDEF (Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund).
With the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test as the only criteria for admission, the racial composition of the SHS consists of a high percentage of Asian Americans (72% at Stuyvesant) disproportionately low number of Latino and especially African American students (less than 1% black students at Stuyvesant), a major issue of concern in NYC. Panelists and community members shared opinions, arguments for and against opening the criteria for admission, and personal experiences as parents and students in the testing system.
Panelists included: Roksana Mun (Youth Organizer, DRUM), Mitch Wu (Program Manager, Coalition for Asian American Children & Families), Larry Cary (President, Brooklyn Tech Alumni Foundation*), Stanley Ng (BTHS Alumnus & Lower Manhattan Representative for Citywide Council on High School), Catherine Zhou (Stuyvesant Alum & Education Activist), Michael F. Han (SHS Parent), Kathy Wang (SHS Student), Shikha Rawat (SHS Student & Youth Leader from DRUM). The moderator was Nelson Ma, lifelong New Yorker, AABANY member and Education Law Specialist.
Roksana Mun (left) and Mitch Wu (center left) represented views that support opening the criteria for admission to include top students and across different New York neighborhoods. They also discussed issues of standing in solidarity with other communities of color, Asian American issues of identity and the “model minority” myth, and the problematic nature of many expensive test prep academies, which many working class and immigrant families will work long hours at hard jobs to pay for. Larry Cary (center right) and Stanley Ng (right) represented views that support the SHSAT as the most non-political and least easily biased admission for acceptance and offered alternative explanations for the discrepancy. Larry Cary and Stanley Ng contextualized the larger disparities within the New York City public school system and presented case studies of schools that opened admission criteria and yet still failed to promote diversity.
Above: Catherine Zhou shares concerns about recent cheating scandals and the test culture created out of the high-pressure single test system.
Above: Stanley Ng presents information about the neighborhoods feeding into the Specialized High Schools. He pointed out that the willingness of Asian American students to travel a long commute for their education, as well as a lack of seats for public high schools in Queens if similar numbers of Asian American Queens residents do not feed into the SHS system.
We can all agree that every NYC student deserves the best education possible. A special thank you goes out to Chris Kwok, Labor and Employment Law Committee Co-Chair, and Nelson Mar for organizing and moderating an event revolving around an important issue that affects the Asian American community!
Co-sponsored by the Coalition for Asian American Children & Families (CACF) and the Asian American Bar Association (AABANY)
*Appearing in his personal capacity, and not representing the views of the Brooklyn Tech Alumni Foundation
March 26, 2014 – 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.
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 correspondent 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.
Among the guests at Pier Sixty in New York City were U.S. Circuit Judge Denny Chin, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, U.S. District Judge Kiyo Matsumoto, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, Karen Korematsu, the daughter of the late civil rights icon Fred Korematsu, and AALDEF founders Loida Lewis, Arthur Soong, and Ira Glasser. Past Justice in Action Award recipients in attendance included Art Chong, Sandra Leung, Don Liu, Parkin Lee, and Alice Young,
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.
Photo Credit: Lia Chang
Photo Credit: Corky Lee
*SAVE THE DATE*
IMMIGRANTS’ DAY OF ACTION
THURSDAY, APRIL 10, 2014
April 10th is an historic day for our movement. This year, we will be joining groups around the country for a nationwide mobilization demonstrating the power of our movement and calling on lawmakers at the city, state and federal level to enact policies that promote immigrant rights. Please join the New York Immigration Coalition and New Yorkers for Real Immigration Reform together with our allies across New York City for a rally to demand fairness and equality for immigrants in New York and across the country.
We hope you can also join the New York Immigration Coalition in the morning for legislative meetings with our City Council and our new Mayoral Administration to push the NYIC’s City Policy & Budget Priorities, which, if enacted, would strengthen New York City as a national leader on immigrant rights.
Join us and help raise the voice of immigrants in New York City!
To RSVP click here