On Friday, July 3, 2020, the Pro Bono and Community Service Committee of the Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY) launched a flyering campaign to promote the new Remote Pro Bono Legal Clinic in Chinatown and Koreatown. The event was organized by William Lee, Associate at Alston & Bird and an active member of the Pro Bono Committee. The goal of the campaign was to ensure that Asian American small businesses had access to the Pro Bono Clinic’s various resources during this time of great need. Many law students from local APALSAs, including Fordham, Cardozo, and Columbia, volunteered at the start of the 4th of July holiday weekend to assist in distributing the flyers to local businesses.
The Chinatown volunteers were led by Dianna Lam and May Wong, frequent volunteers for the Pro Bono Clinic, and those in Koreatown were led by Will Lee. Both campaigns were very successful, and Dianna Lam and May Wong were even interviewed for the “Around the Boroughs” segment of Spectrum News NY1. Dianna and May emphasized the importance of the Remote Pro Bono Legal Clinic, especially for smaller businesses impacted by COVID-19. Both groups ended the day with a volunteer appreciation lunch at the West New Malaysian Restaurant on Bowery Street. The group was able to sit at tables set up outside the restaurant, spaced out so that they could maintain a social distance.
We thank the Pro Bono Committee members, including Will Lee, Dianna Lam, and May Wong, for their leadership during this campaign. We also thank the students and volunteers who took the time to help the Remote Clinic reach more individuals and businesses in need of legal information. The Pro Bono Committee will be organizing similar campaigns in Flushing, Queens and Bay Ridge, so if you are interested in volunteering, please add your name to this document. Read AABANY’s press release about the Remote Pro Bono Clinic here. For more information on the Pro Bono Committee, see https://www.aabany.org/page/117. To find out more about AABANY’s pro bono resources, visit aabany.org/probono.
On June 16, 2020, the LGBT Committee of the Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY) hosted a panel discussion addressing the importance of Asian-Black solidarity. The panel featured: Jennifer Ching, Executive Director at North Star Fund and former Project Director of the Queens Legal Services (LSNYC) and Director of New York Appleseed; Jin Hee Lee, Senior Deputy Director of Litigation at the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund; Jason Wu, Attorney at the Legal Aid Society and Political Chair for GAPIMNY; and Jo-Ann Yoo, Executive Director at the Asian American Federation.
Jennifer Ching began by defining Asian-Black solidarity as acting out of an understanding that Black and Asian American history, current challenges, and futures are completely connected and interdependent. She cited the term “Asian American” as an example of this solidarity, as it was coined in the 1960s by Asian Americans who were inspired by the emerging Black Power Movement. She also acknowledged that solidarity can be deeply uncomfortable and involves the willingness to take risks and give up power. Jennifer Ching concluded by explaining the three M’s of solidarity: Mind, knowing the influence of Black Americans on the Asian American movement; Money, moving one’s money to Black communities to express solidarity; and Mobilization, taking action to change one’s practices and the practices of those around them.
Jo-Ann Yoo explained how the Asian American Federation shows solidarity towards other communities. The organization is fighting against COVID-19 based anti-Asian racism through bystander training, mental health sessions, and collaborating with other peoples of color in order to emphasize the need for solidarity with communities that have experienced similar racism. The Asian American Federation has also addressed the disproportionate effect COVID-19 has had on small businesses owned by people of color through active policy discussion with the Mayor’s office.
Jin Hee Lee discussed how anti-black racism within the Asian American community fueled by misguided acceptance of the model minority myth has perpetuated perceived Asian invisibility. She challenged the zero-sum mentality that pits communities of color against each other and called for Asians to rise above being exploited by conservatives seeking to combat affirmative action programs. By buying into the colorblind myth of meritocracy, Asian Americans have benefitted from the discrimination against Black and Latinx communities. However, with conversations regarding race becoming increasingly normalized, she hopes that this normalization can provide an opportunity for those within our community to “reevaluate their understanding of race and the structural support systems that uphold white supremacy.”
Jason Wu then discussed the intersectionality of Black liberation with other social movements and the necessity for allies to take a unified stance on the wider systemic issues that have marginalized different overlapping communities. By understanding that social prejudices and inequities are a product of ingrained, systemic issues, we can better understand the political and social structures that we work around and within that have perpetuated bias. In particular, with the Asian American and Black communities, the commonality between them is important in understanding the conflict felt by those of mixed Black and Asian heritage and the racialization of South Asians and Muslims in connection with immigration policy.
The panel concluded with a Q&A, most notably addressing the generational differences within the Asian American community that have fueled anti-Black racism. As Jennifer Ching states, it is necessary to build a “vocabulary of shared experiences” that acknowledges the personal trauma of older Asian Americans while shifting the conversation to the systemic racial inequities that have harmed the Asian American and other POC communities. The panel also answered questions regarding the role lawyers play in perpetuating biased power structures. While lawyers may operate within a legal system marred by racial prejudice, understanding the law is critical in recognizing and combating systemic racism. Only by recognizing injustices in the law can we rectify systemic issues embedded into our national identity and begin healthy conversations about race.
We would like to thank the panelists for taking the time to offer their thoughts and begin these difficult conversations and the AABANY LGBT Committee for organizing this event. If you wish to contribute to the fight against racial injustice, please contact John Vang at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about the struggles of the Black community for racial justice, take a look at AABANY’s Juneteenth blog for a list of relevant resources.
To view a recording of the discussion click here or on the screenshot above.
During this period of upheaval caused by the evolving Covid-19 pandemic, the Asian American Bar Association of New York (“AABANY”) will be reopening its pro bono legal clinic in a remote capacity to continue aiding the Asian Pacific American community with legal issues including: immigration, housing, employment, family, and elder law. To promote the remote clinic as well as other rich resources relating to the Covid-19 pandemic that AABANY has developed, student volunteers will be going door-to-door this Friday, July 3, to share informational flyers with Asian neighborhood small businesses and residents in Manhattan and Queens.
AABANY’s Pro Bono Legal Clinic opened in 2015 to serve members of the Asian Pacific American community who have limited English proficiency (“LEP”) so that they can have meaningful access to justice. Mobilizing the skills and experience of AABANY’s diverse membership, the Pro Bono and Community Service Committee has spearheaded the Clinic’s effort in helping nearly 2,000 LEP individuals in the vast yet underserved Asian American community in New York through its Clinics in Manhattan’s Chinatown and Brooklyn’s Bay Ridge neighborhoods. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, AABANY’s walk-in clinic hours unfortunately had been suspended indefinitely. However, individuals from the Asian Pacific American community can now call and request remote assistance from volunteer attorneys by phone.
Student volunteers from the Asian Pacific American Law Student Associations (“APALSAs”) of NYU, Brooklyn Law, Cardozo, Columbia, CUNY Law, Hofstra, New York Law School, St. John’s, Fordham, Cornell, and Harvard have been working hard to promote the clinic and AABANY’s compilation of Covid-19 related resources via social media and email through their networks and community contacts. On Friday, July 3, they will go into the neighborhoods of Chinatown, Koreatown, Woodside, and Elmhurst to directly get the information out to the community.
“During these unprecedented times, there is a tremendous need for free legal assistance. Many cannot even afford to meet their basic needs and yet they still face many legal issues with nowhere to turn. I applaud the Asian American Bar Association of New York for offering this much needed service to the immigrant community and the community at large,” says New York Committeewoman Sandra Ung, who in March was set to open the Queens expansion of the Pro Bono Clinic in Downtown Flushing until the shutdown was announced.
“The serious challenges brought on by COVID-19 have severely impacted the APA community in New York,” states AABANY President Sapna Palla. “AABANY’s Pro Bono Clinic has served the APA community for many years before COVID-19 with competent legal services and information, overcoming linguistic, cultural and financial barriers. AABANY is pleased to be able to continue the vital work of the Pro Bono Clinic through remote operations, with proper regard for the health and safety of our community members, so that we can continue assisting them with their legal issues during these unprecedented times.”
On Wednesday June 24th, Consilio held a virtual webinar for the 4th Annual APAC Conference, co-sponsored by AABANY. The event was moderated by AABANY member, Mengyi “Jason” Ye and Consilio Director, Brent Stevens. Discussion was led by three panelists, including Farhat Jabeen, Managing Director at Consilio; Geoffrey Sant, Partner at Pillsbury; and Meg Utterbeck, Partner at King and Wood Mallesons.
Topics discussed included:
Article 177 from the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC). This newly-issued ruling precludes Chinese companies listed offshore that are under investigation from transferring any information offshore for the purposes of responding to a US regulator.
Cross Border Balancing Test. This test addresses the proper application of the Aerospatiale balancing test.
Discovery constraints and logistics. The panel discussed how to properly execute discovery that aligns to ever changing regulatory pressures in the context of the current COVID-19 pandemic.
For those who couldn’t attend the virtual conference but are interested, click here to view the recorded event.