On May 20, the Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY), along with the Asian Columbia Alumni Association (ACAA), Columbia Law School Association, and the Korean American Lawyers of Greater New York (KALAGNY), co-sponsored the Third Annual Hong Yen Chang Award Ceremony to honor Hyung Bak, Columbia Law School alumnus and General Counsel at Warby Parker.
The Annual Hong Yen Chang Award Ceremony is held in honor of the first known Chinese-American lawyer, Hong Yen Chang (1860-1926). Chang was, himself, a graduate of Columbia Law School and graduated with honors. He was recommended to bar admission, but was prevented from practicing in New York state because he was not a citizen. He brought suit and the New York Supreme Court ruled in his favor, licensing him to practice in New York in 1888. Chang then moved to California, hoping to be admitted to practice in the state but was rejected in 1890 due to the Chinese Exclusion Act. In 2015, more than a century later, the California Supreme Court admitted Chang to the California Bar. In May 2014, AABANY awarded Chang posthumous membership in the association, in celebration of AAPI Heritage Month. Chang was a trailblazer in the legal profession for all Asian Americans who came after him. The Hong Yen Chang Award is thus presented to Columbia alumni who embody Chang’s pioneering spirit and serve as role models and leaders in both their workplace and their communities.
This year’s award recipient, Hyung Bak, is the first lawyer in his immigrant family. As he was growing up, Hyung was all too aware of being “other” at school and at his workplace. He recounted how he was forced to develop a thick skin and persevere despite the comments and discrimination he faced. Hyung also described how he was often overlooked for networking functions, because of his race and the passive stereotypes associated with it. He also emphasized the importance of “claim[ing] your space at the table” as an Asian American to counteract these stereotypes and be heard. Now, Hyung works as General Counsel at Warby Parker, and is a leader in raising awareness surrounding the discrimination Asian Americans face daily. Hyung has led and participated in a number of different forums at Warby Parker about race and diversity, anti-Asian violence, bystander intervention, and many other topics in order to open up the conversation and create a safe space for individuals to discuss these issues. Hyung, through Warby Parker, has also been involved in initiatives to give back to businesses owned by people of color and to increase diverse representation in a number of different fields.
AABANY congratulates Hyung for this well-deserved honor and acknowledges his role as a leader in the Asian American community.
On December 16, 2018, a commemoration of the75th anniversary repeal of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was held at the First Chinese Baptist Church in NYC Chinatown. It was sponsored by the Chinese American Citizens Alliance of Greater NY and AABANY. The entire text of the Chinese Exclusion Act was read, followed by a reading of the writings of Wong Chin Foo, a 19th-century activist who has been called “the first Chinese American,” protesting the Chinese Exclusion Act.
Experts point to the parallels between the political climate of the exclusion era and today: a close and contentious presidential election that stirred anti-immigrant sentiment; the growing economic anxiety of white Americans; and policies that would drastically shape the country’s immigration laws.
On Tuesday, February 21, AABANY co-sponsored a film screening and forum at the Museum of Chinese in America entitled, “Immigration, Exclusion and Acts of Civic Engagement.” The program included a screening of the documentary “Chinese Couplets” by Felicia Lowe, followed by an open forum discussing current immigration issues in the historical context of Chinese Exclusion and ways that the community can become engaged in response to the latest developments. Among the speakers was former Immigration and Nationality Law Committee Co-Chair Tsui Yee.
For an article about the program published in The World Journal, follow the link in the title. Below is a translation provided by Yuqing Tian, AABANY Legal Intern (Fall 2016-Winter 2017), and Government Service and Public Interest Committee Co-Chair Thalia Huang:
seminar on the topic of immigration was held in the Museum of Chinese
American (MOCA) on February 21, 2017. Xiaoan [Elizabeth] Ouyang, former president of
New York Chapter of the Organization of Chinese Americans (OCA-NY),
said that President Trump would bring great threat and panic to the immigrant
community. Ms. Ouyang recommended Chinese communities to apply for citizenship
as early as possible and that Chinese communities, by voting and protesting, can show
the US government that they will not be bullied.
film Dui Lian (Chinese Couplets), created by a Chinese-born independent
television producer Yonge Liu (Felicia Lowe) was shown
in MOCA on the 21st. The movie showed Chinese immigrants’ hardships
during the Chinese Exclusion Act period, by telling the true story of her
mother and herself. Liu’s grandfather used to go to Cuba for a living,
but his business failed. During the World War II, Liu’s grandmother
spent all their savings to get a counterfeit ID for Liu’s mother Jintao Lei,
who then traveled to the US via Zhongshan, Guangdong province. Lei changed
her name six times. Living under the stress of being deported, Lei finally made
her American dream come true by working hard. She finally told her niece and
daughter about her story.
Ms. Ouyang, Muzna Ansari, Immigration
Policy Manager of the New
York Immigration Coalition, MOCA co-founder Guowei
Chen, and immigration lawyer Cuixing Yu [Tsui Yee] also participated in the
discussion following the film, exploring how to unite the Chinese community and
to show our demands, under the panic caused by President Trump’s
Ms. Ouyang said that the attitude towards Chinese
community has changed since the 9/11 terrorist attack. The story of the 19-year-old
Chinese American soldier Yuhui Liu (Danny Chen), who was bullied
to death in the army, also promoted the Chinese immigrants’
civil right awareness.
“Now we are in a very critical moment, nearly half a million people who
are eligible apply for a green card should stand up to become citizens and
vote.” Ms. Ouyang indicated that people who voted for
Trump, thinking that he would not actually implement his campaign slogans but
instead mainly facilitate economic development, will be disappointed to see
that the number of international students will gradually decline, creating a
ripple effect that will undermine the US economy.
said she had many undocumented immigrant clients, who were very much in a
state of panic. Some were even afraid to participate in church activities
because of fear. “My grandfather came to the United States with a fake
identity. He was afraid that ICE would knock at the door and
deport him his entire life. I really want to tell
him not to be afraid.” Yu also reminded the public to be
cautious with immigration fraud.