On Wednesday, February 24, 2021, AABANY hosted its 2021 Virtual Gala: Uniting for Justice and Equity.
The event kicked off at 6 pm with a Pre-Gala Virtual Cocktail Reception on Remo attended by sponsors and special guests, including prominent General Counsels and judges. At 6:30 pm, all Virtual Gala attendees were invited to enjoy a piano concert featuring AABANY Member Renee Yao.
The Virtual Gala started at 7 pm and Kate Siahaan-Riggs, NYC-based actor, stand up comic, and writer, served as emcee. Throughout the gala, AABANY held a text-to-donate fundraiser to support Portrait Project 2.0, the second phase of the Portrait Project study which is researching why Asian Americans are underrepresented in top leadership positions across all sectors of the legal profession and how it can be addressed.
This year AABANY was proud to honor:
Frank H. Wu, President of Queens College, the City University of New York, with the AABANY Impact Award
Sneha Desai, Deputy General Counsel Litigation of BASF Corporation, with the AABANY Women’s Leadership Award
Kirkland & Ellis LLP with the AABANY Law Firm Diversity Award
Ed Lee, AABANY Board Director and Partner at Kirkland & Ellis, accepted the Law Firm Diversity Award on behalf of Kirkland & Ellis LLP. Honoree Sneha Desai delivered an acceptance speech, stressing the importance of individuals in leadership and influential positions to make positive change in diversity and inclusion. The Honorable Denny Chin, U.S. Circuit Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals, 2nd Circuit, hosted a fireside chat with honoree Frank H,. Wu to discuss his career and the work he has accomplished.
In addition, we were also pleased to present the 2021 class of Don H. Liu Scholars: Narissa Ganpat, Minji Kim, and Minh Eric Le.
The Gala concluded with a tribute to Asian American photojournalist and historian Corky Lee who passed away in January due to COVID-19. Corky had taken photos of our past Annual Dinners from its earliest days until 2020.
We thank all of the AABANY Virtual Gala Planning Committee members and volunteers for their hard work in making this year’s celebration a huge success.
We extend sincere thanks to all of our sponsors. Their generous sponsorships make it possible for us to pursue our mission to advance the interests of the Asian Pacific American (APA) legal community and the communities we serve and support our many activities and signature events throughout the year.
Lastly, we thank everyone that attended the 2021 Virtual Gala and celebrated with us. Our Virtual Gala was streamed on Vimeo which reports that the gala drew 1,400 views. To watch the gala on You Tube, click here or on the image at the top of this blog. To view the Virtual Gala program book, click here.
AABANY’s Academic Committee hosted a reception on February 17 to welcome Professor Carol Izumi, Clinical Professor of Law, UC Hastings College of Law, and Professor of Clinical Law, Emerita, George Washington University Law School, and President Frank H. Wu, President of Queens College, The City University of New York (CUNY) to New York City. Attendees included law professors calling in from the midwest, northeast, New York, southwest, and west coast. Professor Izumi joined in from San Francisco.
President Wu kicked off the reception by asking two icebreaker questions: 1) Where are you from (literally, figuratively, or however the attendee wanted to interpret the question)? and 2) What new skill or activity did you take up during the pandemic? Special guests, Frank Wu and Carol Izumi, indicated they came from the midwest originally, but have both traveled around the country due to their academic careers. President Wu’s new activity he started was cooking with a donabe, a Japanese clay pot, and Professor Izumi started a virtual mediation clinic during quarantine. Attendees continued taking turns sharing their responses to the icebreakers.
Elaine Chiu, Academic Committee Co-Chair and Professor of Law at St. John’s University, concluded the reception by remarking that “Carol and Frank together have accomplished so much and are also very accomplished as individual giants. They were shining lights inspiring many to join as clinicians and as doctrinal professors and eventually to become deans too.”
Thank you to the Academic Committee co-chairs Elaine Chiu, James Cho, Suzanne Kim, and Donna Lee who were all in attendance, for organizing this reception. AABANY is pleased to welcome President Frank H. Wu and Professor Carol Izumi to New York.
An eight-fold increase in reported hate crimes against Asians, racist rhetoric such as “the Chinese virus,” and insufficient media coverage of anti-Asian violence — these were among the timely issues discussed at a press conference hosted by the Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY) on February 11. The press conference centered around AABANY and Paul, Weiss’ co-authored report: A Rising Tide of Hate and Violence against Asian Americans in New York During COVID-19: Impact, Causes, Solutions. Speakers of note included:
Chris Kwok, Board Director, Issues Committee Chair
Karen King, Vice Chair, Pro Bono & Community Service Committee; Counsel, Paul, Weiss
U.S. Rep., Grace Meng (D-NY)
Prof. Russell Jeung, Stop AAPI Hate
President Frank Wu, Queens College, CUNY
The report’s primary finding is that anti-Asian hate and violence surged in 2020. Between March and September of that year, the number of reported anti-Asian hate incidents related to COVID-19 exceeded 2,500.
At the press conference, Rep. Meng kickstarted the discussion of this grim reality by situating it against a backdrop of long-standing intolerance toward the AAPI community, which motivated the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. Meng condemned some of the nation’s top government officials and social institutions for fanning the flames of this deep-rooted racism. As noted in the report, the xenophobic rhetoric of elected officials, paired with misinformation spread by the media, normalizes and fuels disease-based stigma against Asians. The subsequent uptick in violence against Asian communities motivated Meng to propose and help pass House Resolution 908 in 2020 denouncing all forms of anti-Asian sentiment. While Meng described the bill as largely symbolic, it has since been incorporated into President Biden’s presidential memorandum, which includes concrete measures to disseminate COVID-19 resources in different languages and improve the collection of data on hate crimes. Meng’s fight to amplify voices within the AAPI community thus lights the path forward. “We’ve taken a positive step — an initial step — but we must continue to speak out whenever and wherever anti-Asian sentiment rises,” said Meng.
A similar desire to spotlight the plight of AAPIs motivated Chris Kwok to serve as an executive editor for the report on anti-Asian violence. Since the onset of the pandemic, Kwok noted at the conference, there has not been a single prosecution or civil resolution for any incident of anti-Asian bias. A key purpose of the report is thus to show that Asian invisibility in the political and legal space has real-life consequences. Moving forward, Kwok hopes to inspire a constructive dialogue among Asians and other Americans alike. To that end, the report highlights seven initiatives that will help policyholders at all levels keep communities safe and hold perpetrators of violence accountable. These initiatives range from broad prescriptions, such as public education campaigns and collaboration among minority groups, to specific remedies, such as clear reporting mechanisms for victims and the more consistent prosecution of hate crimes.
Professor Russell Jeung continued the discussion of possible solutions to anti-Asian hate incidents while echoing his concern about the divisive effects of COVID-19. Drawing from data he helped collect for Stop AAPI Hate, Jeung said that among United States cities, New York City reported the second-highest number of hate incidents in the past year. Assessing the range of anti-Asian hate incidents reported to Stop AAPI Hate, the report notes a concerning number of incidents involving verbal harassment, physical assault, and being coughed and spat on. Worse still, the youth and the elderly are the most common victims of racist attacks and consequent racial trauma. Among its federal recommendations to address this issue, Stop AAPI Hate proposes to expand civil rights protections for AAPIs experiencing discrimination, end the racial profiling of Chinese researchers, and mobilize a federal interagency response to anti-Asian hate amid the pandemic. As Jeung is quick to emphasize, this fight for the civil rights of Asian Americans is a fight to expand protections for all Americans. “Please stand up, speak out, build bridges, and together we can make good on the promise of a diverse democracy,” said Jeung.
In promoting the proposals of Stop AAPI Hate and the report, for which he wrote the foreword, Queens College President Frank Wu highlighted the importance of building multi-racial coalitions. Wu identified Black, Latinx, and other underrepresented communities as allies to the AAPI community. As emphasized in the report, stronger collaboration among such minority groups is especially critical in communities like New York City, whose diversity heightens the danger that hate incidents exacerbate racial politics. “It would be a mistake of principle and pragmatism to point the finger at another group and suggest that others are guilty by association,” said Wu. Instead, we must look to universal values and American ideals as forces for national unity. As Wu writes in the foreword to the report, “To be Asian American is to be American, to express confidence enough in an experiment of self-governance to participate wholeheartedly.”
Rep. Meng concluded the press conference by calling on all Americans, especially those raised in the United States, to identify and combat racism when it occurs within their own circles. Meng stated that too often, stories of victims from the AAPI community are left out of mainstream media and the public consciousness. Along with implementing the aforementioned policy recommendations, therefore, Meng emphasized the need for racial solidarity. Only then can Americans progress toward the shared goal of dismantling systemic racism in this country and advancing justice for all.
On September 8th, Seton Hall Law School hosted a webinar entitled “Asian Americans at a Crossroads: COVID-19, #BLM, Discrimination, and Allyship,” which AABANY co-sponsored. The event, moderated by Professor Marina Lao, was a virtual conversation with Professor Frank H. Wu, President at Queens College, CUNY, who discussed the problems facing the Asian and Asian-American communities, the importance of allyship and building bridges across communities of color, and the history that surrounds both.
Professor Wu began the discussion by talking about how he got interested in studying Asian American history in college, when he wanted to write a paper on Asian American issues and civil rights and found not a single book written on the subject. He then realized that United States racial history was taught in a black and white paradigm: it treated everyone as falling into these two supposedly “opposite” categories. In doing so, history has taught Asian Americans that they have three options: they must aspire to be “honorary white people,” fall into the supposedly “lesser” category as people of color, or accept that they will never fit into the body politic.
He then recounted his upbringing in Detroit, where people assumed that he belonged halfway around the world and bullied him with racist slurs. They ingrained in him a perpetual foreigner syndrome, which has recently become more common and intensified with the association of all Asians with COVID-19. Only after the murder of Vincent Chin did Professor Wu realize that these weren’t just harmless jokes. In 1982 Detroit, Chin, a working class Chinese citizen, was harassed with racial slurs and bludgeoned to death by two automobile workers; they saw Chin as a foreigner, as someone who stole their jobs and thus must be punished. The killers got a fine and probation for three years, which Professor Wu revisited in 2012 when he co-wrote the AABANY Trial Reenactment of the Murder of Vincent Chin.
During this horrific incident in 1982, Professor Wu first learned the importance of bridge building and forming coalitions. He realized that in America, all Asians have to come together to form one Asian-American culture in order to emphasize that they are Americans. He then realized he needed to better understand the Black struggle. He followed the path of W.E.B. DuBois, who situated the fight for Black liberation in the importance of cooperation and coalition.
He concluded by discussing the importance of Asian Americans supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. He discussed the dangers of the model minority myth, and how it was designed to enforce anti-Black/Latinx racism. He explained how in this moment, Asian Americans have to try to understand other people’s sufferings, which can be more severe than ours. Asian Americans are at a crossroads: do we aspire to the silent norms and enforce them? Or do we proudly affirm our status as people of color and stand in solidarity and fight for the liberation of other races? The lives of Asian Americans can only be truly secure and protected when people who look different also feel that their place is secure too.
Professor Wu’s conversation highlights some of the many unique changes and challenges that Asian Americans are experiencing this year. Now more than ever, it is incredibly important to not only understand Asian American history and its ties to Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and other racial and ethnic histories, but also — and more importantly — learn from those triumphs and mistakes of the past. In order to create a history we are proud of, we must look behind us and strive forward, together.
Thank you to the Asian Pacific American Law Students Association (APALSA) at Seton Hall Law School for hosting and organizing the event. To view the full recording of the conversation on YouTube, click the link above.
Please join us for a conversation between MOCA President Nancy Yao Maasbach and Frank H. Wu, a leader in legal education and a champion for a new paradigm of civil rights, on his insight and understanding into the contemporary Chinese American experience.
Frank H. Wu is currently a Distinguished Professor at University of California Hastings College of Law. He previously served as Chancellor & Dean at University of California Hastings College of Law. He previously served as Chancellor & Dean at the school, receiving a unanimous vote for renewal to a second term after having been voted the most “influential” dean in legal education in a poll by National Jurist magazine.
Before joining UC Hastings, he was a member of the faculty at Howard University, the nation’s leading historically black college/university, for a decade. He served as Dean of Wayne State University Law School in his hometown of Detroit, and he has been a visiting professor at George Washington University, University of Maryland, University of Michigan; an adjunct professor at Columbia University; and a Thomas C. Grey Teaching Fellow at Stanford University. He taught at the Peking University School of Transnational Law in its inaugural year.
He is the author of Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White, which was immediately reprinted in its hardcover edition, and co-author of Race, Rights and Reparation: Law and the Japanese American Internment, which received the single greatest grant from the Civil Liberties Public Education Fund. He is writing a book on the Vincent Chin case, and his op-ed discussing the significance of the subject appeared in The New York Times on the thirtieth anniversary of the crime. Other op-eds have appeared in the Washington Post, LA Times, and Chicago Tribune. He blogs regularly for Huffington Post.
At the May 22 production of “Revisiting Vincent,” one of our Community Presenters that were present at the event was POV, the documentary program on PBS. They kindly took the time to edit together the video footage taken at New York Law School. For those who were there, you can relive the power and impact of the performance and the engaging talkback that followed, led by Hon. Denny Chin and Dean Frank Wu. For those who missed it, now is your chance to see what everyone has been talking about. Thanks to POV for making this happen!
Thirty years after Mr. Chin’s death, hate crimes seem to be a remote threat for Asian-Americans. But it is premature, if tempting, to celebrate progress.
Frank H. Wu, chancellor and dean of the Hastings College of the Law, University of California, is the author of “Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White.” He is writing a book on the Vincent Chin case.
On May 22, at New York Law School, AABANY together with the Asian American Arts Alliance (a4) and the Museum of Chinese in America, co-produced “Revisiting Vincent: The Legacy of the Vincent Chin Case 30 Years Later.” The slideshow above contains photos taken by Corky Lee who also shared with us at the event original photos from 1983 when the Asian American community erupted in protest in Detroit over the lenient sentence given to Vincent Chin’s murderers.
In addition to the performance, from a script based on the original trial transcripts, the Hon. Denny Chin and Dean Frank Wu provided a historical, legal and social context for the case during an engaging and lively talkback session following the performance. After that, audience members were invited to stay for a reception, at which Community Presenters OCA-NY, CAAAV and POV were available to engage in dialogue about how their current work is informed by and connected to the legacy of the Vincent Chin case.