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