On July 22, 2021, the Membership Committee held a mixer at City Winery, Rockefeller Center. 30 attendees gathered for a casual meet and greet. In attendance to greet new and long-time members were President Terry Shen and Director David Sohn. Many of the attendees were students who were summer associates and interns from around the country, in New York City for the summer. Please keep an eye out for future Membership Committee events on the AABANY calendar. Save the date for Yankees Games, a Membership Cruise on the Hudson, and Arcades and Billiards Night. To learn more about the Membership Committee, click here. Not a member? Join here.
Now, more than ever, students at New York City’s public schools are grappling with questions of inequality and whether the law is the same as justice. Legal Outreach’s Mentoring Program allows attorneys and law school graduates to directly impact high school students from traditionally under-represented backgrounds by guiding them through high school and modeling what it means to be an attorney and to engage with the law – and allows attorneys to consider these questions, too! You and the members of Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY) are invited to apply now to volunteer to be a Mentor, starting the 2021-22 academic year!
Attorneys meet with their students once a month to get to know each other and discuss any issues and obstacles students are facing. Mentors, with materials provided by Legal Outreach, also help students through Legal Outreach’s Constitutional Law Debate Program. In Debate, students learn and apply Supreme Court precedent to issues directly affecting the country, such as qualified immunity, political apparel at polling sites, education rights for undocumented students, gerrymandering and voting rights, discrimination in housing developments, and more.
To be a Mentor, a volunteer needs just their JD and the ability to commit to 4-6 hours a month to meet and communicate with their student. It is a low-time, high-impact program that will help shape the course of a young person’s life and make the legal profession a more inclusive one. It is so important for our students to be able to see a model of what they can do with a law degree and see themselves represented in the profession.
Apply here by August 15, 2021 to be a Mentor starting the 2021-22 academic year!
AABANY’s Manhattan DA Candidates’ Forum held on June 15 and 16 was recently covered in a June 21 Law360 article titled “Manhattan DA Candidates Split Over Hate Crime Strategy.” In the run up to the primary election on June 22, AABANY posed questions to seven Democratic candidates (Tahanie Aboushi, Alvin Bragg, Liz Crotty, Tali Farhadian Weinstein, Diana Florence, Lucy Lang, and Eliza Orlins) and one Republican candidate (Thomas Kenniff) on issues important to the Asian American and Pacific Islander community, specifically related to how they would address the surge in anti-Asian violence in New York City. Most of the candidates stated that they would use enhancements to charge perpetrators of hate crimes. In addition, most of the candidates supported creating a hate crimes unit in the DA’s Office, which is one of the proposals offered in AABANY and Paul, Weiss’ report on anti-Asian violence. Only Tahanie Aboushi and Eliza Orlins pledged they would cut the district attorney’s office budget in half. By decreasing the prosecution of low-level offenses, Aboushi and Orlins said the office would be able to focus on more serious crimes, including hate crimes that involve violence. The Law360 article also incorporated Democratic DA Candidate Dan Quart’s stances on the questions posed at the Forum as he was not able to participate due to a prior engagement.
To read the full article, click here. To view the recordings of AABANY’s Manhattan DA Candidates’ Forum, click here for day 1 (Lucy Lang, Alvin Bragg, Tali Farhadian Weinstein, and Tahanie Aboushi) and here for day 2 (Diana Florence, Thomas Kenniff, Eliza Orlins, and Liz Crotty).
On Tuesday, June 15, the Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY), the South Asian Bar Association of New York (SABANY), Korean American Lawyers Association of Greater New York (KALAGNY), and the Filipino American Lawyers Association of New York (FALA-New York) released a joint statement calling on the New York State Unified Court System (UCS) to fill judicial vacancies with Asian American Pacific Islander (“AAPI”) judges, including that of Judge Anthony Cannataro’s former role as the citywide administrative judge for the civil court of New York City. On Wednesday, June 16, The New York Law Journal published a front-page article recounting the social and demographic context driving the release of this joint statement, reiterating how “[u]nlike other communities of color, Asian representation has lagged due to a failure by political and judicial leaders to support and promote AAPI judges.” The article also noted how the AAPI bar associations acknowledged the diversity of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s recent judicial appointments but remained staunch in their commitment to remedying the dearth of AAPI representation on the bench.
To read the full article, click here (subscription required).
In February of this year, the Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY) released its report A Rising Tide of Hate and Violence against Asian Americans in New York During COVID-19: Impact, Causes, Solutions, co-authored with Paul, Weiss, detailing the surge of anti-Asian hate and violence as a result of the pandemic. The report advanced seven carefully-considered proposals for combating anti-Asian racism and discrimination, including, a call for “Greater Representation of Asians in Law Enforcement, Public Office, and the Courts.” Consistent with this proposal, AABANY joined in a statement with the South Asian Bar Association of New York (SABANY), Korean American Lawyers Association of Greater New York (KALAGNY), and the Filipino American Lawyers Association of New York (FALA-New York), calling on the New York State Unified Court System (UCS) to appoint Asian American Pacific Islander (“AAPI”) judges to fill the positions of Administrative Judge in the Civil Court of the City of New York, Administrative Judge of Supreme Court, Criminal Term in Bronx County, Administrative Judge of Supreme Court, Criminal Matters in Queens County, and Appellate Term, First Department.
As the accompanying press release for the joint statement issued on June 15 notes, “the lack of Asian representation on the bench is not a recent phenomenon.” As AABANY’s report explains, “Racism and bias fester where positions of power are held primarily by the white majority. Institutions that are meant to both represent and serve justice to the community will be more effective if they more closely reflect the composition of the community.” Efforts to increase diversity in the judiciary comprise first steps to ensuring the legal system can protect all Americans, regardless of racial identity.
Secretary Jeh Johnson elucidated in his October 1, 2020 Report from the Special Advisor on Equal Justice in the New York State Courts that “the overwhelming majority of the civil or criminal litigants in the Housing, Family, Civil and Criminal courts in New York City are people of color,” but “[b]oth the Minorities and Williams Commissions identified the lack of diversity among judges and non-judicial employees within the court system as a major issue affecting the administration of justice in the state.” Though these courts serve many litigants from communities of color, the bench does not reflect that diversity, with the overwhelming number of judges being male and white. Secretary Johnson concludes, “The sad picture that emerges is, in effect, a second-class system of justice for people of color in New York State.”
AABANY, through its joint statement with SABANY, KALAGNY, and FALA-New York, reaffirms its commitment to the fair administration of justice for all, calling for change to the longstanding under-representation of AAPI judges in New York State. Read more here.
To assist the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community in New York City amid the surge of anti-Asian hate and violence, AABANY has created a Know Your Rights brochure to inform and educate AAPIs on their legal rights if they experience a bias incident or potential hate crime.
The brochure provides a background of the U.S. legal system, defining a hate crime according to the New York State hate crime statute and differentiates between a hate crime and a bias incident. It encourages individuals who have experienced an incident to focus on the facts and ask themselves: “Do I have evidence that an attack was motivated by a belief or perception about an individual’s race, color, national origin, ancestry, or gender?” The brochure also provides tips on what to do when individuals are experiencing a bias incident. This includes turning on sound or video recording; taking note of the attacker’s physical appearance and clothes; and collecting bystander witness contact information. The brochure then outlines the steps of what to do after experiencing a bias incident, such as pursuing action through the criminal justice system, a civil lawsuit, or non-legal option.
AABANY is available as a resource to the AAPI community. The bar association offers interpretation and translation services, provides information or referral services for individuals interested in pursuing a civil lawsuit, and can serve as a guide for individuals interested in exploring the criminal justice process and other forms of assistance.
To view the Know Your Rights Brochure, please see the links below:
Translations into other Asian languages are currently in process and will be uploaded soon. Please be on the lookout for that announcement.
If you have any questions about these Know Your Rights brochures, please feel free to contact AABANY at email@example.com
Please feel free to share this post and the links to the PDF brochures widely. Please also print out and distribute hard copies to anyone who you think might benefit from receiving this information.
When: Friday, April 2, 2021, 11am– 1pm
Meeting point: 10:45am to 11am in front of Holy Cross Church, 329 W 42nd St, New York, NY 10036
What: Brief remarks from partner community members and Commissioner Malalis, then do a short business walk to distribute literature about the Commission to area businesses. Literature includes posters from the “I Still Believe in NYC” campaign with artwork by CCHR Artist in Residence Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya that affirms AAPI communities (see below link). We will also be distributing literature about how to report bias incidents and discrimination to law enforcement.
We understand that this event is taking place on Good Friday, a religious holiday observed by a lot of Filipino Catholics and other religious groups. Given that the woman who was attacked was on her way to church, and that we are reaching out to a house of worship as a partner, the faith component is an essential messaging through-line.
Finally, we want to emphasize that the focus of this Day of Visibility is to foster community building and restore a sense of trust and safety for Asian New Yorkers living and working in the area. As such, we do not plan on having elected officials speak at the event.
Additional Resources from the Commission on Human Rights:
On March 3rd, 2021, AABANY Board Director, Asia Practice Committee Co-Chair, and Issues Committee Chair Chris Kwok was invited to visit Spike Lee at his production site in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. Known for his movie Do The Right Thing (1989), Director Spike Lee is in the process of filming an eight hour documentary to capture New York’s resiliency from 9/11 to Covid-19. For the upcoming documentary, Spike Lee interviewed over 200 people and wanted to interview Chris to speak about the Asian American community in New York.
For Chris, Spike Lee has been a part of his life since high school. Do The Right Thing was Spike Lee’s magnum opus—the movie illustrated race relations between Italians, Blacks, and Asians in New York. In one iconic scene, a riot breaks out and as the Blacks move on to destroy the Korean bakery after burning down the Italian pizzeria, the owner of the bakery tells them, “You, me, same.” The Koreans and Blacks are on the same side and as an assertive African American filmmaker about racial justice, Spike Lee understood that at the time. Through his many projects, Spike Lee has recognized the Asian American community and sees Asian Americans as part of the fabric of New York. That stood out to Chris and his friends in high school.
Spike Lee is iconic but also very personal. “He is including us and we should know more about African Americans and their culture. They have always been inclusive to us, and we should know their path in history,” said Chris. “BLM and fighting anti-Asian violence is the same fight. You don’t have to choose one over the other because it’s the manifestation of structural racism and the effort to dismantle it.” Chris’ comments reflect the message of Do The Right Thing. Asian Americans and African Americans need to be united and Spike Lee highlights that by writing “BLM + AABANY Brothers and Sista’s” in an autographed Do The Right Thing sign he presented to Chris at the interview (see image above).
Spike Lee’s new documentary “NYC Epicenters 9/11→ 2021½” is scheduled to be released later this year on HBO and will be available to stream on HBO Max.
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.
Former AABANY Board Member, Kevin D. Kim, is currently volunteering as the Campaign Finance Chair for NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer’s Campaign for Mayor of NYC. Kevin’s experience in serving on nonprofit boards is extensive – today, he serves on the Board of Trustees for the City University of New York (CUNY) and was elected this fall to the national Board of Directors for the Stanford Asian Pacific American Alumni Club (SAPAAC). His past board service includes the American Red Cross in Queens, Friends of Thirteen (public media provider featuring PBS series), Korean American Community Foundation (KACF), Korean American Association of Greater New York (KAAGNY). In recognition for his tireless community service work, the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations (NECO) awarded Kevin with an Ellis Island Medal of Honor in 2015 and in 2020, Columbia Law School’s APALSA presented Kevin with its Hong Yen Chang Award for inspiring civic engagement.
Kevin’s parents and sister moved from Korea to Sunnyside, Queens (and later Bayside, Queens) when he was five years old. Together, along with Kevin’s grandmother, they lived in a one-bedroom apartment for the first seven years in this country. Kevin’s mother was an artificial flower designer and his father, with his law degree from Seoul University, went door-to-door in the garment district to sell those flowers. Like many immigrant children, Kevin recognized early on the tremendous sacrifices his parents made so that their children could seek a better life in the greatest country in the world.
Growing up in Sunnyside and Bayside, there were not many Asian Americans living in those neighborhoods at the time. While an overwhelming majority of New Yorkers welcomed the influx of Asian Americans into their communities, one could not help but observe that others perceived Asian Americans (and other immigrant groups) as perpetual outsiders. At the same time, he relished his experience growing up in New York City—home to diverse communities that share more similarities than differences. Realizing the importance of amplifying the voices of marginalized groups, Kevin believes that through active organizing and mobilizing, underrepresented groups can have their voices heard in a society that champions active civic engagement. “Asian Americans comprise 16 percent of the New York City population and yet we get allocated less than 0.16 percent of the social service dollars. Without taking tangible action to vote in every LOCAL primary and general election, and organizing to contribute to political campaigns on both sides of the aisle, this fact will not change,” Kevin stated.
After graduating from Stanford University and Columbia Law School, where he was a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar and a Senior Editor of the Columbia Law Review, Kevin began his legal career as a law clerk for then-U.S. District Court Judge Denny Chin for the Southern District of New York. He then worked as an Associate at Davis Polk & Wardwell where he practiced corporate law.
Realizing the lack of representation of Asian Americans in politics amid their increased presence in New York, Kevin decided to transition into the government sector. For four years, Kevin served as deputy director of community affairs for former Congressman Gary Ackerman (D-NY-05), who Kevin looked up to as a compassionate mentor. Kevin’s time at the Congressman’s office allowed him to appreciate the importance of providing excellent constituent services and motivated him to consider running for office himself.
In 2009, Kevin became the first Korean American to win a New York City primary when he became the Democratic nominee for New York City Council for District 19. While Kevin made remarkable strides in his historic nomination, he still encountered troubling racism. He recounts an episode, while campaigning at the Bayside LIRR train station with Congressman Ackerman, when a self-identifying Italian-American woman confronted Kevin about the “invasion” of Asian Americans into downtown Flushing, Queens. She rationalized that she could not vote for an Asian American candidate because Asian Americans had ruined downtown Flushing. In response, Kevin calmly asked if it would be fair for others to blame her for the behaviors of anyone else in her self-identified ethnic group, a question which prompted her to realize the hypocrisy of her statements (though she still fumed she was not voting for Kevin).
In his six months of campaigning, Kevin, the first Asian American candidate in District 19, had several such eye-opening incidents. More importantly, he stresses that those confrontations should not deter others from running for office. Reflecting on his own campaign experience and time serving as Senior Advisor to former presidential candidate Andrew Yang (who Kevin first met as a 1L at Columbia Law School), Kevin encourages every Asian American at some point in their lives to run for public office. Kevin said that during the course of a campaign, “You will encounter some of the most difficult people you have ever met, but I guarantee that you will also meet some of the most selfless, compassionate, and hopeful people too. The latter give you real hope that the world is still made up of decent people, even those who may not share the same political views as you.”
Besides his work in community mobilization and the legal field, Kevin also devoted his expertise to serving the people of New York in various capacities. From 2014-2016, Kevin was the Commissioner of the New York State Liquor Authority, becoming the first Asian American appointed to this position. In June of 2017, Governor Andrew Cuomo appointed Kevin as a Trustee of the City University of New York (CUNY), making him only the third Asian American and the first Korean American to serve on the CUNY Board of Trustees. In that position, he chairs the Audit Committee and is a member of the Subcommittee on Investments.
Today, Kevin is helping to elect Scott Stringer for NYC Mayor in the upcoming 2021 June primary election. “I decided to accept this important role because Scott has a proven track record of being an exceptional leader as an assemblymember representing the Upper West Side, Manhattan Borough President, and New York City Comptroller,” said Kevin. “As we work together as a city to recover from the COVID-19 imposed fiscal crisis, there is no one in this city who understands the finances of the City better than Scott.” Kevin also touted Scott’s second-to-none record on hiring minority and women leaders in his administration. For example, as NYC Comptroller, Stringer hired the first-ever Chief Diversity Officer for New York City. Moreover, Scott’s First Deputy Comptroller and Chief of Staff are also both women. Kevin particularly appreciates Stringer’s commitment that his senior administration will reflect the diversity of the City, including Asian Americans.
As the Campaign Finance Chair, Kevin serves alongside the Campaign Finance Director and the Deputy Campaign Finance Director to oversee the campaign’s fundraising strategy, which is strongly influenced by New York City’s unparalleled campaign finance matching program. Because New York City matches 8-to-1 for any contribution up to $250 from a resident, many of the campaigns have shifted their focus from the high-dollar donors to grassroots donors. Effectively, the matching program allows the average New Yorker to amplify their voice in upcoming municipal races. For any campaign to successfully reach the $7.6M spending cap, for example, it needs to persuade thousands of supporters to give to that campaign. Kevin shares Scott Stringer’s conviction that elected officials need to take an active role in going into the communities, meeting people where they are, and listening to their concerns.
Throughout his career, Kevin has been slowly breaking the bamboo ceiling one step at a time, blazing the trail for others in the Asian American community. He understands the importance of ensuring that Asian Americans have a “seat at the HEAD table.” Kevin especially encourages young people to seek out mentors. “Just delivering outstanding performance at work is not enough,” Kevin advises. “You need to nurture genuine personal relationships early on not just with those senior to you, but also with peers and those junior to you.” He has seen many instances where classmates and others have benefited greatly professionally from personal relationships they had developed with their respective junior colleagues.
Going forward, Kevin hopes that more Asian Americans get involved and understand the importance of voting in every local primary and general election. Historically, only about 11-13% of registered Democrats vote in the NYC Mayoral primary, which in many cases (due to the 8-1 Democrat to Republican voter registration advantage), ends up deciding who ultimately gets elected to run the greatest city in the world. He encourages every AABANY member to get involved, and stay involved, in political campaigns on ALL sides. Without increased political participation levels from Asian Americans, we may in our own way be contributing to the “perpetual outsider” perception shared by some of our fellow New Yorkers.
For more information on Scott Stringer’s campaign, including how you can get involved, visit https://stringerformayor.com/.
This member profile has been published for informational purposes only and does not constitute and should not be construed as a campaign endorsement.