New York—More than 850 friends, both old and new, joined the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) on Thursday, Feb. 2nd to usher in the Year of the Dog 4704 at its annual Lunar New Year Gala at PIER SIXTY, Chelsea Piers. Table by table, guests leapt to their feet three times this evening to cheer on AALDEF’s 2006 “Justice in Action” Award honorees: Ivan K. Fong, Executive Vice President, Chief Legal Officer and Secretary of Cardinal Health, Charles J. Ogletree, Jr., Harvard Law School professor and civil rights leader, and Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor and publisher of The Nation.
AALDEF’s Justice in Action Awards recognize exceptional individuals for their outstanding achievements and contributions in advancing justice and equality.
In these difficult times, our honorees have promoted a broad vision of civil rights in the law, media, and public policy, said AALDEF executive director Margaret Fung. Their efforts truly reflect the spirit of AALDEF’s mission: to advance human rights for all.
Hosting the evenings festivities was WNBC reporter Vivian Lee, who has often brought stories from Asian American communities to the fore. Justice in Action Award honoree Ivan Fong accepted his award from the Hon. Denny Chin—the first Asian American appointed as federal district judge on the East Coast and expressed deep gratitude to Judge Chin and others who inspired his work on behalf of the Asian American community, urging the next generation not to be overwhelmed by cynicism, but to approach the work of justice as simply having integrity: every day, everywhere, in everything that you do.
Katrina vanden Heuvel regaled her listeners with a story of how she stumbled upon AALDEF while an intern at The Nation in 1980, researching Chinese immigrant waiters on strike at Silver Palace restaurant, and praised the dedication AALDEF staff demonstrated in seeing the case through to a $500,000 settlement more than two decades later. What AALDEF understands so well is that through unyielding advocacy, the fundamental American values like economic justice, and the rule of law, and voting rights, and immigrants rights, are not just accomplishments we celebrate with speeches on the Fourth of July—they’re goals that still need to be defended, promoted, and won every single day of the year, she said.
Professor Charles Ogletree, or Tree, as he is known, received his award from former New York City mayor David Dinkins. Ogletree began his remarks with a tribute to the late Coretta Scott King and other women for their tireless work outside the spotlight, and reminded us that our struggles and our destinies are tied together. He described his own litigation to seek reparations for African American survivors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Riots as linked to those earlier efforts of Asian American hero Fred Korematsu, who played a crucial role in securing redress for Japanese Americans incarcerated during WW II.
Just before the close of the evenings silent auction, guests were treated to a special donation appeal from rising star Kal Penn, of Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle fame and the forthcoming Mira Nair film, The Namesake.
Proceeds from the Lunar New Year Gala benefit AALDEF’s legal and educational programs in immigrant rights, economic justice for workers, voting rights and civic participation, affirmative action, language access to services, youth rights and educational equality, and the elimination of hate violence, police misconduct, and human trafficking.
Founded in 1974, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) is a New York-based organization that promotes and protects the civil rights of Asian Americans nationwide. AALDEF litigates cases that have broad impact on Asian American communities, educates Asian Americans about their legal rights, trains students for careers in public interest law, and shapes public policies to ensure the equal participation of Asian Americans in our democracy.