AALDEF Honors Thomas S. Kim and Kal Penn with 2022 Justice in Action Awards
New York, NY — Yesterday evening, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) was proud to present this year’s Justice in Action Awards to Thomas S. Kim, Chief Legal Officer and Company Secretary at Thomson Reuters, and Kal Penn, actor and author.
Thomas Kim received the award for his career in service to diversity and inclusion and his bold leadership against anti-Asian hate. Kim urged the audience to “Stand up. Stand proud. Stand together.”
Kal Penn was honored for his advocacy for representation in media and his service on behalf of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. In a video, award-winning filmmaker Mira Nair, who cast Penn as the lead in her 2006 film “The Namesake,” shared her thoughts:
“As an activist and an artist, Kal has never shied away from his roots. He is unapologetic about who he is, and yet is an incredible bridge builder, creating a strong sense of allyship and solidarity with other communities.”
Taking place at the Lighthouse at Chelsea Piers in New York City, the awards ceremony was the highlight of AALDEF’s 2022 Lunar New Year Gala, celebrating the Year of the Tiger. For the first time, AALDEF’s gala was hybrid, taking place virtually via livestream and in-person amidst the city’s lifting of some pandemic restrictions. With stars like Jurassic Park’s BD Wong, Star Trek’s George Takei, and former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in attendance, it was a fun and celebratory evening, signaling a welcome return to some semblance of normalcy.
Emmy Award-winning reporter Cindy Hsu of CBS2 and Sree Sreenivasan of Digimentors returned as co-emcees. In recognition of the one-year anniversary of the Atlanta spa shootings and the ongoing wave of violence against Asian Americans, Hsu led the room in a moment of silence. Co-Presidents Richard Kim and Phil Tajitsu Nash welcomed supporters with a special thank you to AALDEF’s pro bono lawyers, interpreters, and volunteers. AALDEF Executive Director Margaret Fung reflected on the organization’s past year of service, highlighting its voting rights lawsuits against the State of Texas, redistricting work on behalf of communities of color in New York City, and its #StopAsianHate project, which was recently honored at the inaugural Anthem Awards.
Star Trek actor, “King of the Internet,” and 1992 Justice in Action honoree George Takei rounded out the evening urging the audience to support AALDEF’s mission. Takei gave a recap of Asian American history from the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act to Executive Order 9066, which incarcerated Japanese Americans including a five-year old Takei during World War II. He connected this history with today’s wave of anti-Asian hate sparked by the pandemic and urged supporters to ensure AALDEF can continue the fight against injustice.
“This is a long history that we’ve had, and that’s why the work of AALDEF is so vitally important. They’ve been making it possible for the Asian American community to work in concert together to build a better America.”
Continuing what has become an annual tradition started by 2018 Justice in Action honoree Preet Bharara, George Takei auctioned off his tie. Takei shared that this particular tie had been gifted to him last Christmas by his husband Brad. The auction lasted ten minutes with a vigorous back and forth between competing bidders, finally going for $10,000, an AALDEF gala record. Takei congratulated the winning bidder, Richard Kim, with a Vulcan salute.