Rep. Grace Meng, Harsha G. Marti, and CeFaan Kim receive AALDEF’s 2023 Justice in Action Awards
NEW YORK — Yesterday evening, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) returned to Pier Sixty for its annual Lunar New Year Gala and presented the 2023 Justice in Action Awards to Rep. Grace Meng, Harsha G. Marti, and CeFaan Kim for their outstanding achievements and efforts to advance social justice.
Rep. Grace Meng was honored for her decade of service to her constituents in Queens and our country as the representative of New York’s 6th District in the U.S. House of Representatives. Rep. Meng gave a shout out to her home borough of Queens and took a moment to remember the last time she stepped on the AALDEF stage to honor her friend, the late Congressman John Lewis, with the Justice in Action award.
“AALDEF has been making ‘good trouble’ way before it became popular to do so. And AALDEF has advocated for our community’s voices and the civil rights of our community and all communities,” said Rep. Meng.
Corporate leader Harsha G. Marti received the award for his dedication to diversity and equity in the workplace and his support for social justice projects in Brooklyn. Marti reflected on the incredible diversity of Asian Americans and their contributions to this country and the codeswitching many having become deft in to fit in.
“We should be able to seek the American dream without anybody questioning whether we belong here, without fearing for our safety, without having to make the false choice of being a ‘true American’ or honoring the traditions of our forbearers,” said Marti.
As a member of the press, CeFaan Kim of ABC News was recognized for his tireless coverage of the wave of anti-Asian harassment and violence. Kim used his gift of storytelling to speak truth to power on behalf of the victims he has met over the past few years. In response to the question of how we fix racism, Kim posed his own, asking, “How do we build a system so when victims fall, there is someone there to pick them up?”
The three recipients of the AALDEF Justice in Action Awards join a venerable list of activists, artists, and changemakers honored by AALDEF in the past, including the late Congressman John Lewis, Preet Bharara, John G. Chou, David Henry Hwang, Viet Thanh Nguyen, Vanita Gupta, Neal Katyal, Sandra Leung, Don H. Liu, Jose Antonio Vargas, Mira Nair, George Takei, BD Wong, Kal Penn, Ronny Chieng, and Fareed Zakaria, to name a few.
Led by Grandmaster Norman Chin, the New York Southern Praying Mantis Kung Fu and Lion Dance Team kicked off the celebration with a traditional lion dance. Emcees Cindy Hsu and Sree Sreenivasan welcomed attendees, taking a few moments to remember the lives lost in the tragic shootings in Monterey Park and Half Moon Bay and also to celebrate the film Everything, Everywhere, All at Once, which swept at this weekend’s Academy Awards. Richard Kim and Phil Tajitsu Nash, co-presidents of the AALDEF Board, thanked guests for their continued generosity and support for the critical work of AALDEF. “These funds help us support economic justice, combat anti-Asian hate, support educational equity, and protect our voting rights,” said Nash.
Kim and Nash introduced Margaret Fung, executive director of AALDEF, who recounted how AALDEF has risen to meet the challenges facing Asian Americans, including anti-Asian racism and violence. “In the past year, we have seen how important it is that the Asian American community and our allies come together to speak out against injustice and to stand up for democracy,” said Fung.
Finally, artist and activist Perry Yung rounded out the night with a final appeal for why AALDEF matters. Yung explained that anti-Asian violence didn’t start with the COVID-19 pandemic. “It didn’t start with Vincent Chin being killed because they thought he was Japanese. It didn’t start with the Vietnam War. It didn’t start with the Korean War. It didn’t start with Executive Order 9099 that put 120,000 Japanese Americans into American concentration camps. It started when we got off the boat. And that’s why AALDEF is important.”
View the entire program here:
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Stuart J. Sia