Highlights from the 2011 Justice in Action Awards
at AALDEF Lunar New Year Gala
State Dinner, Tiger Moms, and "Racist" Cookies
From L to R: AALDEF Board member, Philip Tajitsu Nash; 2011 Justice in Action Award recipients Lillian Kimura and A.B. Cruz III; Ken Lowe, CEO of Scripps Networks Interactive. Photo by Lia Chang.
Before a sold-out crowd of 750 leaders from the legal, civil rights and corporate worlds, Lillian Kimura, former president of the Japanese American Citizens League, and Scripps Networks Interactive's chief legal officer A.B. Cruz III were honored by the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) for advancing social justice and equality and for their outstanding achievements. The national civil rights organization's annual Lunar New Year Gala was held at PIER SIXTY, Chelsea Piers in Manhattan on Tuesday, February 8, 2011.
The evening's emcees were Juju Chang, news anchor of ABC Good Morning America, and Sree Sreenivasan, dean of student affairs and digital media professor at Columbia School of Journalism. Tony-award winning actor B.D. Wong delivered a personal and uproarious special message.
Chang and Sreenivasan urged attendees to tweet about the Justice in Action awards (#aaldef on Twitter) and check in via Foursquare @AALDEF Gala. Attendees were also treated to a hilarious video clip from Good Morning America's pre-Super Bowl broadcast, which featured the famous talking E-Trade babies giving a personal shout-out to Juju. (Chang was the only one of four GMA anchors to pick the Green Bay Packers as the Superbowl winner.)
Accepting her 2011 Justice in Action award to a standing ovation, Lillian Kimura spoke about her work at the YWCA in the 1970s, which had pledged to "eliminate racism by any means necessary." Kimura received her award from Philip Tajitsu Nash, an Asian American studies professor, civil rights attorney and AALDEF Board member. Nash cited Kimura as one of the "skilled, selfless committed leaders" of the Japanese American redress movement and her lifelong efforts to eliminate gender barriers while at the YWCA and as the first female president of the Japanese American Citizens League in 1992. Kimura was a teenager when she was imprisoned with her family during World War II at an American concentration camp at Manzanar.
A.B. Cruz III, chief legal officer and corporate secretary at Scripps Networks Interactive, spoke about three pressing issues in the Asian American community: eliminating human trafficking, the need for more Asian Americans to do public interest law, and advocating for the right of Asian American youth to an education "free from prejudice and violence." He challenged each person in the room to be a "force multiplier" for social justice and to strengthen AALDEF in its civil rights efforts.
Cruz received his Justice in Action award from Ken Lowe, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Scripps Networks Interactive. Lowe noted that Cruz is one of just 20 Asian Americans serving as general counsel in a Fortune 1000 company and holds the distinction of being the first Filipino American attain the rank of Rear Admiral in a non-medical field in the U.S. Navy. Lowe also cited Cruz's dedication to increase diversity in the legal profession.
Tony-award winning actor B.D. Wong, who currently stars in the television show Law & Order: SVU, delivered a side-splitting special message. Wong, who sat at the head table at the recent White House state dinner honoring Hu Jintao, had the audience roaring at his cultural observations on such topics as White House etiquette, the "hot" factor of former President Bill Clinton, and the political incorrectness of Chinatown's traditional new year "Ching Kee" cookies.
The AALDEF Justice in Action Awards recognize exceptional individuals for their outstanding achievements and contributions in advancing justice and equality. Past recipients include the late civil rights icon Fred Korematsu, David Henry Hwang, Harold Koh, Mira Nair, Deval Patrick, Salman Rushdie, Seymour Hersh, Charles Ogletree, Jr., Nicholas Kristof & Sheryl WuDunn, Harry Belafonte, Juan Gonzalez, Margaret Cho and Yoko Ono.
Attendees were treated to a traditional lion dance to start off the evening and had the opportunity to bid on dozens of silent auction items, including a private tour at the Food Network Studios, dinner at Bobby Flay's Bar Americain, and tea with B.D. Wong at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. 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, housing and environmental justice, Census policy, and the elimination of hate violence, police misconduct and human trafficking.
Since 1987, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) has presented the Justice in Action awards to exceptional individuals for their efforts in advancing social justice and human rights for Asian Americans. The Justice in Action award recipients are chosen for their contributions to Asian American communities across the nation, as well as for their singular achievements in their respective fields.
Watch a video of the 2010 Justice in Action Awards ceremony, with honorees Larry Tu and Juan Gonzalez.