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As 2013 comes to a close, take a look back at AALDEF's year in civil rights...
10. We Honored Three Civil Rights Leaders.
We began the year by honoring the 2013 Justice in Action Award recipients, Congressman John Lewis, Jose Antonio Vargas, and Simone Wu, with co-emcees Sree Sreenivasan and ABC's Juju Chang, a toast by BD Wong, and an audience of over 800. On March 25, 2014, AALDEF will celebrate its 40th anniversary with a special event at PIER SIXTY, Chelsea Piers in New York City, with 2014 Justice in Action Award recipients John G. Chou of AmerisourceBergen Corporation and Mari J. Matsuda of University of Hawaii at Manoa William S. Richardson School of Law. Don't miss it!
9. We Fought to Improve Education for NOLA Youth.
In New Orleans school districts, limited-English proficient students and their families have been underserved. "We're tired of being used by the system," said one student. Failing language services damaged students' education and put them at a huge disadvantage. AALDEF announced a complaint to the federal government on behalf of Asian American and Latino students and their families. The federal government agreed to open an investigation.
8. We Met with President Obama on Voting Rights.
This year, AALDEF fought to preserve the Voting Rights Act, which was weakened by the Supreme Court in Shelby v. Holder. AALDEF is committed to keeping the VRA alive and testified about its importance on behalf of Asian American voters. In July, AALDEF executive director Margaret Fung was among the civil rights leaders who met with President Obama at the White House to discuss the need for VRA enforcement.
7. We Won a Ruling for a Muslim Community Center.
Victory! A NJ federal judge ruled that our client, Al Falah Center, can finally present its plans for a mosque and community center in Bridgewater, NJ. Before, the mosque's proposal had been stymied by a discriminatory zoning law put in place to block the development. "Prejudice against American Muslims continues and infects the decisions of politicians in Bridgewater and across the nation," said AALDEF Legal Director Ken Kimerling.
6. We Won $1.2 Million for a Trafficking Survivor.
Our client, a Filipina trafficking survivor, was awarded $1.2 million in damages from a military officer (pictured right) - a judgment that "reflects the suffering and emotional toll human trafficking has on victims," says Ivy Suriyopas of AALDEF's Anti-Trafficking Initiative. "This victory we hope will encourage policy makers to recognize the severity of all forms of trafficking within the U.S."
5. We Fought Against Gentrification of Chinatowns.
Chinatowns have been home to immigrant families for over a century, and are a signficant part of Asian Americans' rich heritage in the United States. But Chinatowns are disappearing and no longer able to support the immigrant communities that rely on them for support. AALDEF conducted the first-ever study on the three largest Chinatowns on the East Coast - Boston, New York, and Philadelphia - and hosted a webinar showing how luxury development and government policies are destroying Chinatowns for working class families and small businesses.
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4. We Fought for NYPD Oversight.
AALDEF and American Muslim civil liberties groups released a new report in March, Mapping Muslims, on the devastating impacts of the NYPD's surveillance program. We introduced the findings at a rally to deliver the report to NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly. Within a week of the release, the tragic shooting of Kimani Gray, and the start of a federal trial challenging stop and frisk policies, the NYC Council began taking steps to create oversight of the NYPD.
3. We Brought Bengali Ballots to New York.
As AALDEF election poll monitors confirmed, Bengali ballots are now available in Queens, NY, as required by the Voting Rights Act. Before, many South Asian voters were unable to exercise their right to vote without translated materials. In July, AALDEF filed a federal voting rights lawsuit against the NYC Board of Elections, which was instrumental in bringing about the ballots. Racial justice news hub Colorlines called this one of the Top 10 Racial Justice Wins of 2013.
2. We Put UndocuAsian Youth in the Spotlight.
Asian American undocumented youth have taken the world by storm this year, and among the leaders of the movement are members of AALDEF's undocumented youth group RAISE. In May, RAISE launched Raise Our Story to share the stories of undocumented youth from Singapore, Pakistan, the Phillipines, Peru, and more. TIME named Raise Our Story one of the Top 30 Tumblrs of 2013. RAISE and AALDEF also presented #UndocuAsians, a moving theater performance where undocumented youth came out to a packed audience in New York City. We will continue to advocate for immigration reform in 2014.
1. We Fought Anti-Asian Bullying and Hate Crimes.
In her Kentucky middle school, Asian American adoptee and basketball player Milena Clarke heard "chink," "gook," and "Asians can't play basketball" on a daily basis. In NYC public schools, an astounding 50% of Asian American students we surveyed said they had been bullied. This fall, Sikh American Columbia professor Prabhjot Singh was attacked in a hate crime. In 2013, anti-Asian bullying and hate crimes were among the most serious issues for the Asian American community. AALDEF took a stand, from filing complaints on behalf of Milena Clarke to conducting a study on how NYC schools are responding to the bullying of Asian American youth.
Founded in 1974, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) is a national organization that protects and promotes the civil rights of Asian Americans. By combining litigation, advocacy, education, and organizing, AALDEF works with Asian American communities across the country to secure human rights for all.
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