The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) will honor Congressman John Lewis, Member of the U.S. House of Representatives (Georgia), Jose Antonio Vargas of Define American, and Simone Wu of Choice Hotels International, Inc., with the 2013 Justice in Action Awards at its Annual Lunar New Year Gala on Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at PIER SIXTY, Chelsea Piers, in New York City.
The awards will be presented by Rep. Grace Meng, the first Asian American to represent New York in Congress, Tony award-winning playwright of M. Butterfly David Henry Hwang, and Gordon Smith, CEO of Consumer and Community Banking, JPMorgan Chase.
The co-emcees for the evening are Juju Chang, Emmy Award-winning correspondent for ABC News, and Sree Sreenivasan, Chief Digital Officer at Columbia University.
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, Fareed Zakaria, BD Wong, Sandra Leung, Harold Koh, Mira Nair, Ivan Fong, Deval Patrick, George Takei, Salman Rushdie, Seymour Hersh, Larry Tu, Charles Ogletree, Jr., Nicholas Kristof, Sheryl Wu Dunn, Javade Chaudhri, Harry Belafonte, Margaret Cho, and Yoko Ono.
AALDEF’s 2013 Lunar New Year Gala celebrating the Year of the Snake begins with a 6 p.m. cocktail reception and silent auction, followed by the Justice in Action Awards ceremony and a banquet dinner.
Congressman John Lewis is the U.S. Representative for Georgia’s 5th congressional district, serving since 1987, and Senior Chief Deputy Whip. He was one of the 13 original Freedom Riders who challenged segregation at interstate bus terminals across the South, and was a leader in the 1965 Selma to Montgomery March for voting rights. By 1963, he was dubbed one of the Big Six leaders of the Civil Rights Movement. For his lifelong commitment to social justice, he was awarded the highest civilian honor, the Medal of Freedom, by President Obama in 2011. “Congressman John Lewis is a true American hero and a pillar of the Civil Rights Movement,” said Margaret Fung, Executive Director of AALDEF. “We honor his commitment to securing human rights and civil liberties for all Americans.”
Jose Antonio Vargas is a Filipino American journalist who has reported for The San Francisco Chronicle, The Philadelphia Daily News, and The Washington Post, where he was part of a Pulitzer Prize-winning team. In 2011, Vargas publicly revealed himself to be an undocumented immigrant and has since been a leading advocate for a U.S. immigration system that promotes human rights for all. He is the founder of Define American, a project aimed at increasing awareness about the DREAM Act, which would help undocumented youth have a path to citizenship available to them through education or service in the military. “Jose Antonio Vargas has played a crucial role in changing the discourse on immigration reform,” said Fung. “We honor his courage in speaking on behalf of the rights of immigrants everywhere.”
Simone Wu is senior vice president, general counsel, and corporate secretary for Choice Hotels International, one of the world’s largest hotel franchisors. Prior to joining Choice Hotels, Wu served as executive vice president, general counsel, and secretary for XO Communications, a leading nationwide telecommunications corporation. Through her 20 years of legal experience, Wu has been committed to advancing diversity in the legal profession, including serving as chairperson of the board of the Minority Corporate Counsel Association, which was founded to advance the hiring, retention, and promotion of diverse attorneys in legal departments and the law firms. “We honor Simone Wu’s dedication to promoting diversity and equal opportunity in the corporate sector,” said Fung.
The Lunar New Year Gala
Since 1987, 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.
Each year, AALDEF presents the Justice in Action Awards at its annual Lunar New Year Gala, a celebration of Asian Americans in civil rights, law, business, and the arts.
All proceeds from the Lunar New Year Gala will go directly towards supporting AALDEF’s legal and educational programs in immigrant rights, economic justice for workers, voting rights and civic participation, language access to services, educational equity, housing and environmental justice, and the elimination of hate violence, police misconduct, and human trafficking.