AALDEF honors Indian American actor activist for his advocacy and service on behalf of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders
The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) has presented a 2022 Justice in Action Award to Indian American actor activist and author Kal Penn for his advocacy on behalf of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
Penn, 45, who also briefly worked in the White House Office of Public Engagement in the Barack Obama administration, was presented the award at a ceremony at the Lighthouse at Chelsea Piers in New York City on March 9.
Kalpen Suresh Modi, to give his real name, was honored for his advocacy for representation in media and his service on behalf of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, according to an AALDEF press release.
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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.”
Thomas S. Kim, Chief Legal Officer and Company Secretary at Thomson Reuters, also 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.”
Former US Attorney Preet Bharara, Jurassic Park’s BD Wong, Star Trek’s George Takei among others attended AALDEF’s hybrid 2022 Lunar New Year Gala, celebrating the Year of the Tiger. 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.
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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.
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.