American Courage Award Honorees: Where Are They Now?

Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC highlights the commendable achievements of its previous American Courage Award recipients

By Sebin Jeon

Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC annually hosts its signature event, the American Courage Awards, in which we honor individuals and organizations who have demonstrated an incredible courage and commitment to civil rights. As we enthusiastically prepare for our 2021 American Courage Awards virtual ceremony this November we look back at the remarkable achievements of our previous American Courage Award honorees.

(Photo by AP)

2018 Recipient — Ai-jen Poo

In the face of a pandemic that has exacerbated the crisis of care, Ai-jen Poo, director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, continues to advocate for programs and policies that support our nation’s essential care workers, most of whom are women of color. While domestic workers are often rendered invisible, the COVID-19 pandemic has especially shed light on the important care and labor they perform to keep our communities functioning. This year, Ai-jen has dedicated great efforts into garnering support for legislation introduced by Senator Alex Padilla from California, which would create a path for citizenship for 5 million undocumented essential workers.

(Photo: Lexey Swall for Rolling Stone)

2016 Recipient — Vanita Gupta

On April 21, 2021, Vanita Gupta made history. The Senate confirmed Vanita for Associate Attorney General, the third highest position within the Justice Department. As a trailblazer in the civil rights community, Vanita has demonstrated immense dedication as the head of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. Through the Senate confirmation, Vanita has become both the first civil rights attorney and first woman of color to serve in this position at the Justice Department.

2015 Recipient — Eric H. Holder, Jr.

Eric H. Holder, a committed advocate for voting rights and racial justice, became the nation’s first African American Attorney General during President Obama’s administration. After receiving the American Courage Award in 2015, Eric formed the National Democratic Redistricting Committee in 2017. Under Eric’s leadership, the committee worked toward combatting gerrymandering and ensuring fair elections.

(Photo courtesy of Valarie Kaur)

2013 Recipient — Valarie Kaur

Renowned Sikh activist, filmmaker, and civil rights lawyer Valarie Kaur released her debut book, See No Stranger: A Memoir & Manifesto of Revolutionary Love in 2020. Centering her call for love as a transformative force for justice, Valarie invites readers to practice revolutionary love in community in radical hope to better our collective future. Valarie has also founded The Revolutionary Love Project, which uplifts practices of revolutionary love through educational tools, training courses, and art that amplifies the voices of BIPOC communities.

(Photo: Brian Everett Francis via Flickr)

2009 Recipient — Mallika Dutt

Storyteller and innovator Mallika Dutt is the Founder and Director of Inter-Connected, which was established in 2017. Partnering with clients such as Netflix and the Ford Foundation to offer leadership programs, coaching, healing, workshops, and more, the Inter-Connected initiative is designed to co-create a world where all can thrive. Mallika combines her passion for interconnectedness and commitment to activism through her work with nonprofits, including Breakthrough and Sakhi for South Asian Women.

Photo courtesy of University of Hawai’i Foundation

2008 Recipient — Eric K. Yamamoto

Internationally recognized for his legal work and scholarship, Eric K. Yamamoto is the Fred T. Korematsu Professor of Law and Social Justice at the WIlliam S. Richardson School of Law, University of Hawai`i. With a specialized focus on reconciliation initiatives and addressing historical injustices, Professor Yamamoto has published over 100 articles and authored numerous works that examine civil rights and national security. In 2018, Oxford University Press published his book, In the Shadow of Korematsu: Democratic Liberties and National Security, which explored questions of contemporary national security and civil liberties through the WWII Japanese American incarceration cases. He also co-authored Jeju 4.3 Tragedy: Next Steps Toward Reconciliation (2015) in which he examined possible steps to address the Jeju April Third Tragedy in South Korea.

Photo by Alex Wong for Getty Images

2005 Recipient — Major General Antonio Taguba

Retired Major General Antonio Taguba was the second American citizen born in the Philippines to be promoted to the general officer rank in the U.S. Army. As a civilian, he has been actively advocating for Filipino World War II veterans to receive the monetary benefits to which they are fully entitled. In 2016, he helped lobby Congress to memorialize the service of over 260,000 Filipino and Filipino American soldiers. Furthermore, Antonio has worked alongside the Chinese American WWII Veterans Recognition Project to garner support for the Chinese American World War II Veteran Congressional Gold Metal Act, which became public law in December 2018.

We hope to see you virtually at our 2021 American Courage Awards on Thursday, November 18, 2021. Register at americancourageawards.org.

Sebin Jeon was an intern with Asian Americans Advancing Justice — AAJC.

Fighting for civil rights for all and working to empower #AAPIs to participate in our democracy. Follow: @johncyangdc @tao_minnis @meganessaheb