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Presenting the 2016 recipients of our annual American Courage Awards

This year, on October 6, 2016, we will celebrate 25 years of Advancing Justice | AAJC, as well as 25 years of progress for the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. We will also celebrate our annual American Courage Awards: three distinctions that we place on individuals, groups, and corporations to recognize their extraordinary courage or commitment to furthering civil rights. Meet this year’s honorees:

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We are pleased to announce that we will honor Vanita Gupta with the American Courage Award for her lifelong dedication to civil rights work. The American Courage Award is awarded to an individual, company, or organization that has shown extraordinary courage or commitment to civil rights. Gupta has demonstrated inspiring commitment to the protection of civil rights, from advancing smart policing and criminal justice reforms to stopping civil rights violations in immigrant detention facilities.

Gupta began her career as a champion for civil rights with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, where she soon proved her dedication to criminal justice reform. Her first year out of law school, Gupta opened an investigation in Tulia, Texas, where she led a team of attorneys to overturn the wrongful drug convictions of 38 men and women.

After leaving the Legal Defense Fund, Gupta began working for the ACLU where she became Deputy Legal Director and the Director of its Center for Justice. Among other accomplishments, Gupta led the way on prison reform, pioneering the ACLU’s National Campaign to End Mass Incarceration.

In October of 2014, just months after the country was shaken by the police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, President Obama appointed Vanita Gupta to lead the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice. Gupta led the investigation and releasing a report on the unconstitutional policing practices of the Ferguson Police Department. As the chief civil rights prosecutor for the United States, she continues to lead criminal and civil enforcement efforts to protect the rights of Americans. Gupta has been working with law enforcement and community leaders to institute reforms in police departments across the country.

Gupta’s colleagues and friends note her special ability to cultivate friendly and productive collaborations with people from across the political spectrum in order to create positive change. As the principal deputy assistant attorney general and head of the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice, she advances critical work on many civil rights issues, including hate crimes, human trafficking, disability rights, LGBTI rights, and discrimination in education, housing, lending and voting.

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Jimmy Ferguson will be honored with the Changemaker Award for his dedicated work in the Asian American business community especially his leadership in the establishment of the Asian/Pacific Islander American Chamber of Commerce and Entrepreneurship (ACE). Ferguson is currently the chairman of ACE, a national organization that gives voice to the business interests of Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI). ACE encourages the growth of AAPI businesses, fosters the next generation of AAPI entrepreneurs, and advocates for AAPI leadership in corporate America.

In addition to his leadership business and entrepreneurship, Ferguson also gives back to the AAPI community through his position on the Board of Directors for the Asian and Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund.

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We’re happy to announce The Walt Disney Company as our 2016 Bridge Builder Award honoree for its outstanding commitment to representing diversity in the workplace and in entertainment. The Walt Disney Company has committed to sharing stories that reflect various Asian American communities and experiences by creating space for Asian American actors and storytellers on screen and behind the scenes. We applaud the Walt Disney Company’s efforts to amplify the voices of our rapidly growing community.

Join us in celebrating our honorees, recognizing the progress made in the last 25 years, and getting inspired for the work to come. Get your tickets to our 25th anniversary dinner and celebration today.

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

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