American Courage Awards

The American Courage Awards is the signature annual event of Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC. Please see the information below to learn more about this special event and to view past celebrations. 

Visit this page for future updates on the American Courage Awards celebration, October 3, 2024.

Donate to support us in honoring the resilience of our community and sign up for our email communications to receive updates on registration and event speakers. 

View a list of our past awardees here

ACA 2024

About the American Courage Awards 

Advancing Justice - AAJC is honored to host its signature  American Courage Awards  event each year to honor individuals and those in the corporate sector who have shown extraordinary commitment to civil rights.  Honorees are recognize through the award categories described below:   

The American Courage Award goes to an individual, company, or organization that has shown extraordinary courage or commitment to the cause of civil rights. This may include a community leader who has taken an important stand, an activist who overcame extraordinary challenges, an artist with a unique vision, or a journalist breaking an important story.  
The Changemaker Award honors an individual, company, or organization who is a catalyst for change. This may include an entrepreneur, student, or activist whose leadership has inspired action that has led to change on a local or national level that benefits Asian American communities.  

The Bridge Builder Award recognizes an individual or corporation that has developed an innovative approach to successful community empowerment and strives to overcome obstacles for the Asian American community, as well as other minority communities. This may include programs for citizenship, voter participation, community education, or other community programs.  

The Norman Y. Mineta Spirit Award recognizes a youth advocate whose community-centered leadership has exemplified dedication, compassion, and resilience benefitting Asian Americans on a local or national level. The award was established in honor of the trailblazing legacy of former Secretary of Transportation, Norman Y. Mineta.  

Interested in becoming a sponsor of the next American Courage Awards?  Please contact 

2023 American Courage Awards: October 6, 2023 

Thank you all for being a part of this special celebration and helping us to recognize esteemed individuals who are illustrative of the phrase, “It only takes one person to mobilize a community and inspire change.” 

The Honorable Julie Su accepted the 2023 American Courage Award in recognition for her decades-long work of protecting immigrants and fighting for Asian Americans and women’s worker rights, starting with her career at our sister affiliate – Advancing Justice – Southern California. She also has demonstrated courage on policy issues, taking positions in support of workers rights as California’s Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development. 

Long-time friend and partner to Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC, Sherrilyn Ifill, received the President’s Award to signify the invaluable role she has played personally as well as professionally through her role as the former President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. Sherrilyn has epitomized the word ally in how she has worked with the Asian American community.  To know Sherrilyn is to know a tireless advocate for civil and human rights.  

Much like Julie and Sherrilyn, there are people who shine so brightly you know you are in the presence of an extraordinary individual. Tavae Samuelu is that person. She has been a dependable ally and a fierce proponent for her community. When listening to Tavae speak, she has a way of connecting with her audience so deeply and taking them with her on a journey to educate about the Pacific Islander culture while surfacing community needs and what it means to be in respectful solidarity with the community.  

In speaking of hope, our youth recipient of the Norman Y. Mineta Spirit Award, Rohit Kataria, is someone who exemplifies how bright the future of advocacy is in the Asian American community. As our organizations vocally supported affirmative action in the recent Harvard and UNC cases, we learned about Rohit’s passion for improving higher education for all students. As the founder of co-founder of two student-focused organizations, we have seen his commitment to Asian American students, to Asian American studies, and to building inclusive education spaces through advocacy by young people.  

Watch a full recording of our celebration here!   

2022 American Courage Awards: October 21, 2022 

Watch a full recording of our virtual celebration here!   

2022 American Courage Awards Graphic. A green background and a hand holding a torch with burning flames. Flames in the shape or birds are flying out of flames and circling in the background.

It was truly a night to remember as many of us reunited to celebrate in person, after two years of virtual events. Many more also joined online. With the help of special friends and community supporters, we celebrated honorees Senator Mazie K. Hirono with the American Courage Award, puppeteer and producer Kathleen Kim with the Changemaker Award, and 2016-2022 Board Chair of Advancing Justice | AAJC Parkin Lee with the President’s Award.   
Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC introduced an inaugural award in honor of the late former Secretary of Transportation, the honorable Norm Mineta. To honor his legacy, the Norman Y. Mineta Spirit Award recognizes a youth advocate whose community-centered leadership has exemplified dedication, compassion, and resilience benefitting Asian Americans on a local or national level. We were honored to present the Norman Y. Mineta Award to Tarina Ahuja, Co-Founder and Director of Young Khalsa Girls. 
We thank our speakers and award presenters Vice President Kamala Harris, Jean Joon (actor, Kim’s Convenience), Deni Mineta, Lauren and Justin Ng Lee, and our remarkable youth presenters who stole the show and our hearts. We thank Paolo Montalban for his outstanding performance of The Way You Look Tonight and for emceeing the event. We extend our appreciation to our board of directors, our national advisory council members, and our sponsors for their support and commitment to our organization. 


2021 American Courage Awards: November 18, 2021

Watch a full recording of our virtual celebration here!

We spent our virtual night commemorating the contributions of individuals, groups, and corporations for their extraordinary courage and commitment to the cause of Asian American and Pacific Islander civil rights.

New York City Youth Poet Laureate Serena Yang recited her poem "Rage Woman," which celebrates Asian American women's rage, and Ruby Ibarra performed two songs highlighting the Filipino American experience. Mari Shiratori (a PhD student) and Reina Guartico (an early childhood special educator) joined for an Anti-Asian Hate fireside chat to share how they've taken action to protect themselves and their communities.

We were honored to present the American Courage Award to CBS Senior White House Correspondent to Weijia Jiang, the Changemaker Award to Emily May on behalf of Hollaback!, and the Bridge Builder Award to Thong Nguyen on behalf of Bank of America.

Thank you to our speakers and award presenters Broderick Johnson from Comcast NBCUniversal, Ren Guartico, Mari Shiratori, Maulik Pancholy, Jason Ve, Parkin Lee, Gina Shishima, Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Alex and Maia Shibutani. Special thanks to Sen. Mazie Hirono, Rep. Judy Chu, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, Rep. Ted Lieu, Rep. Andy Kim, and Rep. Grace Meng for their appearances.


2020 American Courage Awards: Fighting Racism and Rising in Solidarity

The American Courage Awards is an annual event hosted by Advancing Justice | AAJC, honoring individuals, groups, and corporations in recognition of their extraordinary courage or commitment to the cause of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) civil rights.

In addition to using a virtual platform for this year’s event, we are shifting our traditional programming. The goal is to maintain the “spirit” of the American Courage Awards event while for the sake of relevancy we shift our focus from producing our traditional awards format to one that is more reflective of this year’s changing landscape. Of special focus will be our call-to-action on the spike of anti-Asian and anti-Asian American sentiment as a result of the pandemic, the Black Lives Matter movement, and our ongoing efforts in delivering on our mission.

We appreciate any contributions you would like to make to enable Asian Americans Advancing Justice  - AAJC to continue protecting our communities and promoting civil and human rights for all. 

Read our President and Executive Director John C. Yang's thank you message.