Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC to Honor Ai-jen Poo, Hari Kondabolu and Verizon at 22nd Annual American Courage Awards

Annual event honors individuals, groups, or corporations for their extraordinary commitment to civil and human rights
For Immediate Release
Michelle Boykins (202) 296-2300, ext. 0144
Annabelle Schmitt 202-296-2300, ext. 5554

Washington, D.C. — Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC (Advancing Justice | AAJC) will host its 22nd American Courage Awards, an annual event honoring individuals, groups, or corporations for their extraordinary commitment to the cause of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) civil and human rights.

This year’s honorees are Ai-jen Poo, Hari Kondabolu, and Verizon. Cary Chow, a multimedia content creator and former ESPN anchor, will serve as the Master of Ceremonies.

Ai-jen Poo will receive the American Courage Award in recognition for her advocacy efforts and ability to effect policy change to marginalized individuals and families nationwide. Poo has been an active agent of change in the AAPI community and for other marginalized communities since her start in the 1990s at the New York Asian Women’s Center through her journey to organizing around ensuring basic labor protections for domestic workers in New York State. Poo has been an unwavering advocate of labor protections for domestic workers who are often overlooked or dismissed. After co-founding the Domestic Workers United (DWU) in 2000, she was instrumental in getting the passage of the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights in 2010. It was the first law in the United States to guarantee basic labor rights for domestic workers.

Poo has been influential in getting domestic workers to come forward as part of the #MeToo movement. She’s calling attention to the fact that domestic working women face an imbalance of power, which makes them susceptible to harassment and abuse, and limits both their economic potential and ability to be part of the larger community. Currently, Poo is the Executive Director for the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA), an organization she co-founded in 2007, as well as the Co-Director of Caring Across Generations. Her outstanding work led her to be named one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People in the World and Fortune’s 50 World’s Greatest Leaders.

Hari Kondabolu is this year’s Changemaker Award recipient. Kondabolu is honored for his intersectional activism where he blends his experience as a South Asian American into his comedy. His commentary on the treatment of South Asians post-9/11 and his insightful documentary, The Problem With Apu, capture the pulse of what is happening within the AAPI community and what we need to do to make a change.  In his documentary, Kondabolu discusses how The Simpsons character Apu Nahasapeemapetilon perpetuates problematic stereotypes of Indian Americans with real-life implications. In his 2018 Netflix special, Warn Your Relatives, he discusses the current state of identity politics, especially around the South Asian American and Indian American experience. Kondabolu’s comedy is critical but informed by the post-9/11 treatment of brown people, along with his experience as an organizer. Kondabolu has been featured on Conan, Jimmy Kimmel Live, and was called one of the most exciting political comics in stand-up today by The New York Times.

Verizon is this year’s honoree for the Bridge Builder Award. The award acknowledges the corporation for its dedication in community engagement and commitment to helping the AAPI and other minority communities to overcome obstacles to technology and innovation. Advancing Justice | AAJC has witnessed firsthand Verizon’s dedication to this cause. Verizon has always answered the call in helping low-income families through the Lifeline Program that provides discounted phone service to eligible low-income people in a plethora of areas. The company's commitment to diversity and inclusion is also ingrained in their company culture. In 2016, Verizon was ranked #7 in America’s Top 50 Organizations for Multicultural Business. Verizon was outspoken in its opposition to the Muslim ban by submitting an amicus (friend of the court) brief in response to the administration’s executive order in 2017, and that same year the company signed onto a letter urging Congressional leaders to protect undocumented immigrant youth (known as DREAMers) after the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was halted.

Advancing Justice | AAJC is proud to recognize these distinguished honorees at this year’s American Courage Awards, which is generously funded in part by lead donor Comcast NBCUniversal. This year's celebration will take place on October 4, 2018 at the JW Marriott in Washington, D.C.