Having roots in the Civil Rights Era and the community activism movement, Asian American community leaders in Boston, Washington D.C., San Francisco and New York City addressed the legal needs of their local communities in the 1970s and 80s. In this panel, held as a part of the Association of Asian American Studies Conference 2023, four leaders both within and outside the legal profession reflected on the historic ties between the Asian American movement, Asian American studies, and community-led lawyering practices that laid the foundation for Asian American legal services and institutes that service Asian Americans today. Phil noted how many of the cases from the early days of Asian American community organizing and lawyering reflect the same issues happening today, making a case for the possible lessons to be learned by contemporary activists, scholars, and legal practitioners.
- Andrew Leong: Former Supervising Attorney of the Asian Outreach Unit (AOU) of Greater Boston Legal Services and former Director of the Chinatown Clinical Program at Boston College Law School
- Phil Tajitsu Nash: Co-President of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) in NYC and Co-Founder of the Asian American Studies Program at the University of Maryland
- Dr. Alakananda Paul, Co-Founder and former Board Member of ASHA (now Ashiyanaa), providing culturally-appropriate and linguistically specific Domestic Violence and Sexual Violence Services for South Asian women and children.
- Don Tamaki, Former pro bono attorney for Fred Korematsu who also served as a Legal Services attorney, Co-Founder of the Asian Law Alliance, and Executive Director of the Asian Law Caucus.
This program was presented via Zoom on March 31st, 2023 as part of the Association of Asian American Studies Conference 2023, and was co-sponsored by AAAS, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund 50th Anniversary Fund, the Smithsonian Institution, and the 1882 Foundation. The entirety of the presentation is available for free on YouTube below:
Additional links and resources:
- Asian Law Collective: Past and Present: Asian Law Collective, Amerasia Journal, 1974, Vol. 2, 1-15.
- On the potential and ability of AAS to harness the energies of the next generation and to connect our students back to our communities: Teaching about Asian Pacific Americans: Effective activities, strategies, and assignments for classrooms and communities / edited by Edith Wen-Chu Chen and Glenn Omatsu.
- Asian Outreach Unit
- Andrew Leong’s article regarding the Boston College Law School Chinatown Clinical Program, also contains much history about GBLS and the Chinatown Outreach, as well as some bits about AALSA: A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO ESTABLISHING AN ASIAN LAW CLINIC: REFLECTIONS ON THE CHINATOWN CLINICAL PROGRAM AT BOSTON COLLEGE LAW SCHOOL in Asian Pacific American Law Journal, Fall, 1994, 2 Asian Pac. Am. L.J. 83
- Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund
- UMD, Asian American Studies program
- Asian Law Alliance
- Asian Law Caucus
- Dale Minami’s article “Asian Law Caucus: Experiment in an Alternative”