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38th Annual Celebration

Friday, December 8, 2023
Program: 6:00-9:00 PM
Empire Garden, 690 Washington St.

Boston Chinatown

Long Arc of Justice Awardee & Keynote Speaker
Helen Zia

Helen Zia is a writer, journalist and Fulbright Scholar who has been outspoken on issues ranging from human rights to countering gender and hate violence and homophobia. Her latest book, Last Boat out of Shanghai: The Epic Story of the Chinese who Fled Mao's Revolution, was an NPR best book and shortlisted for a national PEN AMERICA award. Her first book, Asian American Dreams: The Emergence of an American People, reveals the contemporary civil rights struggles of Asian Americans. She co-authored My Country Versus Me with Taiwanese American nuclear physicist Wen Ho Lee, who was falsely accused of being a spy for the People's Republic of China. The daughter of Chinese immigrants, Helen was Executive Editor of the Ms. magazine, and is the founding board co-chair of the Women's Media Center. Her work on anti-Asian violence has been featured on Amanpour & Co., Lisa Ling's This is Life, Soledad O'Brien, and various news programs and documentaries, including the Oscar-nominated film, "Who Killed Vincent Chin?" In 2010, Helen was a witness in the federal case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court on marriage equality. She attended Princeton University on a full scholarship, was a member of its first graduating class of women and has received honorary doctorates from the University of San Francisco and the City University of New York Law School. Helen quit Tufts Medical school to work as a construction laborer in the South End, an autoworker in Detroit, and a community organizer, until she discovered her life’s work as a journalist and writer.

Justice in Action Awardee
Myong J. Joun

Judge Myong J. Joun is the first Asian American man and first Korean American judge to serve on the United States District Court of Massachusetts. Prior to his appointment to the federal judiciary, Judge Joun served on the Boston Municipal Court from 2014 to 2023, worked in private practice as a solo practitioner at Joun Law Office, and as an associate with the Law Offices of Howard Friedman, P.C

Throughout his impressive legal career, Judge Joun’s commitment to public service and access to justice has been an inspiration to many AAPI attorneys and students. His role as a prior AALAM President and director and his mentorship of AAPI students and attorneys left lasting impressions on both AALAM members and law students. Additionally, he was integral in establishing the AALAM Community Service Committee and Advocacy Committee. Beyond AALAM, Judge Joun held board leadership positions in the National Lawyers Guild and the American Civil Liberties Union in Massachusetts, as well as the Massachusetts Bar Association.

His life story reflects many challenges that our immigrant communities and families experience. Judge Joun’s mother immigrated to the United States with only $46. He attended Franklin K. Lane High School in New York, which at that time had a 50% dropout rate and a reputation for being among the worst high schools in the country. Despite those challenges, he graduated magna cum laude from the University of Massachusetts Boston and from Suffolk University Law School. While pursuing his degrees, Judge Joun served six years in the United States Amy as part of the Massachusetts National Guard. 

AALAM Community Service Awardee
Renee Inomata

Renee Inomata is an employment law partner at Casner & Edwards, LLP. Renee is a trusted advisor to companies and non-profit organizations and to C-suite executives. She helps her clients navigate complex and ever-changing employment laws to mitigate their legal risks and achieve best outcomes. At Casner, she co-chairs the firm’s Women’s Initiative and DEI Committees. Renee has been honored for multiple years as a SuperLawyer® by ThomsonReuters and included in their Top 50 Massachusetts Women Lawyers. She has been recognized by BestLawyers®, by Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly as a “Go To Employment Lawyer” and “Top Women of Law,” by Boston Magazine as a “Top Lawyer” in Massachusetts, and by Profiles in Diversity Journal as a "Women to Watch". Renee is a Trustee and member of the Society of Fellows of the Boston Bar Foundation, where she also serves on the Executive Committee, Grants Committee and Ad Hoc Development Committee. She is also a member of the Boston Bar Association, where she chaired its Nominating Committee and serves on the Advisory Committee for the Women of Color Attorneys Leadership Forum. In addition, Renee is involved in activities to support and elevate equity in the legal profession and to promote women and people of color to positions of leadership. Renee is the Chair of the GBH (formerly WGBH) Board of Advisors, is a member of its Board of Trustees and a member of GBH’s Beacon Circle. She is also a member of the Steering Committee of the Asian Community Fund at The Boston Foundation and was recognized as one of the 50 Most Influential Asian Americans in Boston in 2023. Renee served as a mentor in the Women’s Bar Association’s Women’s Leadership Initiative. She also chaired Governor Deval L. Patrick’s Asian American Commission and the Brown University President’s Diversity Advisory Council. Renee has also been involved in a number of community organizations in the Greater Boston area, as a board member, speaker and donor. Renee received her B.S. in Neuroscience from Brown University and her J.D. from Boston University School of Law.

AALAM/Dow Fund Scholarship Awardee
Shashank Vura

Shashank Vura is an Indian American environmentalist and third year law student at Harvard University Law School (HLS). As an attorney, he aspires to help restore Earth’s ecological balance. His international policy and domestic legal efforts advance biodiversity conservation to preserve endangered species, imperiled ecosystems, and humanity’s heritage.


Supported by the T.A. Barron Fellowship, he completed his summer 2023 clerkship at Earthjustice’s Oceans Program, seeking to protect coastal communities from climate change and safeguard iconic flora and fauna like right whales. Currently, Shashank is externing for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Northeast Section, exploring New England tribal fishing rights and intergovernmental implementation of Atlantic wildlife treaties.


During law school, Shashank has served on the executive boards of the Asian Pacific American Law Students Association, Animal Law Society, and Environmental Law Review. He was also a student lawyer in the Animal Law & Policy Clinic, a consultant for the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Beijing office, and a research assistant to Professor Kristen Stilt.


Before HLS, Shashank earned a Bachelor of Arts with distinction from Cornell University. He previously worked for the United Nations Environment Programme, the Rainforest Alliance, U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth, Elephants in Japan, and International Fund for Animal Welfare. He grew up in Sugar Land, Texas.

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