In celebration of Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz honored five community members for their many contributions to Queens and beyond.
The virtual event, held on Wednesday, May 26 via Zoom, spotlighted the works of Councilman Peter Koo, community activist Jeany Persaud, the Korean American Family Services Center, Assistant District Attorney Kiran Cheema and Queens District Attorney Paralegal Christopher Sui.
Featured performances included the Gotham Dance Theater, The Rangla Punjab Dance Academy, Herricks Chinese Association’s Children’s Sing-Along Class and The Physical Plant at Queensborough Dance Festival 2020 (Filipino Tinikling Dance).
While Katz’s office has worked throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to reduce violence and educate the public about predators and strengthen their ability to protect immigrants and workers, Katz noted their concerns about the increase of attacks against members of the Asian community.
“These incidents must stop and because we want to change the climate of fear that has been created by these attacks,” Katz said. “Let’s be clear, before COVID, Asian crimes have increased last year in New York City, but in the last five years, throughout the country, it has incrementally increased. We want to make sure that at the source, we want to educate and hold people accountable.”
While speaking on the importance of people standing together in the fight against anti-Asian hate and reporting crimes in real time, Katz acknowledged the group of community leaders who have made the borough a better place.
“These celebrations are of amazing people in Queens who have given so much and have become the lifeblood of our borough, and that’s part of combating hate as well,” Katz said.
The honorees are as follows:
Councilman Peter Koo
Koo, who is known as the “Mayor of Flushing,” was elected to the City Council in 2009 and is at the end of his term. Koo immigrated to America from Hong Kong in 1971 and worked to put himself through the University of Mexico College of Pharmacy, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree. Koo is the founder, CEO and president of the Starside Pharmacy chain in Flushing. Koo is also the president of the Peter Koo Community Charitable organization, which recently donated $100,000 to LaGuardia Community College and 20 wheelchairs to Elmhurst Hospital. Throughout the years, he has also donated generously to several local senior centers.
Additionally, Koo has served on various community organizations such as the Flushing Business Improvement District, the Flushing Chinese Business Association, the Queens General Hospital Community Advisory Board, Flushing Lions Club, Flushing Rotary Club, the American Cancer Society and Community Board 7.
Community activist Jeany Persaud
Born in Georgetown, Guyana, and raised in Chateau Margot, East Coast Demerara, Persaud arrived in New York City in 1978 seeking educational and adventurous opportunities. In 1981, Persaud joined the U.S. Army and served eight years in the Army Reserve. During this time, she traveled to Egypt and throughout the U.S. In 1991, she began volunteering at St. Alban’s Head and was appointed as a member of the board of directors in 2003, which she still serves.
Persaud currently handles public relations and marketing for the NY Corrections Department Desi Society (NYCD), the nation’s first fraternal organization to represent South Asian correction officers. Persaud has also served as the first vice president of the New American Voters Association and the former chair of the Chancellor Parent Advisory Council (CPAC).
Assistant District Attorney Kiran Cheema
Born and raised in Flushing, Cheema is an active member of the Asian American Bar Association. She began her service at the Queens district attorney’s office in 2014 as an intern in the Domestic Violence Bureau. She has worked primarily on human trafficking investigations and prosecutions. In 2019, Cheema obtained a jury trial conviction against a defendant for sex trafficking a teenager, after which the defendant was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Last year, Cheema was appointed by Katz as an assistant district attorney in the newly created Human Trafficking Bureau — the first bureau of its kind in New York City.
Queens District Attorney Paralegal Christopher Sui
Born to parents of Guyanese and Chinese descent, Sui, of the Criminal Court Bureau, has participated in initiatives such as organizing a neighborhood cleanup; serving as a council member for a day in the YCMA’s Teams Take the City Program, where he worked on mock legislation for increasing funding for summer youth employment program; and fighting against cuts to the CUNY Leads Program as a student council member. Sui has interned for Congressman Gregory Meeks, Councilman Fernando Cabrera and the Honorable Marcia Hirsch of the Queens Drug Treatment Court.
Korean American Family Services Center
The Korean American Family Service Center (KAFSC) is a leading, nonprofit organization that supports and empowers adults, youth and children to lead safe and healthy lives based on dignity, compassion and mutual respect, according to its website. The organization is committed to preventing and ending domestic violence, sexual assault and relationship abuse, and creating a violence-free society. Its counseling, education and advocacy programs for individuals and families in the New York tri-state area are provided in a culturally and linguistically appropriate setting.