The following is a press release from Nikkei for Civil Rights and Redress, the Pacific Southwest District of the Japanese American Citizens League, the Japanese American National Museum, and the Manzanar Committee.
LOS ANGELES — The 2012 Day of Remembrance (DOR), 70 Years After E.O. 9066: Defending Our Civil Liberties, will include a special salute to the late Gordon Hirabayashi, who resisted the U.S. Government’s unfair curfew and forced exclusion of people of Japanese ancestry during World War II, as part of the community program set for Saturday, February 18, at 2:00 PM. at the Japanese American National Museum (JANM). The program, which is organized by Nikkei for Civil Rights & Redress (NCRR), the Pacific Southwest District of the Japanese American Citizens League (PSW-JACL), the Manzanar Committee and JANM, is free, but the Museum is asking attendees to “pay what you can” to help defray logistics costs.
Hirabayashi was a student at the University of Washington and had become a Quaker when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941. When President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942, it began a chain of events that led to the unjust removal of Japanese Americans from their homes by the government.
Hirabayashi’s conscience would not allow him to cooperate, and he chose to be arrested, believing he would be vindicated in court. Instead, he was convicted and his appeal to the United States Supreme Court, like the cases for Minoru Yasui and Fred Korematsu, was rejected. In the 1980s, the three cases were revived by a legal action, writ of error coram nobis, and Hirabayashi’s convictions were vacated when it was shown that the government had withheld evidence.
For this year’s DOR program, traci kato-kiriyama has assembled a presentation that includes excerpts from Hirabayashi’s own letters and material by playwright Jeanne Sakata and her piece, Hold These Truths (formerly Dawn’s Light: The Journey of Gordon Hirabayashi). The piece includes testimony from the coram nobis cases and video clips from the 1981 Los Angeles hearings of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilian (CWRIC). Besides this, the presentation will include the first-person voices of Nikkei and Muslim Americans to be presented by community performers.
The keynote speaker for the program is Robin Toma, Executive Director of the Los Angeles Human Relations Commission. Toma was a former staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Southern California and lead attorney for a suit brought by 2,200 Japanese Latin Americans who were unfairly confined in the United States during World War II. Among other topics, Toma will address the question of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and the provision that allows the President to detain any U.S. citizen indefinitely.
Sharing the emcee duties for the program are Kei Nagao and Shakeel Syed. Nagao worked for the Little Tokyo Service Center Community Development Corporation for eight years, while volunteering with NCRR and the Ties That Bind initiative. She is currently a board member of the Little Tokyo Community Council (LTCC), a Commissioner on the East Los Angeles Area Planning Commission, and a research associate at the largest public employees’ union in Southern California. Syed is the Executive Director of the Islamic Shura Council, a federation of mosques and Muslim organizations serving more than half a million Muslims in Southern California. He is often asked to speak to various groups, public agencies and educational forums.
The Day of Remembrance commemorates the signing of Executive Order 9066 by President Roosevelt on February 19, 1942. It led to the unconstitutional forced removal of thousands of Americans of Japanese ancestry from their homes on the West Coast and parts of Hawai`i by the U.S. Government. Over 120,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry were falsely incarcerated and every Japanese American unfairly carried the stigma of disloyalty.
The organizing committee for Day of Remembrance in Los Angeles is composed of representatives from Nikkei for Civil Rights & Redress, the Pacific Southwest District of the Japanese American Citizens League, the Manzanar Committee, and the Japanese American National Museum along with other interested individuals. For more information, contact NCRR at (213) 284-0336; JACL PSW at (213) 626-4471; the Manzanar Committee at (323) 662-5102; or the Japanese American National Museum at (213) 625-0414.
The Japanese American National Museum is located at (via Google Maps):
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