Honoring The Powerful, Immeasurable Legacy Left By Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga

Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga (left) with Manzanar Committee member Gann Matsuda at the
annual Day of Remembrance program in
Los Angeles on February 17, 2018.
(click above to view larger image)
Photo: Alisa Lynch

I’ve been “forced” to recall how I got started as a community activist quite a bit lately.

Indeed, back in June, when NCRR (Nikkei for Civil Rights and Redress; originally the National Coalition for Redress and Reparations) held their event to launch their new book about their incredible, highly impactful history, it reminded me of all the activists who came before me who have been mentors and teachers for my own community activism.

On the morning of July 19, I received word that Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga passed away the night before. She was just a little over a month away from celebrating her 93rd birthday.

Aiko is well-known in the Japanese American, Asian American, and broader civil rights communities for her tireless work for social justice since her time in New York after she was one of the 120,000 Japanese/Japanese Americans who were unjustly incarcerated in American concentration camps and other confinement sites during World War II.

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Manzanar Committee Mourns The Loss of Legendary Community Activist Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga

Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga, shown here during the 48th Annual Manzanar Pilgrimage, April 28. 2017.
(click above to view larger image)
Photo: Gann Matsuda/Manzanar Committee.


LOS ANGELES — The Manzanar Committee extends its deepest sympathies to the family, friends, and colleagues of Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga, who passed away on July 18 in Torrance, California at the age of 92.

Herzig-Yoshinaga, who was one of the 120,000 Japanese/Japanese Americans who were unjustly incarcerated in American concentration camps during World War II, is best known for her painstaking research in the National Archives where she discovered the original edition of Western Defense Command General John DeWitt’s Final Report, Japanese Evacuation from the West Coast, 1942, which clearly indicated that racism, not national security concerns or military necessity, was the primary motivating factor in the forced removal and incarceration of Japanese Americans from the West Coast some 76 years ago.

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Manzanar Commitee Lauds Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga With Sue Kunitomi Embrey Legacy Award On July 17, 2011

Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga (center), shown here with Manzanar Committee Co-Chairs Kerry Cababa (left) and Bruce Embrey (right), received the Sue Kunitomi Embrey Legacy Award on July 17, 2011 in Gardena, California.
Photo: Gann Matsuda

GARDENA, CA — At the 42nd Annual Manzanar Pilgrimage on April 30, 2011, Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga, one of the seminal figures in the Japanese American community’s fight for redress and reparations, was announced as the 2011 recipient of the Sue Kunitomi Embrey Legacy Award.

The award is named after the late chair of the Manzanar Committee who was one of the founders of the annual Manzanar Pilgrimage and was the driving force behind the creation of the Manzanar National Historic Site.

But Herzig-Yoshinaga, now 87 years old, was unable to attend the event, which is held at the Manzanar National Historic Site, approximately 230 miles northeast of Los Angeles.

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Mako Nakagawa Delivers Keynote Address At 42nd Annual Manzanar Pilgrimage

The following is the text of the keynote address delivered at the 42nd Annual Manzanar Pilgrimage on April 30, 2011, by Mako Nakagawa.


Mako Nakagawa delivered the keynote address at the
42nd Annual Manzanar Pilgrimage on April 30, 2011,
at the Manzanar National Historic Site.
Photo: Gann Matsuda

Good afternoon.

I am very pleased to be able to join you on this wonderful occasion. We stand here today on sacred ground. If we listen, we can hear the cries of pain and agony, feel the confusion and worries, soak in the laughter and hope, and be touched by the strife to maintain collective dignity and courage. This land holds many, many stories which we must not let fade without being recorded.

The Manzanar Committee chose four Champions of Civil Rights as the theme for this year’s Pilgrimage. These people were not born super heroes. They were simply ordinary people who managed to accomplish extraordinary feats in the protection of our civil rights who were true to themselves and true to their own unique convictions.

They had courage under pressure. Everyone here today benefited from their efforts. Some may not recognize the names of Fred Korematsu, William Hohri, Frank Emi and Aiko Herzig Yoshinaga, but we are all in for a treat when we read about them in our program. Let the stories of these great role models inspire you. These three men are now deceased but their names will live on. Read more of this post