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 Honors Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga At 42nd Annual Manzanar Pilgrimage

The following are remarks by Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga, the recipient of the Manzanar Committee’s 2011 Sue Kunitomi Embrey Legacy Award, which was presented at the 42nd Annual Manzanar Pilgrimage on April 30, 2011. Herzig-Yoshinaga could not attend, so she provided the following remarks for publication here.

For more information on Herzig-Yoshinaga and this award, click on: Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga To Receive 2011 Sue Kunitomi Embrey Legacy Award at 42nd Annual Manzanar Pilgrimage.

Photo: Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga

What a honor it is for Jack and I to be named recipients of the Sue Kunitomi Embrey Legacy Award! If Jack had not left us some six years ago, he would have been absolutely delighted to be there today to receive this award because, over the years, we admired and had great respect for Sue, who fought the good fight for all of us. We are the beneficiaries of her many decades of dedication and hard work in raising the public’s awareness about Manzanar and the other American concentration camps of World War II.

Encouraged by pioneer fighters such as Sue Embrey, Jack’s deep interest in this odious chapter in American History stemmed largely from the knowledge that I, as an American-born citizen among thousands of others of Japanese descent, had been mistreated by the government and deprived of the very principles for which he had served in the Armed Forces to uphold. His resolve to join me in historical research efforts and also participate in social justice movements was grounded in his belief of the obvious racist nature of the World War II exclusion and imprisonment of Japanese Americans. Read more of this post