Civil Rights has all too often been portrayed as a Black and White issue. I’m sure there a lot of white women who would share that gender bias is a point of civil rights, too. Folks seem to be learning that civil rights, or the lack thereof, has been an issue for many American citizens and residents.
This past Saturday Fred T. Korematsu was acknowledge for his fight for the rights of Japanese Americans who were put into camps following Executive Order 9066.
His daughter shared that her dad, who spent his youth in Oakland, saw himself as a regular guy who lived and worked on the family farm at the edge of Oakland.
He came to experience others prejudice the first time he came to town and was denied a haircut by a barber. The language used made it clear he was a “less than” and that he was not welcomed.
To quote Wendy Fujihara Anderson, ” (in) 1942 he refused to go to the government’s incarceration camps for Japanese Americans. He was arrested and convicted of defying the government’s order, he eventually appealed the case to Supreme Court. The case was lost because the felt the ‘the incarceration was justified due to military necessity…
40 years later the case was opened on the basis of government misconduct. There had been no acts of treason to justify mass incarceration. On November 10, 1983 Korematsu’s conviction was overturned”.
In 1998 he received the Presidential Medal of freedom from President Bill Clinton. His fight against injustice was a fight for all of our civil rights.
|Fred Korematsu and his daugher, Karen Korematsu
Photo by Shirley Nakao, courtesy of the Korematsu Institute
In 2011 members of the community approached members of the Pasadena City Council, the Pasadena Unified School District, and the Pasadena City College requesting a resolution for a Fred T. Korematsu Day. All three bodies embraced the idea and passed a resolution to do so annually.
A celebration of the life of Mr. Korematsu took place at McKinley School. mong those attending this past Saturday were archivist and photographer, Stone Ishimaru, Council member Gene Masuda, and Calvin Tajima.
Mr. Tajima shared that he hadn’t been back to McKinley in 37 years, back when he was a student. Stone was there with his photo exhibit that shares experiences of the 10 incarceration camps. I suspect both gentleman could only dream of a day when they might have a person from their community on the Pasadena City Council.
It was a day to be proud of Pasadena being the first in the state to recognize Civil Rights leader Fred Toyosaburo Korematsu.