Korematsu Day, January 30, Celebrates Legacy and Reflects on Continuing Civil Rights Issues in Hawai‘i

January 30, 2013

Japanese Cultural Center Event is Free and Open to the Public

       Law Professor Eric Yamamoto will play a key role in the celebration of Korematsu Day next week, Wednesday, January 30, as Hawai’i recognizes the contributions of a man who stood up against the racism and prejudice after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

         The evening event is free and open to the public.

         Yamamoto is the Fred T. Korematsu Professor of Law and Social Justice at the William S. Richardson School of Law. In the mid-1980s he was one of the team of young attorneys who mounted a successful legal battle challenging Korematsu’s incarceration and, by extension, the wartime detention of all Japanese Americans.

        Avi Soifer, dean of the Law School, said, “It is fitting that Eric Yamamoto holds a professorship that honors Fred Korematsu. Eric is a tireless advocate for social justice, nationally and internationally renowned for his brilliant teaching and scholarship. It is no accident that Fred Korematsu and his family became close personal friends with Eric and that, through them, Hawai‘i has seen the impact of quiet courage in the face of prejudice and injustice.”

        Korematsu Day – proclaimed last May by Gov. Neil Abercrombie – recognizes Korematsu’s battle against the forced incarceration of more than 120,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry, including as many as 1,500 in Hawai‘i. His ultimate legal success set the stage for reparations and an official government apology to all those incarcerated, or their heirs.

       January 30th would have been Fred Korematsu’s 94th birthday. He died in 2005, seven years after being awarded the highest civilian honor in the U.S. – the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

        An evening program from 5:30 to 7:45 p.m. in the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai‘i’s 5th floor Grand Ballroom will feature a panel discussion of the issues of past discrimination, redress, and the continuing fight for social justice for all people.

      The panel will be moderated by Professor Yamamoto and will include:

  • Attorney William Kaneko, national vice-president of the Japanese American Citizens League, a forceful proponent for social justice for racial minorities;
  • Ted Tsukiyama of Hawai‘i’s legendary 442nd Regimental Combat Team that played a critical role in World War II;
  • Ashley Obrey of the Native Hawaiian Legal Corp. which advocates for Pacific and Hawaiian Islanders;
  • Dina Shek of the Medical Legal Partnership for Children in Hawai‘i, supporting the rights of Micronesians as well as other immigrant groups in Hawai‘i.

        Richardson Law School student Randall Wat will introduce Yamamoto to launch the panel discussion.

       The event will feature a special appearance by Fred Korematsu’s daughter, Karen Korematsu, speaking about carrying on her father’s legacy of social justice and civil rights.. She is co-founder and a member of the Advisory Council of the Fred T. Korematsu Institute for Civil Rights and Education based in San Francisco.

       The institute was formed by the Asian Law Caucus in cooperation with Fred Korematsu’s family. It has been instrumental in preparing curriculum materials for schools throughout the country. Some of its materials are already in use in the Hawai‘i public school system.         

        The event will also include reflections by Hawai‘i resident Helene Minehara, whose family lost their Oahu home after the forced evacuation. She will be interviewed by Carole Hayashino, president and executive director of the JCCH.

        Additionally, a short trailer from the Korematsu documentary film, “Of Civil Wrongs & Rights” will be shown, as well as an award-winning documentary by Punahou High School student Matt Shimura. His film is entitled: “The Constitution and the Camps: Due Process and the Japanese American Internment.”

         Refreshments will be served at the program’s close.

        The William S. Richardson School of Law at the University of Hawai‘i is one of many community sponsors of the day’s event.