“Unleashing Community Voices: The Power of Grassroots Activism” was the theme of the 2008 Day of Remembrance. This year’s program highlighted NCRR’s contributions to the historic redress campaign and took place on Saturday, February 16 at 2:00 pm at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles.
The annual program commemorated the signing of Executive Order 9066 by President Franklin Roosevelt on February 19, 1942. The Order led to the forced exclusion and incarceration of over 110,000 Japanese Americans during World War II. In NCRR’s tradition, the DOR program paid tribute to the Issei and Nisei generations in gratitude for their courage in enduring the harsh effects of the wartime exclusion, incarceration, and difficult resettlement.
In addition, 2008 marked the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, the legislation that provided a governmental apology and reparations to the over 82,000 Japanese American concentration camp survivors and others impacted by EO 9066. The passage of this historic legislation was the culmination of concerted effort by Japanese American community organizations with the support of other ethnic and religious communities. This anniversary will be marked with a series of events sponsored by NCRR, the Pacific Southwest District/JACL, and the Museum during this year. The DOR was the first of several commemorative programs.
The theme of the DOR program reflects NCRR’s strong commitment to grassroots participation in the redress campaign and the impact on the community. Since its founding conference in 1980, NCRR has maintained its Principles of Unity which included (1) a strong demand for monetary compensation to each former internee, (2) an education fund to support academic and artistic projects to educate the broader community about the wartime incarceration of Japanese Americans, and (3) giving support to other communities who face similar injustices.
Traci Kato-Kiriyama, poet and performance artist, created a multi-media, performance piece for the DOR program that showcased several Nisei in this community and shared their thoughts on their participation in seeking redress. Voices from several generations showed the empowering effects of being involved in pursuing justice. Excerpts from important redress themed films and projects were woven into the performance.
The unfinished business of redress and reparations was also highlighted. Congressman Xavier Becerra’s representative, Christine Oh, updated the community of the current legislative attempts to secure commission hearings on the issue of the 2300 Japanese Latin Americans’ abduction from Latin American countries and their incarceration in America’s concentration camps during World War II. Like the 1981 federal Commission Hearings held in major cities across the U.S., the hearings would provide JLAs the opportunity to provide testimony about their wartime ordeal and the long-term effects of the government sponsored kidnapping.
Only 152 Japanese Latin Americans received the $20,000 reparations. The other applicants were denied reparations provided by the CLA because they were not U.S.citizens at the time of their incarceration. Although a settlement was offered to JLAs, the amount was only $5000 per former internee, only one-quarter of the amount given to Japanese American former internees. The Campaign for Justice, on behalf of the JLAs, continues to seek equitable redress and education about the JLA experience.
The third important component of the DOR program involved college students from the University of California at Riverside and San Diego, and the University of Southern California. The student leaders presented their perspective on the Day of Remembrance and addressed other issues of importance to them.