Pasadena honors Japanese internment resister and civil rights icon Fred Korematsu
By Carl Kozlowski 01/23/2013
While the civil rights movement is most often regarded as the struggle for the rights of African Americans, Fred Korematsu was among the leaders in the battle for Asian-American rights. By refusing to go to the US government’s internment camps for Japanese-Americans during World War II, the Oakland native waged a courageous fight that took him all the way to the US Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court ruled against Korematsu, forcing him to be interned, but a team of lawyers, historians and researchers uncovered evidence in 1983 that ultimately overturned his conviction for defying the government’s order. Korematsu was 86 when he died in 2005.
On Saturday, Pasadena will celebrate Korematsu’s historic efforts by hosting the Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution in the McKinley School Auditorium, located at 325 S. Oak Knoll Ave. in Pasadena.
Korematsu is the first Asian-American in US history to have a day named in his honor, with his Jan. 30 birthday marked for the designation. The Fred Korematsu Day bill was signed into law by former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2010, and in 2011 Pasadena became the first Southern California city to create its own annual day of events.
This year’s free celebration begins at 9:30 a.m. and features the exhibit “Internment Camp Photos 1942-1944” by educator and photographer Stone Ishimaru. At 10 a.m., Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard will offer welcoming remarks before introducing Fred’s daughter, Karen Korematsu, co-founder of the Fred T. Korematsu Institute for Civil Rights and Education.
In addition, the documentary “Of Civil Wrongs and Rights: The Fred Korematsu Story” will be shown before the event closes with a presentation by Yukio Kawaratani and Phil Shigekuni, survivors of the Tule Lake internment camp.
“We celebrated on a Wednesday afternoon last year, and I was just hoping people would show up at the Pasadena Central Library’s auditorium,” said Wendy Anderson, an organizer of the Pasadena event. “We had a full house, which was a surprise, because even in the Japanese-American community they don’t know much about him, so it’s an education for them, too.”