The Day of Remembrance program at JANM last Saturday was well done. It was organized by PSWD-JACL, JANM, NCRR, and the Manzanar Committee.

George Abe, who was born in Manzanar, set the tone with a soulful rendition on his shakuhachi.

Panelist Richard Katsuda described the redress process and then laid out the challenges to preserve civil rights that lie ahead.

Dr. Mitch Maki, author of “Achieving The Impossible Dream,” very eloquently spoke of the intricacies of the redress process and our community’s  response to civil rights violations post-9/11.

Rose Ochi told of how she was able to influence key members of Congress as well as President Reagan to help in the redress process.

The way the community has come to the aid of Arabs and Muslims after 9/11 has given me a good feeling. It is often stated that we remember so that what happened to us does not happen to any other group of people in this country. Many in our community have spoken out opposing the oppression of Arabs and other Middle Easterners. NCRR and the Manzanar Committee have done good work to bring about a closeness between young JAs and Middle Eastern youth.

Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi (center) with co-emcees Soji Kashiwagi and Stephanie Nitahara. (Photo by J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo)

The closing address by Arab American leader Dr. Anan Ameri was inspiring as she described the good that came about because of our community reaching out to the Arab American community.

Emcees for the event were Stephanie Nitahara and Soji Kashiwagi. Stephanie is the recently appointed Pacific Southwest regional director of JACL. Her civil rights experience began at the University of Illinois, where she was active in a group organized to raise awareness of the crisis in North Korea.

Soji, a native of San Francisco, is a playright and director of a non-profit theater group, the Grateful Crane Ensemble.  At the end of the program he made an announcement concerning the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which allows President Obama to detain American citizens indefinitely without charge or trial. Although he said he would not use this provision when he signed the 2012 NDAA, he has not made any statement concerning its use this year. Soji urged the community to take action to oppose this violation of civil/human rights of American citizens.

Newly appointed Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi made a presentation of the resolution that he planned introduce into the Assembly designating Feb. 19 as the Day of Remembrance in California.  His announcement was followed by spirited applause.

Al had Stephanie Nitahara’s job as PSWDC JACL regional director in the early ’90s. At that time I was impressed with him and asked him one day whether he had thought about running for public office. He told me he would not run because he would hate asking people for money. Since then, Al has obviously overcome this obstacle. When I saw him at a community event a couple of years ago he was running for some office and was quick to ask for my financial support.

I have followed his career as member and president of the Torrance Board of Education. Al has it all: He is smart, good-looking, personable, and I think has a genuine concern for people. He has certainly paid his dues in our community and deserves our support.

The theme for the event was, “Our Struggle, Our Perseverance, Our Commitment.” The program cover had a striking drawing of a fist arising from coiled barbed wire. It was beautifully done by artist and long-time activist David Monkawa. The designer of the well-designed program booklet was Renee Nakagawa,  a senior at USC majoring in dommunication design.  She is originally from Honolulu.

As usual, the catered food was delicious. The day’s program was a fitting tribute to the 25-year anniversary of the signing of the redress bill.


 Phil Shigekuni writes from San Fernando Valley and can be contacted at The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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