Norman Y. Mineta, who was the U.S. secretary of transportation on Sept. 11, 2001, and Muslim artist/activist Hamza Perez will be the keynote speakers at the 2011 Day of Remembrance (DOR) set for Saturday, Feb. 19, at the Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo.
The theme for the event is “September 11th: 10 Years After” and is being organized by Nikkei for Civil Rights & Redress (NCRR), the Pacific Southwest District of the Japanese American Citizens League (PSW-JACL), and JANM.
The Day of Remembrance commemorates the signing of Executive Order 9066 by President Roosevelt on Feb. 19, 1942, which led to the unconstitutional forced removal of thousands of Americans of Japanese ancestry from their homes on the West Coast and parts of Hawaii by the U.S. government. Over 120,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry were falsely incarcerated.
The first Day of Remembrance events were organized in Japanese American communities throughout the country in the 1970s and 1980s to get support for grassroots redress campaigns that culminated with the signing of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988. DOR events have continued as both a reminder of the illegal forced removal of a group of American citizens during a crisis and as an opportunity to bring attention to current civil rights and human rights issues.
The 2011 Day of Remembrance will focus on the decade since 9/11. The historical parallels between the treatment of the Japanese American community when the U.S. entered World War II and the situation facing the Arab American and Muslim American communities post-9/11 are clear. The major distinction is that the U.S. government did not forcibly remove and unlawfully incarcerate en masse people of Arab descent and of the Muslim faith as it did people of Japanese ancestry. But members of those communities, like the leaders of the Japanese American community, have been held without charge and without trial.
Mineta, who served in Congress for 20 years before being nominated as secretary of commerce in 2000 by President Bill Clinton and then as secretary of transportation by President George W. Bush in 2001, was a key figure in the post-9/11 era.
He and his family were unlawfully imprisoned in a government-run concentration camp in Heart Mountain, Wyo., during the war. As a congressman, he led the fight in the House to pass the redress bill in 1988. During his tenure as secretary of transportation, he fought against racial profiling as head of the Transportation Security Administration. A recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Mineta is currently global vice chairman of Hill & Knowlton in Washington, D.C.
Puerto Rican American spoken word artist/activist Imam Hamza Perez quit his life as a drug dealer to become a Muslim more than a dozen years ago. As a single father, he took his message of faith to other young people through his uncompromising music as part of the hip-hop duo M-Team. When the FBI raided his mosque in Pittsburgh, he began reaching for a deeper understanding of his faith, discovering new connections with people from Christian and Jewish communities. His story is documented in the film “New Muslim Cool.”
He will speak as part of the DOR program.
The organizing committee for Day of Remembrance in Los Angeles is composed of representatives from NCRR, PSW-JACL and JANM along with other interested individuals. This program is free and open to the public. For more information, contact NCRR at (213) 284-0336; JACL PSW at (213) 626-4471; or JANM at (213) 625-0414.