El Cerrito City Council Recognizes Ernest Iiyama

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Ernest Iiyama

EL CERRITO — The El Cerrito City Council, at its Feb. 6 meeting, approved and presented a proclamation recognizing the contributions of the late Ernest Iiyama to the local community.

Three of the five councilmembers were present — Mayor Bill Jones and Councilmembers Rebecca Benassini and Ann Cheng.

Don Delcollo of El Sobrante, a member of Contra Costa JACL, expressed his appreciation for Iiyama, who passed away on June 15, 2011 at the age of 99.

Iiyama’s wife, Chizu, and daughter, Patti, spoke of his work and life and received the proclamation on his behalf. Chizu Iiyama stated that her husband felt that his biggest contribution was speaking to children in schools about civil liberties and the importance of standing up and helping people.

The proclamation reads, in part:

“Ernest S. Iiyama was a resident of El Cerrito for over 50 years, husband to Chizu, father of Patti, Mark and Laura, and attended the University of California, Berkeley …

“In 1934, Mr. Iiyama was one of the founders of the Oakland Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League and the Nisei Young Democrats of the East Bay …

“In 1942, along with more than 110,000 Japanese Americans, Mr. Iiyama was ordered to Topaz, Utah, one of ten concentration camps in the United States …

“Mr. Iiyama returned to the Bay Area in 1956, supported the civil rights movement, protested against the war in Vietnam, and joined the Contra Costa Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League and later was elected president …

“Ernest Iiyama and his wife Chizu became active in the National Coalition for Redress and Reparations, seeking justice for the Japanese Americans incarcerated during World War II, and was one of seven who received reparations in Alameda County …

“Mr. and Mrs. Iiyama were also prominent in the National Japanese American Historical Society, speaking for many years to schools in the El Cerrito community and universities throughout California about their internment during World War II. They also spoke at many Days of Remembrance commemorating the day President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the order for the concentration camps …

“In 2009, Mr. and Mrs. Iiyama received the Clifford Uyeda Peace and Humanitarian Award from the Day of Remembrance Consortium in honor of their lifetime activism …

“Mr. Iiyama served on the Human Relations Committee for the Richmond Unified School District and on the Ad Hoc Committee, which later formed the Human Relations Commission of El Cerrito …

“The City Council of El Cerrito does hereby proclaim its recognition of the significant contributions of Ernest Iiyama not only to the El Cerrito community but to the Japanese American community of the East Bay.”

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