By ELLEN ENDO, Rafu Contributor
The Museum of Social Justice, an entity devoted to telling the stories of Los Angeles’ diversity and social change, saluted attorney Rose Ochi at its gala celebration on Oct. 20.
For Ochi, who has received numerous awards over the years, this particular accolade held a special meaning because two individuals that have played key roles throughout her life were on hand: her husband of 49 years, architect Tom Ochi, and United States District Court Judge Terry Hatter.
Ochi was one of three selected for recognition by the new museum. Others were William Deverell, director of the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West (ICW), and Bishop Minerva Garza Carcano of the United Methodist Church California-Pacific Annual Conference. The event took place Oct. 20 at the historic Pico House in the El Pueblo District under the auspices of the Los Angeles United Methodist Museum of Social Justice.
“We will bless this community beyond another hotel or another shopping mall,” Carcano said in describing the museum’s mission to reflect L.A.’s unparalleled diversity. She is the first Hispanic woman to be elected to the United Methodist Church episcopacy.
The museum and education center, scheduled to open in 2013, will chronicle the city’s history of immigration. Begun as the “La Plaza Initiative,” a program of the Urban Foundation, the facility will offer a nondenominational and non-sectarian slate of exhibits, programs, and educational outreach while also interpreting the Methodist social justice heritage in an historical context.
Deverell, an educator and author, created the L.A. Service Academy, where high school students learned about the political, social, and environmental infrastructure of the city.
Tom Ochi introduced his wife of 49 years to those gathered. In accepting the honor, Rose Ochi described her husband as her “rock.” She then acknowledged Hatter as the person who became her mentor and helped open doors. She also credited her Issei parents, Yoshiaki “Roy” and Mutsuko “Grace” Matsukawa Matsui, for instilling in her the values that provided strength and inspiration.
After earning her bachelor’s degree at UCLA, master’s degree at California State University at Los Angeles, and law degree from Loyola Law School, Ochi was selected for a Reginald Heber Smith Community Lawyer Fellowship. She became co-counsel for the landmark Serrano v. Priest educational reform case.
She eventually became the highest-ranking Asian American woman in the U.S. Justice Department, appointed by President Bill Clinton and serving as assistant attorney general under Janet Reno. Most recently, Ochi, a former member of the Los Angeles Police Commission, led the California Forensic Science Institute as executive director.
She helped with efforts to establish the Manzanar National Historic Site and continues to work closely with the Friends of Manzanar, the Manzanar Committee, and other groups devoted to civil rights and to raising awareness about the World War II experience of Japanese Americans.
For more information on the museum, visit www.museumofsocialjustice.org.