SAN JOSE — Fred Korematsu Day was celebrated on Jan. 26 at San Jose State University’s Morris Dailey Auditorium.
The late Fred Korematsu, who challenged the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, was recognized in 2010 when Jan. 30, his birthday, was designated Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution in California. This year marks the fourth annual observance.
Lloyd LaCuesta, adjunct professor of journalism at SJSU, retired South Bay bureau chief at KTVU-TV, and past national president of the Asian American Journalists Association, served as emcee. Opening remarks were made by Karen Korematsu, Fred Korematsu’s daughter and co-founder/executive director of the Korematsu Institute in San Francisco, and Rep. Mike Honda (D-San Jose), chair emeritus of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, was one of the guest speakers.
The relevance of Korematsu’s case to today’s issues, especially in terms of defining what it means to be an American, was addressed by Jose Antonio Vargas, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who revealed his undocumented status in an essay for New York Times Magazine in 2011. The following year, he popularized the term “undocumented Americans” in describing the country’s population of nearly 12 million undocumented immigrants in a cover story for Time magazine.
Vargas is also the writer/director of the documentary “Documented,” part of which was shown at the event, and founder of Define American, an independent campaign that elevates the immigration conversation through media and culture.
Another documentary, “American” — which explores the experience of DREAMers, undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children — was also shown, and a statement was given by Miguel Santiago, a DREAM student at SJSU who has been active in the push for comprehensive immigration reform.
Bonnie Sugiyama, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Resource Center and Women’s Resource Center at SJSU, discussed GLBTIQ social justice issues, and spoken-word artist Akiko Aspillaga did a piece called “I Remember.”
The event was presented by the Fred T. Korematsu Institute for Civil Rights and Education, and sponsored by the Cesar E. Chavez Community Action Center at SJSU and the Japanese American Museum of San Jose.