‘JA Redress Movement and Social Justice Today: 30 Years of the Civil Liberties Act’

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Original 1988 bill from National Archives to be displayed.

President Ronald Reagan signs the Civil Liberties Act on Aug. 10, 1988. Members of Congress in attendance included (from left) Sen. Spark Matsunaga (D-Hawaii), Rep. Norman Mineta (D-San Jose), Rep. Patricia Saiki (R-Hawaii), Sen. Pete Wilson (R-Calif.), Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), Rep. Robert Matsui (D-Sacramento), and Rep. Bill Lowery (R-San Diego). At right is JACL National President Harry Kajihara.

The Japanese American National Museum (JANM) and Go For Broke National Education Center (GFBNEC) have announced new and expanded exhibitions that will explore social justice, due process and the role of Japanese American World War II veterans in the redress movement as the nation marks the 30th anniversary of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988.

The landmark legislation, signed into law by President Ronald Reagan on Aug. 10, 1988, provided a formal government apology and monetary reparations to survivors among the approximately 120,000 Japanese Americans incarcerated without due process during World War II.

JANM’s “Common Ground: The Heart of Community” exhibition, which chronicles more than 130 years of Japanese American history, will unveil a newly expanded final section that further explores the unprecedented social and political campaign for the Civil Liberties Act and the historic accomplishments of the redress movement.

As part of the opening celebration, two original pages of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, on loan from the National Archives in Washington, D.C., will be on display from Aug. 4 to Sept. 23. These will include the page with the signatures of Reagan, Rep. Norman Y. Mineta, and Sen. Spark Matsunaga. (Mineta subsequently served as U.S. secretary of commerce and secretary of transportation.)

On Saturday, Aug. 4, at 2 p.m., JANM and GFBNEC will present “Reaffirmed Commitment: A Conversation with Norman Y. Mineta.” The program will feature Mineta, who, along with Sens. Matsunaga and Daniel K. Inouye, was a driving force behind the redress bill; and Dr. Mitchell T. Maki, GFBNEC president and CEO and co-author of the book “Achieving the Impossible Dream: How Japanese Americans Obtained Redress.”

For more information, visit www.janm.org. RSVPs for this program are strongly encouraged. Admission to JANM and the program on Aug. 4 is pay-what-you-wish. JANM is located at 100 N. Central Ave. in Little Tokyo.

In a complementary exhibition, GFBNEC will host “H.R. 442: Nisei Veterans and the Fight for Civil Liberties” from Aug. 4 to Sept. 16. The exhibition will explore the role of Japanese American WWII veterans in the fight for redress. Despite rampant discrimination and the incarceration of many of the soldiers’ families, the Nisei veterans’ selfless bravery became the moral foundation upon which the redress movement was built. Grant Ujifusa, a key player in the Japanese American Citizens League’s campaign to support redress, put it simply: “No Nisei soldier, no redress.”

The special “H.R. 442” exhibition will be included with pay-what-you-wish admission to GFBNEC’s “Defining Courage” exhibition located in the historic Nishi Hongwanji building (now JANM’s historic building) at 355 E. First St. For more information, visit www.goforbroke.org.

Additionally, on Aug. 10 — the anniversary of the actual signing date — JANM will again be pay-what-you-wish and will host an afternoon of reunion, reconnection and reaffirmation of its commitment to democracy and justice. JANM President and CEO Ann Burroughs, GFBNEC’s Maki, and an additional special guest will speak. Attendees will have the opportunity to pledge their ongoing personal commitments to civil liberties by signing a Commitment Banner. Group photos of those involved in the redress movement will be taken. RSVPs are strongly encouraged at www.janm.org.

“Thirty years after the historic achievement of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, the United States government is once again engaging in deeply unfair and discriminatory practices,” Burroughs said. “But unlike the 1940s, when virtually no one stood up against the government’s reprehensible treatment of Japanese Americans, today JANM and others across the country are standing with those who are now the targets of prejudice, discrimination and exclusion.

“Our commemoration of the Civil Liberties Act in August is the prime opportunity to remind the American people and our leaders of the grave injustices of the 1940s and of how easily the tragic lessons of the past are ignored when policy is determined by the politics of bigotry and discrimination.”

Maki noted that the Japanese American redress movement has strong relevance in today’s political climate. “The redress movement reminds us that we must remain vigilant in protecting constitutional rights for all, including equal justice under the law and due process. As President Reagan said in signing the act into law in 1988, ‘For here we admit a wrong; here we reaffirm our commitment as a nation to equal justice under the law…. The ideal of liberty and justice for all–that is still the American way.’”

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