Nikkei for Civil Rights & Redress (NCRR), the Japanese American National Museum (JANM) and the Little Tokyo Historical Society (LTHS) are pleased to sponsor “The Grassroots Redress Movement: A Conversation with Activists Then and Now” in celebration of the second printing of “NCRR: The Grassroots Struggle for Japanese American Redress and Reparations.”
The program and book-signing will take place on Sunday, Oct. 20, from 2 to 4 p.m. at the JANM’s Tateuchi Democracy Forum, 300 N. Central Ave. in Little Tokyo. Light refreshments will be served.
The 391-page book, first published by UCLA’s Asian American Studies Center Press in 2018, is the first comprehensive exploration of NCRR’s roots, history, and continuing impact over four decades. Based on first-hand accounts, it is a rich portrait of voices and narratives that illustrate how a popular, egalitarian, grassroots campaign for social justice blossomed into a powerful voice for ordinary people that continues today.
Jim Matsuoka, founding member of NCRR (originally known as National Coalition for Redress/Reparations), will open the program with his perspective as a former incarceree who lived through the incarceration and its aftermath in the ’50s to the ’70s, before Japanese Americans were able to finally break through the pain and trauma of a beaten-down community and begin to find their voice to speak out for redress for what the government had done to them.
Miya Iwataki, former legislative chair of NCRR, will talk about the significance of the historic 1981 hearings of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (CWRIC). NCRR did outreach in the Japanese American community to seek former incarcerees to testify about their experiences during and after the WWII incarceration. She will describe how NCRR prepared testifiers and made sure the hearings were accessible to a broad spectrum of the community.
She will also discuss the vital relationship NCRR had with then-Congressman Mervyn Dymally, working with his office to develop redress legislation and to coordinate much of the logistics of a large lobbying delegation NCRR organized in 1987.
Guy Aoki felt it was important to join NCRR as part of the grassroots redress movement. In 1987, some 60 Japanese Americans and others from Southern California joined about 80 delegates from the Bay Area and other parts of the country to converge in Washington, D.C. to lobby for redress legislation. He will describe his experiences as one of the organizers of that lobbying delegation and relate the strong impact the delegation experience had on him and other delegates.
David Monkawa will talk about how art and artists play a significant role in grassroots movements. He created many dramatic posters for the annual Day of Remembrance (DOR) programs, which commemorate the signing of Executive Order 9066 in 1942 and explore how to apply lessons from the incarceration to what’s happening in today’s world. He will discuss what he was trying to convey in his posters and what he hoped the community would draw from them.
Richard Katsuda, NCRR co-chair, will moderate the first part of the program and will also talk about how NCRR first learned of Japanese Americans being denied redress. In the ’90s, NCRR mounted a new redress campaign to fight for such groups as Japanese Latin Americans, railroad workers and miners, and former incarcerees born after Jan. 20, 1945.
A short clip from “Tales of Clamor” will be shown at the program, highlighting the CWRIC hearings and the Japanese American community’s breaking of silence. “Tales of Clamor” premiered at the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center’s Aratani Theatre earlier this year and was created by traci kato-kiriyama and Kennedy Kabasares of PULL Project. Kato-kiriyama is a long-time partner of NCRR and “could never say ‘no’ to any requests from NCRR” for her help in curating performances for the DOR programs.
This video, along with the events and redress history shared by the first panel, will lay a foundation for a discussion with activists on the second panel, who will show how NCRR’s principles and belief in the power of grassroots organizing is still relevant in activism and what new principles may be emerging through the current work.
Moderated by NCRR Co-Chair Kathy Masaoka, the panel will include June Hibino, who helped to build ties with the Muslim community through the NCRR’s 9/11 Committee, which organized the first “Break the Fast” or Iftars, based on the NCRR principle of “supporting others who are suffering from unjust actions taken by the United States government.” She was also active in NCRR’s support of Lt. Ehren Watada, who refused to deploy during the Iraq War, calling it an unjust war.
As an activist artist, Tony Osumi worked with NCRR in a youth committee called Seigi on Little Tokyo issues (support for New Otani workers) and is currently involved with Nikkei Progressives as well as his own programs with youth. He will share what he has learned working with NCRR, and how these principles and values continue to influence his activism.
Finally, Kristin Fukushima, managing director of Little Tokyo Community Council (LTCC), and Sean Miura, co-curator of the Tuesday Night Cafe, will talk about how they have been impacted by NCRR’s work, how and why Nikkei Progressives formed, and why they felt it was important to continue the connection to NCRR’s history and legacy.
Both are Little Tokyo activists and can talk about how they see the influence of this grassroots struggle for redress in their own work — Fukushima through her organizing around #MyFSN (a community control campaign focused on the block of First Street North) and other preservation campaigns, and Miura though the long-running (over 20 years) spoken-word and arts program at Union Center for the Arts that brings Asian Pacific Islander youth to Little Tokyo.
All the panelists will engage in a conversation about the challenges and benefits that come with working in intergenerational groups and in Nikkei Progressives with the goal of uncovering new insights about grassroots organizing today.
“NCRR: The Grassroots Struggle for Japanese American Redress and Reparations” is richly illustrated with photographs from NCRR’s history and there is a section with color photos of 19 NCRR and DOR posters.
Members of the editorial team include NCRR officers Richard Katsuda, Suzy Katsuda, Kathy Masaoka, Kay Ochi, and Janice Iwanaga Yen. The graphic designer is Qris Yamashita. NCRR is indebted to Dr. Lane Hirabayashi, emeritus professor, UCLA, for serving on the team and encouraging NCRR on its multi-year quest to tell its story.
In the book’s conclusion, Hirabayashi writes, “NCRR represents an ongoing, lasting legacy of the Asian American Movement…Their stories richly illustrate the personal transformation engendered when people take their history, destiny, and representations into their own hands. … Japanese American history continues to be deeply relevant to understanding various dimensions of contemporary struggles for social justice.”