Rafu Staff Report
OAKLAND — A bronze bust of the late Oakland City Councilmember Frank Ogawa was defaced over the weekend during a downtown Oakland demonstration in support of the Black Lives Matter protesters in Portland, Ore.
A photo of the statue, which was splashed with paint or some other substance that discolored the metal, was posted on Facebook by Matt Ogawa of San Jose, the councilman’s grandson.
Across the country, a number of statues have been toppled or vandalized during protests. Some represent the Confederacy, while others represent different historical injustices, such as statues of Father Junipero Serra, who critics say was responsible for the near-eradication of California’s native peoples. In other cases, such as a statue of Ulysses S. Grant, who fought against and defeated the Confederacy, that was brought down in San Francisco, the motive is unclear.
“I shared a post on Facebook which has gotten a great amount of support,” said Matt Ogawa. “It’s not about taking attention away from the injustices at play in society. However, it is disappointing that at a rally in support of Portland protests, there are people defacing symbols that are in direct support of what so many are fighting for. My grandfather’s entire platform was centered around equality and social justice.”
One commenter on Ogawa’s Facebook post said, “People seem to have the misunderstanding that anyone who has a statue must have been a terrible person to be celebrated in this country.”
The Berkeley JACL said in a statement, “The Berkeley chapter of the JACL protests the vandalism to the bust of former Oakland City Councilman Frank Ogawa by unknown persons, but stand — as we believe Frank Ogawa would have done — in solidarity with the rights of citizens who exercise their rights to protest injustice, with the movement for Black Lives, and against federal unmarked troops forcibly brought into our communities.
“Frank Ogawa was the first Japanese American to serve on the Oakland City Council and experienced state racism when he was shipped to the Topaz concentration camp in Utah without due process during World War II. Berkeley JACL will always remember and honor Frank Ogawa’s great contributions to our community and will continue his work by supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and all efforts to end racism.”
On Wednesday, Matt Ogawa reported that volunteers were working to repair the damage: “Many folks stepped up and took action without ever being asked to. I would like to thank Phillip Tagami as well as the support of Winsome Bowen, the Japanese American Citizens League chapters of Berkeley and Contra Costa County, the Nichi Bei Foundation, Pacific Citizen, NextShark, and The Rafu Shimpo. While I understand the process isn’t complete, the statue is on its way to being restored.
“Thank you to everyone who reached out, those who have offered support, shared my post, and spoke out on behalf of the civic work my grandfather did. All of you are the true definition of what ‘community’ means. We can all use a little bit more of that right now.”
Frank Hirao Ogawa (1917–1994) served on the City Council from 1966 to 1994, the longest tenure of any Oakland council member.
A Nisei born in Lodi, he and his wife Grace Sumiye Hiruma Ogawa (1911-1998) were forced to sell their possessions and were imprisoned at Topaz during the war. Their daughter, Nancy Lynne Ogawa, was born in camp but died at age 2 in 1945. The couple also had a son, Alan Ogawa.
After release, Ogawa returned to Oakland, found work as a gardener, and became active in the community and civil rights. He saved money until he was able to open his own nursery.
In addition to the City Council, he served on the Oakland Parks Commission, San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission, and Bay Area Air Quality Management District Board of Directors. He was largely responsible for establishing a sister-city relationship between Oakland and Fukuoka.
Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Palo Alto) said, “Frank Ogawa was a remarkable person because he could take personal misfortune and turn it into a positive learning experience for himself and others. When Frank and Grace Ogawa were forced to sell their belongings and live in internment camps during World War II, they had to sleep on straw mattresses in horse stalls for six months before being shipped to a camp in Utah to spend another 3½ years in confinement.
“Despite this mistreatment and injustice, he never lost faith in the United States. Just the opposite — he strived to prove his loyalty to his country and became an internationally recognized champion of Asian Americans in the process.”
City Hall Plaza was renamed Frank Ogawa Plaza, where the bust is located, by a unanimous City Council vote. The Frank Ogawa Firescape Garden was also named in his honor, and the Torii Gate in Lakeside Park was dedicated in his memory. (Source: Oakland Wiki)