Riverside Community College District’s Social Justice/Civil Liberties Center to House Okubo Collection


Artist’s concept of Miné Okubo plaza level in new Center for Social Justice & Civil Liberties.

RIVERSIDE — On June 23, higher education, city, and community leaders celebrated the beginning of “RCCD’s Renaissance Block” located in the heart of Riverside – on the corner of Market and University.

“This event is the beginning of a new journey for the district as it provides educational facilities that will create a new cultural, arts and hospitality block in downtown Riverside and will also bring economic benefits to our community,” said Chancellor Gregory Gray.

Okubo painting showing move-in day at Topaz camp in Utah.

The ceremonial demolition of what will be the RCC Culinary Arts Academy and District administrative offices building and the larger unveiling ceremony of the historic Spanish baroque façade on the Citrus Belt Savings & Loan Building – which will become the Center for Social Justice & Civil Liberties – is the first step toward more than $100 million of investments by RCCD. Three innovative projects comprise the RCCD “Renaissance Block.”

RCCD trustees, including long-time board member and past president Mark Takano, attended the ceremonies, taking up sledgehammers to strike the first blows signaling that construction and renovation are now under way.

The Center for Social Justice & Civil Liberties will be the first completed building in the Renaissance Block. The project has attracted widespread attention in the Japanese American as well as larger community because it will be home to what one scholar calls “possibly the most important and comprehensive art and humanities collection documenting the mid-20th century Japanese American experience including the World War II internment camp period.”

Renowned Japanese American artist, author and civil liberties proponent Miné Okubo (1912-2001), a native of Riverside and a graduate of Riverside City College and UC Berkeley, bequeathed the referenced collection to RCCD.

Upon publication of “Citizen 13660” in 1946, Okubo became the first Japanese American internee to publish a book about the camp experience. Her book quickly became a standard reference memoir and was subsequently included on reading lists of faculty at colleges and universities across the country.

Okubo’s career spanned several decades and included illustration work for iconic magazines such as Time, Fortune, and Life; private and public gallery showings of her paintings; popular literary/art salons hosted in her New York apartment; and advocacy for civil liberties and recognition of the indignities and injustices endured by Japanese Americans. In the 1980s, she testified before the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians.

The Okubo Collection, consisting of more than 8,000 pieces of art, professional papers and personal memorabilia, will provide an anchor archive for the study and understanding of both the Japanese American and other civil liberties and social justice issues in modern American history.

RCCD has committed nearly $6.3 million to the project and plans call for a media and digital resources center, a Kid’s Zone/Education center, permanent archiving, preservation and display of the Okubo Collection, visiting exhibits, and a guest scholar program.

Discussions are also under way regarding possible ties with the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles and linkages with archives associated with wartime camps such as Heart Mountain (Wyo.), Topaz (Utah), and Manzanar (Calif.).

With the assistance of the RCCD Foundation, the district seeks to raise $725,000 in private support before opening the center on June 27, 2012, the 100th anniversary of Okubo’s birth.

For more information about the center and the collection, call (951) 222-8800. For information about naming opportunities or how to contribute to the campaign for private support, call the RCCD Foundation at (951) 222-8627.

Construction site showing the historic building (left) that will be restored and house the Center for Social Justice & Civil Liberties and the Miné Okubo Collection. The two adjacent buildings on right will be torn down as part of the larger Renaissance Block project.


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