VOX POPULI: Grayce Uyehara in Acrylic

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Grayce Uyehara is depicted in Alfred J. Smith's "Crossings."

By GERALD YAMADA, National Coordinator, Japanese American National Heritage Coalition

Grayce Uyehara is prominently featured in artist Alfred J. Smith’s acrylic painting “Crossings” (1986), which is hung in the Washington, D.C. Convention Center lobby area across from Room 140 on Level 1.

The painting depicts community leaders crossing the street at the corner of Connecticut Avenue and M Street NW in Washington. I saw Al Smith’s painting for the first time while attending the opening ceremonies for the dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial at the convention center.

Grayce deserves this honor. She took over as the executive director of the Legislative Education Committee (LEC) to lead Japanese American Citizen League’s redress effort after JACL terminated its National Committee for Redress (NCR) and John Tateishi, NCR staff director, left JACL in 1984.

Grayce, together with Grant Ujifusa (LEC strategy chair), Min Yasui, Cherry Kinoshita, Denny Yasuhara, Shig Wakamatsu, Mae Takahashi, Peggy Liggett, Molly Fujioka, Harry Kajihara, Tom Kometani, Rudy Tokiwa, Mary Tsukamoto, Judy Niizawa, Meriko Mori and Ruth Hashimoto, resuscitated the stalled redress initiative working with Congressmen Norman Mineta and Robert Matsui and Sens. Daniel Inouye and Spark Matsunaga.

All worked tirelessly to overcome obstacles in Congress, garnered support from key legislative leaders, and reversed President Ronald Reagan’s opposition to the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, also known as the redress bill, which the president signed on Aug. 10, 1988.

Grayce Uyehara deserves to be recognized as one of the significant community leaders of the 1980s. Visitors to D.C. should take the time to see this painting and to remember her leadership. It is a very good likeness of Grayce.

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