Rally for Nisei Planned Before USC Commencement

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A “Rally for USC Nisei” is being planned for Friday, May 11, the day of USC’s commencement ceremony.

During the ceremony, USC will grant honorary degrees to Japanese Americans who were forced to leave the university in 1942 due to Executive Order 9066. Those who have since passed away will receive honorary alumni status but no posthumous degrees.

Rally organizer Jon Kaji, president of Kaji & Associates and a USC alumnus, said, “It's time to send a clear message to the USC Board of Trustees and administration. Come out and protest the decision to limit USC honorary degrees to only the few Nisei still living — and to insult the memory of those Nisei who have passed on.”

Protesters will be on the northwest corner of Figueroa Street and Exposition Boulevard from 6 to 8:30 a.m.

Jon Kaji

Kaji, who has posted an announcement of the rally on Facebook, said that the protest will be called off if the administration reverses its decision before Friday.

“No word yet,” he told The Rafu Shimpo on Monday afternoon.

Students will line up for the commencement at 8 a.m. The processional will start at 8:30 a.m. and the ceremony at 9 a.m.

Recipients of baccalaureate honorary degrees are: Iwao George Kawakami, Yoshiteru Gary Kikawa, Yutaka Kody Kodama, Yuri Hirooka Kumai, George Mio, Setsuko Matsunaga Nishi, Hitoshi George Sameshima and Frank Takashi Tofukuji. Ryo Munekata will receive an honorary master’s degree.

Posthumous honorary alumni certificates have been confirmed for John Masato Fujioka, Iwao Allen Harada, Tadashi Ochiai, Richard Otagaki, Takako Saito, Tommy Minoru Tanaka and Roy Hideo Yamamoto.

For more information on the ceremony, visit www.usc.edu/dept/pubrel/specialevents/commencement/Nisei.php.

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5 Comments

  1. USC Student on

    Maybe Jon Kaji should consult the student population before making executive decisions about how this situation is handled. How well did his efforts go before the student movement? They were ignored and that is because he uses brute force and demand without trying to engage the USC community in a friendly manner. As a USC student, I don’t support this protest and I don’t support his aggressive process, especially without the engaged opinion of the current students.

  2. USC Student on

    ALSO, this protest ignores and tarnishes the experience of the Nisei who WILL receive awards.

  3. While “USC Student” is entitled to his opinions, I disagree. I support Mr. Kaji’s efforts 100% and if there were more people like Mr. Kaji, maybe internment would’ve never happened. Mr. Kaji is under no obligation to notify anyone of his desire to right a wrong and certainly does not need the student population of USC to agree.

    It’s much easier to criticize than to get out there and right a wrong…

  4. USC Student on

    It isn’t about notification. It’s about unity and community–which are both at the roots of activism, right? At least that’s the activism that I would want to engage in. Mr. Kaji’s tactics from the very beginning have worked to isolate himself from the USC community. Even though Mr. Kaji has never personally acknowledged it publicly, it was a STUDENT grassroots campaign at USC that made the final efforts that allowed for the Nisei to receive honorary degrees. Not once during our process did Jon Kaji reach out to the student group in an attempt to work as an alliance. The student movement, on the other hand, engaged a wide variety of those connected to USC, gathering over 20 support letters from a group of multi-ethnic student groups on campus and putting together a petition containing 1,400 signatures from students, alumni, and staff. So this isn’t criticism for the sake of criticizing. This is criticism coming from a dissatisfied USC student that feels that Jon Kaji should be working WITH students WITH the administration to create peaceful, effective, and powerful change. There is a time for rallying and marching and boycotts, and this isn’t it. On top of that, there will be a handful of Nisei who WILL be walking stage tomorrow and it isn’t fair for them to have their day that they have LONG waited for tarnished by bad press and protests. You can “right a wrong” without being a bully about it.

  5. Going back some 4 years ago when, as President of the USC Asian Pacific Alumni Association, the Board passed a resolution urging USC to award honorary degrees to the former Nisei students. On the APAA board are students who represent the USC Asian Pacific American Student Assembly. APAA also cooperates with Asian Pacific American Student Services. Since all the student groups experience an annual turnover of members, the institutional memory of the group is transient. The effort to encourage the students to become more involved in the issue more than 4 years ago which provided the basis for the USC Nisei Diploma project.
    While we celebrate the awards given to the living USC Nisei students, we speak for all those Nisei who have since passed away, whose lives as students and as Americans were forever changed by Executive Order 9066. These students never had the chance to complete their USC education, like you or me. We represent the 99% of the Nisei who will never have the chance to walk down the aisle, but our hope is that, someday, their wives, sons, daughters, and grandchildren will have the same satisfaction as those few remaining Nisei.
    We commend the USC students for their efforts to date…but never forget the spirits of those endured the shame and humiliation. We will continue to fully-exercise our First Amendment rights and respect the views and opinions of those who may have a difference of opinion.
    You may disagree with the communities tactics; however, we’d suggest that you look at the long-list of individuals, organizations and community leaders who support both an apology and posthumous degrees. Redress only came about as a result of coalition-building, education, lobbying…and protests and demonstrations.