Commemorating the 25th Anniversary of the Civil Liberties Act

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At Little Tokyo Towers in 1990, Assistant Attorney General James Turner presents two Issei women with a presidential apology and reparations of $20,000 for their wartime incarceration. The payments were made in order of age, starting with centenarians. (Photo by Janice Iwanaga Yen)

To celebrate the landmark passage of the Civil Liberties Act by the U.S. Congress in 1988, Nikkei for Civil Rights & Redress (NCRR) and community co-sponsors invite the public to a free viewing of excerpts from six films on Saturday, Aug. 10.

These films recall the profound impact that racism, incarceration, displacement and disruption had on Japanese Americans during World War II and the work that still needs to be done today.

On Aug. 10, 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which acknowledged that the incarceration of persons of Japanese ancestry during World War II was caused by “racial prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership.” The act provided restitution and a apology to individuals affected by Executive Order 9066, and also provided for a public education fund to prevent future occurrences.

In 2002, the Department of Justice’s Office of Redress Administration announced that 82,220 Japanese Americans had received redress and that 645 Japanese Latin Americans had received a lesser sum under terms of a settlement. This lesser sum was only $5,000 each, which is a continuing inequity in redress that will be addressed at the program.

The films document the stories of individuals of Japanese ancestry (including prisoners removed from their homes in Latin America) and those who were threatened with deportation for protesting in the camps. The historic redress effort of the Japanese American community during the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s is covered as well as the effects of the incarceration on younger generations of Japanese Americans.

The series concludes with some of the responses by the Japanese American community as it outreached to those who suffered from racism and profiling by the U.S. government after the events of 9/11.

The free screenings will be held at the DISKovery Center, 353 E. First St. in Little Tokyo. The schedule is as follows.

Welcome and introduction to the first group of film excerpts at 12:30 p.m.

• “Pilgrimage” describes how the first group pilgrimage to Manzanar came about in 1969. The people who organized it share their thoughts and feelings about that first trip, the importance of the pilgrimages in their lives, and the events after 9/11. Directed by Tadashi Nakamura.

• “CWRIC Testimonies.” Edited from the 1981 Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians hearings, these clips dramatically tell the first-person stories of Japanese Americans arrested and incarcerated during World War II. Produced by Visual Communications and NCRR, edited by Stephen Nagano.

• “Justice Now! Reparations Now!” features the many people and organizations that contributed to the community’s 1980s campaign for redress, including the historic lobbying delegation of over 100 Japanese Americans to Washington, D.C. in 1987. Produced/directed by Alan Kondo.

Break for refreshments and Q&A at 1 p.m.; welcome and introduction to the second set of film excerpts at 1:30 p.m.

• “Hidden Internment” tells the story of Art Shibayama, who, along with over 2,000 other Japanese Latin Americans, was essentially kidnapped, forcibly shipped to the U.S. and incarcerated at Crystal City, Texas. After JLAs were refused redress through the Civil Liberties Act, Shibayama worked with others to fight for justice. Directed by Casey Peek.

• “From a Silk Cocoon” is the story of American-born Itaru and Shizuko Ina, who were incarcerated at the Tule Lake Segregation Center. Itaru, incensed by the indignities of prison camp life, was charged with sedition for speaking out in protest of the government’s efforts to separate the “loyal” from the “disloyal,” and the government ruled that he and his family were to be deported to Japan. Directed by Satsuki Ina.

• “Post-9/11/01 Candlelight Vigil: Building Ties with Muslim and Arab Americans.” NCRR and the local Japanese American community support Americans of Middle Eastern and South Asian descent during the months following the attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Produced for NCRR by Janice Iwanaga Yen.

The program will be repeated from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m.

The abridged films range in length from 8 to 15 minutes each. In keeping with the celebratory nature of the program, there will be light refreshments and ample time allowed for informal discussion. Individuals who were incarcerated and participated in the redress movement will be present.

Partial list of sponsoring organizations: NCRR, Little Tokyo Historical Society, Japanese American Cultural and Community Center, Manzanar Committee, Visual Communications.

For more information, call NCRR at (213) 284-0336.

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