‘Power of the Commission Hearings’ in Torrance

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During the Los Angeles hearings of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians in August 1981, Lillian Baker tries to grab Nisei veteran Jim Kawaminami's testimony from his hands. Baker, a controversial conservative author and lecturer from Gardena, denied that Japanese Americans were incarcerated during World War II.

During the Los Angeles hearings of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians in August 1981, Lillian Baker tries to grab Nisei veteran Jim Kawaminami’s testimony from his hands. Baker, a controversial conservative author and lecturer from Gardena, denied that Japanese Americans were incarcerated during World War II. (Unity Newspaper)

TORRANCE — “Power of the Commission Hearings: First-Person Voices of Japanese American Incarceration,” sponsored by the Japanese American Historical Society of Southern California, Nikkei for Civil Rights & Redress, Visual Communications, and the Torrance Public Library, will be held on Saturday, May 3, from 1 to 3 p.m. in the Community Meeting Room at the Katy Geissert Civic Center Library, 3301 Torrance Blvd., Torrance.

In 1981, Japanese Americans spoke out for redress at the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (CWRIC) hearings across the country. The Los Angeles hearing was one of the few that was videotaped. Preserved by NCRR and VC, these testimonies galvanized a grassroots campaign for redress, resulting in the signing of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which authorized $20,000 and an apology for those who were interned.

Panelists from NCRR and testifiers from the South Bay will share insights from the hearings and the impact the hearings had on their lives and the community. Excerpts from the hearings will be shown with special attention to South Bay testimonies.

Among the testifiers from the South Bay to be shown via video are Alice Nehira, Kuniko Sato, Yayoi Ono, Mas Tanibata, Warren Furutani and Mas Fukai. Any other people who testified at the hearings are encouraged to come and share their experiences during the Q&A.

Lane Hirabayashi, Ph.D., a full professor in the Department of Asian American Studies at UCLA, where he is also the inaugural George and Sakaye Aratani Chair in Japanese American Incarceration, Redress, and Community, will moderate the program with panelists Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga, Miya Iwataki, Kay Ochi, Charlie Hamasaki and Roy Nakano.

Opening the program will be an eight-minute video of the L.A. hearings that will act as an overview. “Closing the program will be a clip of (UCLA) Professor Yuji Ichioka’s testimony, which is very powerful and acts as a great summation of what the hearings represented for Japanese Americans,” stated Steve Nagano, who has excerpted the video testimonies for this event.

Copies of “Speaking Out for Justice” by Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga and Marjorie Lee of UCLA, which catalogs all of the testimonies, will be available for sale. The program is free and open to the public.

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