NCRR Expresses Gratitude to Lane Ryo Hirabayashi

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Lane Hirabayashi speaks at the launch of the NCRR book in June 2018 at the JACCC. (Photo by Gann Matsuda)

NCRR, founded in 1980 as National Coalition for Redress/Reparations (now known as  Nikkei for Civil Rights & Redress), began its grassroots campaign to help win redress for Japanese Americans incarcerated during WWII. NCRR members felt that their lives had been transformed and really wanted to share their experiences of working closely with the community, which had been silenced yet found its voice to speak out and demand an apology and monetary reparations, won redress in 1988, and continued to fight for those who had been denied redress.

We felt that the power of these experiences and the lessons learned should be expressed in a book. We thought about who would be able to advise us and help us write the book as well as promote it in colleges and the community. Lane was the perfect choice. He was the expert of experts regarding the Japanese American incarceration and who always combined community activism with scholarly pursuits. He had even worked with NCRR Gardena when he first came to UCLA in the 1980s.

With his enormous generosity of spirit and steady stewardship, we were able to create “NCRR: The Grassroots Struggle for Japanese American Redress and Reparations.” In fact, he even took a quarter off of his UCLA duties to focus on the book.

After Lane was diagnosed with his illness, he continued to do everything he could to get the book into university libraries. He also organized book talks at California State University Los Angeles and UCLA.

Even as his energy was being severely sapped by his condition, Lane made sure he got together with the NCRR book editorial team. It meant so much to us. We were deeply saddened when his wife let us know about his passing. We miss him dearly.

The editorial team for the NCRR book: (seated, from left) Jan Yen, Lane Hirabayashi, Kay Ochi, Kathy Masaoka; (standing) Suzy Katsuda, Richard Katsuda. (Photo by Susie Ling)

Kay Ochi, NCRR co-chair and member of the NCRR book editorial team: “Lane epitomized the description: ‘a gentleman and a scholar.’ Many of us were fortunate to get to know the kind, generous and affable guy that he was. I cherish our phone conversations, email chats and friendship.

“Lane’s wife, Marilyn Alquizola, shared that Lane was an iconoclast. Instead of having a memorial service, Lane would surely prefer that folks remember him by way of his diverse body of work in Japanese American, Mexican, Japanese Latin American, and Filipinx American studies, his most recent publications being the NCRR book and the book that he and his father Jim edited, “A Principled Stand.” Passing on these books and/or other works to a young person or such would be an excellent gesture in his memory.”

Roy Nakano, co-founder of NCRR Gardena: “In 1981, Lane came to UCLA for a fellowship with the Institute of American Cultures. Susie Ling and I were in the Asian American Studies Center, and we convinced him to check out the lively American culture of redress taking place in Gardena. It was a flashpoint for the movement, with Nisei getting fired up over hearing camp-denier Lillian Baker say it was for their own good. That was the beginning of Lane’s immersion into the redress movement. And for all the community organizations Lane was involved with thereafter, he made them better. American culture is better because of Lane.”

Qris Yamashita, designer of the NCRR book: “LANE HIRABAYASHI. Knowledgeable. Compassionate. Thoughtful. Generous. Friendly. Otsukaresamadeshita. Namoamidabutsu.”

Kathy Masaoka, NCRR co-chair and member of the NCRR book editorial team: “When we first started thinking about writing the history of NCRR, Lane was the first person we thought of. He was busy teaching, serving as interim director of the UCLA Asian American Studies Center and department chair, so he tried to steer us to others. But Lane being Lane, he felt a responsibility and a desire to get the history right.

“He agreed but asked for time to put things in order at UCLA — we were more than willing to wait! Lane was a patient guide, accommodating our collective style of work (slow) and our inability to cut anything out. He was willing to be the one with the red pen to dispassionately edit the submissions. Thank you, Lane!”

Jim Matsuoka, founding member and longtime treasurer of NCRR: “I mourn the passing of my fellow compatriot in the fight for social justice and historical accuracy. His loss is immense, to his family, to NCRR, to the Japanese American community and to all peace-loving people of the world.”

Miya Iwataki, NCRR legislative director during the redress campaign: “There will be many deserved tributes celebrating the life and accomplishments of Lane Hirabayashi. Historian, storyteller, teacher, mentor, activist, family man, friend. Lane gifted us with deeper insights into how both the concentration camps, and the campaign to win redress significantly shaped the Japanese American community.

“A unique part of his legacy is that he held scholarship and grassroots activism with equal respect, a rare quality and insight. Lane was a friend and cheerleader during some of my difficult days in R/R. As a colleague, he was crucial in helping NCRR take its rightful place in history.”

Suzy Katsuda, NCRR treasurer and member of the NCRR book editorial team: “Lane was a profoundly kind and caring person. He so loved his wife and grandkids. He was generous with his time and resources in assisting in the editing of our book. We could not have done it without his guidance. We will miss his smiling spirit and capacity for living a just life. He left us much too soon.”

Glen Kitayama, who was key in bringing students to NCRR’s redress campaign: “I met Lane back in 1989 when I was a young graduate student at UCLA working with NCRR and researching the redress movement. Along with his late father Jim Hirabayashi, he championed my research and eventually worked with the NCRR editorial team to feature my M.A. thesis in their book. Lane represented the best of us in merging academia and community because to him, they were intertwined. Lane left us way too soon, but he more than lived up to the academic and activist Hirabayashi legacy left by his father Jim and his uncle Gordon.”

Janice Iwanaga Yen, NCRR secretary and member of the NCRR book editorial team: “I was impressed by Lane’s love of family — especially wife Marilyn and their two grandchildren. He relished their summer escapes to cool S.F. Bay and was committed to the grandchildren’s Saturday sports activities.

“A couple of years ago, when I told Lane that he hadn’t talked much about the kids, he said, almost wistfully, that they didn’t need their grandparents so much anymore; friends counted. We were also delighted to receive Lane’s emails from the couple’s cruise on the Danube. He enjoyed the historic sites but was eager to catch up on ‘da book’s’ progress!  Marilyn was his rock as he courageously dealt with his long illness.”

Richard Katsuda, NCRR co-chair and member of the NCRR book editorial team: “I thoroughly enjoyed Lane. He was real. He wrestled with the demands of his work—all with a calm demeanor and smile. He was the antithesis of the stereotyped arrogant and pretentious academic. He didn’t brag about his critical contributions to the research and perspectives on Japanese American history.

“He just wanted to connect with his students and bring JA history to life and meaning. He lovingly talked about his father Jim’s work and role within the S.F. State Third World Strike and beyond because that’s what Lane was all about, too. I loved him as such a kindred spirit!”

Marilyn Alquizola, Lane’s wife, shared that even as his health waned, Lane’s concerns were clear and strong: “In these recent days of much-televised social protest, the Black Lives Matter movement, Lane was remarking on how some of our less informed students through the years had been dubious about the long, racist history in the U.S. Decades after the SFSU student strike, Lane thought it quite sad that the realization was just coming to light at a national level due to the murder, recorded on video, of yet another innocent person.

“This situation only further emphasized the vital need for a continuance of scholarship dealing with social justice and community work.”

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