Last Monday, assemblyman Marty Block, the San Diego Japanese American Citizens League, Nikkei Student Union, Asian Pacific Student Alliance, UCSD Nikkei Student Union and Vietnamese Student Association gathered in the Fowler Athletics Center to commemorate the second annual Fred Korematsu Day.
The statewide holiday celebrates the life of Fred Korematsu. In 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt authorized the internment of all American citizens of Japanese ancestry, in response to the attacks on Pearl Harbor. More than 110,000 men, women and children were detained and had their property seized by the government. In an act of protest, Korematsu refused to turn himself in. He was later arrested and convicted of defying the government’s order. Korematsu appealed his case questioning the constitutionality of interning citizens of Japanese-American descent. The case reached the Supreme Court in 1944. Ultimately the court ruled against him, citing the internment was justified because of military necessity.
In 1982, however, a team of Japanese-American lawyers reopened Korematsu’s case, resulting in his conviction being overturned. To honor his commitment to fighting civil injustice, Korematsu received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, from President Bill Clinton in 1998.
The theme of the on-campus celebration was courage. “Through his example, we’re going to talk about civil liberties under the constitution, how one can be courageous in day to day life and how we can take Fred Korematsu’s example to do what we believe is right,” NSU Vice President Stuart Mizokami said. Assemblyman Block addressed the room via Skype from Sacramento. Block was a part of the team that introduced the assembly bill proposing Korematsu Day.
“The stand that (Korematsu) took is very alive, very important today and setting a day aside in his honor to make sure our civil liberties remain unchallenged is critical,” Block said.
Those who attended the celebration watched a documentary about Korematsu’s life and participated in a panel discussion afterwards. To learn more about Fred Korematsu, visit korematsuinstitiute.org