Asian Americans gather at the Capitol to celebrate Georgia’s inaugural Fred Korematsu Day
Karen Korematsu with Officer Dipa Patel.
Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) gathered at the State Capitol on February 6, 2014, to celebrate the 2014 AAPI Legislative Day and Georgia’s inaugural Fred Korematsu Day. The event was rescheduled from its original date on January 30, 2014, due to the snowstorm that hit Atlanta.
This day highlights issues important to Georgia’s diverse AAPI communities, and raises awareness of Fred Korematsu, one of our country’s greatest civil rights heroes. During World War II, Korematsu, an American citizen, was prosecuted for conscientiously refusing to report to a Japanese-American internment camp. Originally upheld by the Supreme Court, his unlawful conviction was finally vacated over 40 years later through the efforts of a dedicated legal team. Korematsu said of his vindication: “I would like to see the government admit that they were wrong and do something about it so this will never happen again to any American citizen of any race, creed, or color.” He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1998, our nation's highest civilian honor.
Georgia's Inaugural Fred Korematsu Day began with a photo with Governor Nathan Deal at the Capitol. (Photo: Boon Vong)
This was an historic opportunity to meet and listen to the daughter of a legendary civil rights hero, to share her personal stories about her father's courage. Ms. Karen Korematsu has produced lesson plans to discuss Fred Korematsu's story and its relevance in today's increasingly hostile environment for Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim and South Asian American communities.
The event drew over 150 participants from across the state. Georgia State Representatives B.J. Pak, Pedro Marin, and Brooks Coleman spoke at the morning Policy Briefing and Luncheon held at the Floyd Veterans Memorial Building. Farooq Mughal (MS Global Partners) and Mike Vaquer (The Vaquer Firm) moderated the briefing and explained the efforts to request legislation to install a permanent Asian Commission for the State of Georgia to oversee the interest of the Asian American diaspora. Karen Korematsu was the keynote at the southern barbecue luncheon.
The moment on the floor of the Georgia General Assembly (Georgia House) when Reps. B.J. Pak, Pedro Marin, Stacey Abrams, and others recognized Karen Korematsu and our AAPI Community Champions: Dr. Mohammed Yaseen Abubaker, Dr. Josephine Tan, Ms. Hyunjin Son, and Officer Dipa Patel. (Photo: Boon Vong)
Representative Pak introduced the Resolution declaring January 30, 2014, to be Georgia's Inaugural Fred Korematsu Day, joining several other states across the country. In addition to Korematsu, champions from the AAPI community were recognized by the Georgia General Assembly. They include Officer Dipa Patel, Georgia’s first Indian-American female peace officer; Dr. Yaseen Abubaker, Boardmember of the US Fund for UNICEF (SE Region) and founder of the SAF Foundation, a nonprofit that assists disabled children; Ms. Hyunjin Son, Gwinnett Teacher of the Year; and Dr. Josephine Tan, Chair of Georgia’s last Asian American Commission under Governor Sonny Perdue and Georgia Power's Asian Liaison. These champions serve all of Georgia's communities, and embody electoral issues that are vitally important to AAPIs: education, public safety, healthcare, business development, and civil rights.
Officer Dipa Patel, Ms. Hyunjin Son, and Dr. Mohammed Yaseen Abubaker were honored at the Georgia State Capital on Fred Korematsu Day. Fred Korematsu's daughter Karen (3rd from left) was keynote speaker of the day. (Photo: Boon Vong)
Bonnie Youn, emcee of the luncheon, has explained how Karen herself came to participate in Atlanta's event: Ms. Korematsu herself phoned Bonnie to say that she had heard that the original Jan. 30 event had to be rescheduled because of snow, and said, "would it make it better if I could come out and join you?" She was participating in a Korematsu Day event on that day, but could come to Atlanta on the rescheduled day. She shared that her mother, who is from the South (SC) had just passed away this past October, so a Korematsu Day event in the South is very meaningful for her. When her mother passed, the Korematsu Institute received a donation in her memory, and Karen said she found it appropriate to be using those funds to travel to Atlanta to join us.
Website Bonus Feature
After the luncheon for Korematsu Day, Ms. Korematsu made her first visit to the MLK Center. Subash Razdan and the Indian Atlanta community were instrumental in getting the monument installed at the King Center. Sr. Ranger Marty Smith of the National Parks shared intimate stories of MLK's youth at his birth home. — with Antony Thaliath, Tim Hur, Neera Bahl, Sr. Ranger Marty Smith, Subash Razdan, and Minh Duc Nguyen. (Photo: Boon Vong)
A) Awardee Hyunjin Son
B) Background history
C) Indian-American community: a connection with the judge in the Korematsu case:
D) Indian-American community: a second link between the Korematsu case and the Indian-American community:
E) Kiran Ahuja's post on January 30, 2014
F) Korematsu Institute's announcement of Fred Korematsu Day in Georgia
H) Participants (with photos)
I) Photo Gallery
K) Videos: (A) [Interview] Attorney Dale Minami.
(B) A Message From Fred Korematsu's Daughter
Some background history
The internment of persons of Japanese ancestry during World War II sparked constitutional and political debate. In the 1940s, two men and one woman--Hirabayashi, Korematsu, and Endo--challenged the constitutionality of the relocation and curfew orders. While the men received negative judgments from the court, in the 1944 case ExParte Mitsuye Endo, the Supreme Court ruled that, "Mitsuye Endo is entitled to an unconditional release by the War Relocation Authority." Some people refer to the relocation centers as concentration camps; others view internment as an unfortunate episode, but a military necessity. During the Reagan-Bush years Congress moved toward the passage of Public Law 100-383 in 1988 which acknowledged the injustice of the internment, apologized for it, and provided a $20,000 cash payment to each person who was interned.
One of the most stunning ironies in this episode of American civil liberties was articulated by an internee who, when told that the Japanese were put in those camps for their own protection, countered "If we were put there for our protection, why were the guns at the guard towers pointed inward, instead of outward?"
Of interest to the Indian-American community: a connection with the judge in the Korematsu case:
“I had the extraordinary opportunity to spend time with an amazing man, Dale Minami. To say that Dale's work for AAPI civil rights is legendary, would be an understatement. He shared with me some of his war stories of legal strategizing as his team of 15 prepared for the Korematsu case.
“When the Korematsu team filed his coram nobis petition to vacate the conviction, the government actually offered Fred a pardon. The government thought it was an embarrassment, and wanted the case to go away. However, when Korematsu was presented with that option, he refused. A pardon would still mean he was guilty--it did not undo the conviction itself.
“Korematsu said, "it is us who should be pardoning the government for what they did, not the other way around." Powerful words. And so they went to court. They were hoping to get a favorable judge. If they didn't in CA, they would immediately file the next day in WA, and if not in WA, they would try OR. Fortunately, they got the best judge they could have wanted. U.S. District Judge Marilyn Patel, who is married to an Indian American husband, and previously practiced immigration law, was their luck of the draw. [Finding that the United States government had deliberately misled the United States Supreme Court in securing its affirmance of the conviction, on November 10, 1983, Patel formally vacated the conviction, saying, "[Korematsu] stands as a caution that in times of distress the shield of military necessity and national security must not be used to protect governmental actions from close scrutiny and accountability". http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marilyn_Hall_Patel]
“And so history was made. Today, we can say that the Japanese American internment was unconstitutional. But it took the strength of a legal team, and a man who was willing to stand up for what was right and just.
“I hope all of us can remember those same lessons today.
“We are ALL #FredKorematsu.”
A second link between the Korematsu case and the Indian-American community:
In 2011, Acting Solicitor General Neal Kumar Katyal [an Indian-American], issued a “confession of error” for the actions of government lawyers in the Korematsu case:
May 20, 2011:
It has been my privilege to have served as Acting Solicitor General for the past year and to have served as Principal Deputy Solicitor General before that. The Solicitor General is responsible for overseeing appellate litigation on behalf of the United States, and with representing the United States in the Supreme Court. There are several terrific accounts of the roles that Solicitors General have played throughout history in advancing civil rights. But it is also important to remember the mistakes. One episode of particular relevance to AAPI Heritage Month is the Solicitor General’s defense of the forced relocation and internment of Japanese-American during World War II.
Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States uprooted more than 100,000 people of Japanese descent, most of them American citizens, and confined them in internment camps. The Solicitor General was largely responsible for the defense of those policies.
By the time the cases of Gordon Hirabayashi and Fred Korematsu reached the Supreme Court, the Solicitor General had learned of a key intelligence report that undermined the rationale behind the internment. The Ringle Report, from the Office of Naval Intelligence, found that only a small percentage of Japanese Americans posed a potential security threat, and that the most dangerous were already known or in custody. But the Solicitor General did not inform the Court of the report, despite warnings from Department of Justice attorneys that failing to alert the Court “might approximate the suppression of evidence.” Instead, he argued that it was impossible to segregate loyal Japanese Americans from disloyal ones. Nor did he inform the Court that a key set of allegations used to justify the internment, that Japanese Americans were using radio transmitters to communicate with enemy submarines off the West Coast, had been discredited by the FBI and FCC. And to make matters worse, he relied on gross generalizations about Japanese Americans, such as that they were disloyal and motivated by “racial solidarity.”
The Supreme Court upheld Hirabayashi’s and Korematsu’s convictions. And it took nearly a half century for courts to overturn these decisions. One court decision in the 1980s that did so highlighted the role played by the Solicitor General, emphasizing that the Supreme Court gave “special credence” to the Solicitor General’s representations. The court thought it unlikely that the Supreme Court would have ruled the same way had the Solicitor General exhibited complete candor. Yet those decisions still stand today as a reminder of the mistakes of that era.
Today, our Office takes this history as an important reminder that the “special credence” the Solicitor General enjoys before the Supreme Court requires great responsibility and a duty of absolute candor in our representations to the Court. Only then can we fulfill our responsibility to defend the United States and its Constitution, and to protect the rights of all Americans.
Kiran Ahuja's post:
Honoring the Legacy of Fred Korematsu
Posted by Kiran Ahuja on January 30, 2014 at 01:28 PM EST
Today, we honor the legacy of Fred Korematsu, a Japanese American hero who stood his ground in the face of injustice.
After the Pearl Harbor attacks in 1941, Fred Korematsu challenged President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Executive Order 9066 that authorized the U.S. military to forcibly remove more than 120,000 people, mostly of Japanese descent, from their homes and into incarceration camps throughout the country. Two-thirds of these people were American citizens. Mr. Korematsu went into hiding in the Oakland area, becoming a fugitive, and was arrested and convicted of violating the federal order. His case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. In a 6-3 decision, the Court upheld the constitutionality of Executive Order 9066 under the justification of national security.
In 1980, President Jimmy Carter appointed a special commission to investigate Japanese American internment during World War II. The commission concluded that the decisions to remove those of Japanese ancestry to internment camps occurred because of "race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership". Four decades after the Supreme Court decision, a legal historian discovered evidence proving that U.S. intelligence agencies knew that Japanese Americans posed no military threat to the country during World War II. Mr. Korematsu's conviction was overturned in 1983 by District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel. When Mr. Korematsu stood in front of Judge Marilyn Patel he said these famous words: “I would like to see the government admit that they were wrong and do something about it so this will never happen again to any American citizen of any race, creed, or color.” In a formal apology under the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, the U.S. government granted $1.6 billion in reparations to all Japanese Americans who had been interned.
In 1998 when President Clinton awarded Mr. Korematsu the Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor, he stated, "In the long history of our country's constant search for justice, some names of ordinary citizens stand for millions of souls. Plessy, Brown, Parks … to that distinguished list, today we add the name of Fred Korematsu."
Fred Korematsu died of respiratory failure at his daughter's home in Marin County, California on March 30, 2005. To commemorate his legacy, on September 23, 2010, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law a bill that designates January 30 “Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution.”
Today, we honor the legacy of Fred Korematsu so we will never forget the injustices inflicted upon innocent citizens who were incarcerated, treated like second-class citizens, and denied due process and equal protection guaranteed to them by the Constitution. The stories of Fred Korematsu and of many other leaders in the fight for civil rights not only remind us of the wrongs in history, but also serve as a learning opportunity for all of us on how we should treat our neighbors and fellow citizens. Today, we remember the dangers of casting stereotypes based on race, religion, or sexual orientation. And we recommit to our country’s ideals of protecting civil rights and promoting an environment where people can strive to achieve the American dream based solely on the content of their characters, not on the color of their skin, where they come from, or who they love.
Kiran Ahuja is Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
[Interview] Attorney Dale Minami
Published on Feb 2, 2014
January 30, 2014 with Bonnie Youn, Georgia AAPI Task Force
Listen to him at 21:18, sharing his thoughts on the lessons learned from #FredKorematsu's courage: "I think the most significant [lesson] … is that Justice is not self-executing. Justice is not a gift. It’s a challenge that we must continue to fight for these rights. Because the institutions we have, as good as they may be, . . . cannot sustain your rights in a time of crisis. So I think it’s up to us to be activists, it’s up to us to support each other, because when one’s rights go challenged, it’s everybody’s rights that are challenged."
While he cannot join us for #KorematsuDayGA on Feb. 6, we thank him for his eloquence! Thank you to Sung Ku Hong at Newsnpost for videotaping the interview, and to Christopher J Chan and the law firm of #SutherlandAsbillBrennan for hosting us!
A Message From Fred Korematsu's Daughter
Uploaded on Dec 22, 2010
A video I produced for the Fred T. Korematsu Institute for Civil Rights and Education in SF.
The Institute is creating and distributing K-12 curriculum to roll out to classrooms all across California. The lesson plans will discuss Fred Korematsu's story and its relevance in today's increasingly hostile environment for Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim and South Asian American communities.
The short video featuring Fred's daughter, Karen Korematsu, will be part of the curriculum kit CA teachers receive and show to students.
Chairwoman of the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners Charlotte Hall Nash was also a speaker at the Breakfast Policy Briefing at the Capitol.
In addition to Karen Korematsu, the 2014 AAPI Legislative Day is proud to honor 4 special members of the community for their outstanding service to Georgia Society. They include:
KarenKorematsu meets Officer Dipa Patel (Cobb County Precinct 1), Georgia's first Indian-American female peace officer - Officer Dipa Patel, Georgia’s first Indian policewoman
She is of Indian Gujarati heritage but grew up in London. Read more about her here: http://www.khabar.com/.../features/police_officer_dipa_patel
- Dr. Josephine Tan, Community Relations Officer of Georgia Power, founder of the Asian American Chamber of Commerce of Georgia, and previous Chair of Asian American Commission of Georgia under Governor Sonny Perdue
- Dr. M. Yaseen Abubaker, physician and founder of the Saad Abubaker Foundation, a nonprofit organization that assists disabled children and their families, [http://www.sa-foundation.com]
- Ms. Hyunjin Son, Gwinnett County Teacher of the Year, The Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science and Technology
10:45 - 11:45 AM: The Floyd Room
Floyd Veterans Memorial Bldg., West Tower, 20th Floor
GA Rep. Pedro Marin
Farooq Mughal, MS Global Partners, Policy Analyst
Mike Vaquer, The Vaquer Firm, Lobbyist
SPEAKERS FOR AAPI LEGISLATIVE DAY LUNCHEON
12:00 - 2:00 PM, The Floyd Room
Floyd Veterans Memorial Bldg., 20th Floor, West Tower
Tim Hur & Bonnie Youn
Mayor of Clarkston Ted Terry
Judge Carla Wong McMillian, Court of Appeals of Georgia, introduces Karen Korematsu with a moving memorial to her father Fred Korematsu, and his case that made history. Judge McMillian is the first elected AAPI female judge in Georgia, and is the first AAPI to serve on a state appellate court.
Karen Korematsu, Daughter of Fred Korematsu
GA Rep. B.J. Pak
GA Rep. Stacey Abrams, House Minority Leader
GA Senator Jason Carter
Korematsu Institute's announcement of Fred Korematsu Day in Georgia http://korematsuinstitute.org/2014/01/fred-korematsu-day-in-georgia/
– JANUARY 11, 2014
POSTED IN: NEWS
FK_Day_GA_Graphic_250pxThe Georgia Asian American & Pacific Islander (AAPI) Task Force will commemorate Fred Korematsu Day together with its 2014 AAPI Legislative Day at the State Capitol on January 30, 2014, from 9:30 am – 2 pm.
The Task Force expects more than 150 participants from across the state to convene in Atlanta hoping to raise the visibility of AAPIs in Georgia, educate AAPI communities about the importance of civic participation especially at the state level, and to dialogue and develop relationships with members of the Georgia General Assembly.
The Georgia AAPI Task Force will offer advocacy training, opportunities to meet with legislators, group photo opportunities with elected officials, breakfast at the Capitol, and a luncheon at the Sloppy Floyd Building with government speakers.
The Day will also commemorate Fred Korematsu with the introduction of a Resolution by state Rep. Byung J. “BJ” Pak declaring January 30, 2014, as Georgia’s inaugural Fred Korematsu Day. San Francisco-based attorney Dale Minami, a member of the Korematsu coram nobis legal team, will provide the luncheon address.
Thank you to Bonnie M. Youn. Learn more at http://www.aapilegislativeday-ga.com.
For the full album of official photos from #KorematsuDayGA, courtesy of our photographer Boon Vong please visit:
The annual Gwinnett County Teacher of the Year is Korean American Hyunjin Son of Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science, and Technology. It is the school system’s highest honor. The announcement took place during the annual celebration on Thursday, November 7, 2013, at the Gwinnett Center in Duluth.
Because she did not have any female role models as an engineering student, Ms. Son set a goal to change that for future students and she did just that by standing right in front of the classroom herself—she became a teacher to set an example and to open doors for her female students to be inspired and become the female engineers of tomorrow. “I hoped to utilize these opportunities to serve as a role model for all of my students to demonstrate that women can be intelligent, creative, scientists and even engineers,” she explains. “My presence could change how male students viewed and treated women. But more importantly, I wanted my female students to understand that their capabilities and interests should not be influenced or limited by society but by their own ethics and passion.”
In addition to serving as a positive role model, Ms. Son also believes that it’s important for a teacher to be an advocate—not just for the student but for the whole child. As a newly arrived student to the United States from Seoul, South Korea, Ms. Son began to learn English as a seven-year old in Chicago. But the experience, Ms. Son says, wasn’t a positive one. “This is where I experienced one of the biggest hurdles of my life,” she says. “I was forced to learn to communicate my thoughts and feelings to a teacher who was not supportive of my endeavor.” Ms. Son says that she often thinks back on how this experience taught her the importance of teachers developing relationships with their students and being supportive no matter the challenge. “Constructive learning can be directly affected by the nature of the teacher. Hence, I have attempted to be a sideline cheerleader for my students in their quest to acquire scientific knowledge. Even when things get tough, my students see me cheering them on and believing in their talents and their possibilities… I believe that every student, regardless of their background, has the capability to display social and academic growth.”
Amreeta Regmi for support.
The Center for Pan Asian Community Services (CPACS), the largest nonprofit AAPI service organization in the Southeast, which was the fiscal agent for the event.
The Islamic Speakers Bureau of Atlanta (ISB) for joining as a Community Partner — with Soumaya Khalifa.
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