The daughter of an early civil rights activist will be honored for her father’s contributions in that field as well as her own at this year’s Manzanar Pilgrimage.
Civil rights advocate Karen Korematsu will be the featured speaker at the 44th Annual Manzanar Pilgrimage at noon on Saturday, April 27. She is also a co-founder of the Fred T. Korematsu Institute for Civil Rights and Education, which was named after her father who challenged the 1942 U.S. government internment order and was later integral in establishing an act that attempted to remedy that wrong.
This year’s pilgrimage commemorates the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which granted redress to Japanese Americans who were forcibly removed from their homes during World War II, Manzanar Committee Co-Chair Bruce Embrey said.
Fred Korematsu was one of the people who set the stage for the passage of the 1988 act, defied and challenged the constitutionality of Executive Order 9066, which established the American concentration camps and mass incarcerations of West Coast Japanese Americans and was convicted for violating the order. His resistance to the order started even before the forced removals of Japanese Americans started, Embrey said.
Thirty-nine years later, on Nov. 10, 1983, the U.S. District Court of Northern California vacated Fred Korematsu’s conviction when evidence was uncovered that the War Department had altered, falsified and destroyed evidence which proved that the government knew there was no military necessity for the incarcerations.
“We’re honored that his daughter, Karen, has agreed to participate in this year’s Pilgrimage,” Embrey said. “Her educational work and her efforts to defend civil rights through the Korematsu Institute are exemplary. We’re pleased to be able to put the spotlight on her work.”
In 2009, Korematsu co-founded the Fred T. Korematsu Institute for Civil Rights and Education, which advances pan-ethnic civil and human rights through education and develops and distributes free curriculum about Fred Korematsu, Japanese American incarceration, Asian American history and current civil rights issues to U.S. classrooms. It also promotes Fred Korematsu Day community involvement through school curriculum, community events and the RightsFest, an annual pan-ethnic civil rights film festival.
Since 2005, Korematsu has carried on her father’s legacy as a civil rights advocate, speaking at a wide variety of venues. In 2012, she signed onto the amicus brief for Hedges v Obama, challenging potential constitutional rights violations of the National Defense Authorization Act.
Korematsu will speak at the afternoon program, which will begin with a taiko performance and conclude with the traditional interfaith service and Ondo dancing at the Manzanar National Historic Site, located on U.S. 395, between Lone Pine and Independence.
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