Right of Passage: Japanese American Leaders Share Achievement of the Redress Movement

September 30, 2015 at 6pm - 9pm


We thank Ms. Kana Takagi, Development Intern at the Environment and Energy Study Institute (and former TOMODACHI intern and alumna of the TOMODACHI MetLife Women's Leadership Program as well as the Building the TOMODACHI Generation program) for this article! USJC Members who attended the event include Secretary Norman Mineta, Vice Chair of the USJC Board of Councilors; Council Members Priscilla Ouchida (who is also Executive Director of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL)) and John Tobe; and Associate Member (and USJC Development Director) Georgette-Furukawa Martinez.

(L-R) Mr. Cal Shintani, Mr. Tomo Mizutani, Mr. Terry Shima, Dr. Mitch Maki, Ms. Ai Tokuno

The community screening and panel discussion of the documentary, RIGHT OF PASSAGE, sponsored by Nitto Tire, was held at the National Press Club on September 30. The event, which welcomed outstanding panelists as well as a committed audience, was hosted by Nitto Films and supported by USJC, the JACL, the National Japanese American Memorial Foundation and the Japanese American Veteran Association. 

The film clearly illustrated perplexing legislative processes and turning points in the Japanese Americans’ redress campaign. At the same time, it brought together the emotion, passion and personal relationships of the heroes who were determined to never give up. Thirty years after the closing of the internment camps, with a population of only one-half of one percent of the total population of the United States, how did Japanese Americans achieve such a historic event?

(L-R) Director Janice Tanaka, Congressman Mark Takano, Co-Producer Nancy Araki

They started utilizing media to let public know about what happened, and the redress campaign was launched. The JACL and the Japanese American community asked for a bill to create the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (CWRIC), and the President and Congress appointed a nine-member panel. The first hearing was held in Washington DC, followed by hearings in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, New York, Boston and again in Washington DC. Ms. Karen Narasaki, Commissioner on the United States Commission on Civil Rights, said witnessing the hearing was one of the most memorable moments for her during the campaign. Many of the Nisei generation did not hear anything from their parents who experienced internment; people kept their memories to themselves. But the hearing turned the situation around. The meetings provided a positive platform for people to tell their stories. This was repeated in communities in many parts of the United States, leading to the success of the whole movement to make the government officially recognize the violations of fundamental rights.

(L-R) Mr. Eric Federing (Legislative Director to then Congressman Mineta at the time of Redress) reminisces with USJC Board of Councilors Member Secretary Norman Mineta

Right after the film, members of the audience were eager to praise and thank the filmmaker Ms. Janice Tanaka for her astonishing work that combined historical events and a strong narrative. The discussion, moderated by Dr. Mitch Maki, Vice Provost of Academic Affairs at CSU Dominguez Hills and an author of Achieving the Impossible Dream: How Japanese Americans Obtained Redress, dug deeper into the story. Secretary Norman Mineta, former U.S. Secretary of Transportation and former U.S. Secretary of Commerce, reflected upon the movement and his experience as a U.S. Representative from the state of California (1975-1995). He pointed out that the people mattered most. The movement strengthened communities on a grassroots level and demonstrated the ability for people to gain momentum in a democratic society.

(L-R) Mr. Shintani, Mr. Michael Cardarelli, Secretary Mineta, Ms. Ouchida, Mr. Shima, Ms. Shirley Higuchi, Congressman Takano, Ms. Keiko Brockel and Mr. Mizutani

Will you come?