NCRR sent a delegation to Washington, D.C. in 1987 to lobby members of Congress on behalf of the redress legislation. (Photo by Glen Kitayama)
Nikkei for Civil Rights & Redress (NCRR) and the UCLA Asian American Studies Center (AASC) invite the community to celebrate the publication of “NCRR: The Grassroots Struggle for Japanese American Redress and Reparations.”
Edited by the NCRR Editorial Team, led by Lane Hirabayashi, UCLA emeritus professor and published by the UCLA Asian American Studies Press, the book will be released to the public at a book launch party at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center, Garden Room A, from 2 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, June 16.
NCRR’s Kay Ochi explains, “As we commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, NCRR is proud to share this book about the importance of the grassroots contributions to the passage of the act and the impact and power of activism on individuals, our community and for posterity.”
The NCRR Editorial Team, including Richard Katsuda, Suzy Katsuda, Kathy Masaoka, Ochi and Janice Yen, thanks all the many contributors to the book — those who advised them, wrote articles, loaned their photos, or helped to edit and index. They give special thanks to Hirabayashi, who, some five years ago, took on the task of editing down an overwhelming amount of material into a 400-page book without sacrificing the heart of the stories.
The team is also pleased to have a visually attractive book designed by Los Angeles-based artist Qris Yamashita. The book is full of photos, taken mostly by NCRR members, that complement the individual stories.
Yen adds, “Being one of the book editors has been a tremendously satisfying experience for me. I think we were successful in producing a readable yet scholarly book on NCRR’s role in the grassroots struggle to obtain redress and reparations for Japanese Americans incarcerated during World War II.”
Karen Umemoto, director of the AASC, and Hirabayashi will share their perspectives on the book’s importance and its impact on the Asian American Movement. Attendees will be able to meet many of the contributors, view historical slides, and enjoy poetry read by traci kato kiriyama and Miya Iwataki as well as refreshments provided by NCRR’s planning committee.
The community will be able to purchase “NCRR: The Grassroots Struggle for Japanese American Redress and Reparations” at the special “launch price” of $25. After June 16, the order form will be available on NCRR’s website (www.ncrr-la.org). The book can also be purchased at the Japanese American National Museum bookstore after the launch at a price of $30.
Part 1 is called “History and Origins of NCRR” and begins with Glen Kitayama’s UCLA thesis titled “Japanese Americans and the Movement for Redress: A Case Study of Grassroots Activism in the Los Angeles Chapter of the National Coalition for Redress/Reparations,” a thoroughly researched study of NCRR’s organizing principles and its roots in the Little Tokyo Peoples Rights Organization (LTPRO).
NCRR operated as a national network with a statewide steering committee representing chapters based in California, and as Masaoka states, “Like many of the chapters in other cities, NCRR grew out of the activism and benefited from the lessons of the struggles of the ’70s around redevelopment and the anti-war movement. Although this book centers on the work of the Los Angeles chapter, we do believe that it reflects the experience of other chapters.”
NCRR received a grant from the Civil Liberties Public Education Fund to record the oral histories of some of the founding members, such as Bert and Lillian Nakano, Alan Nishio, Iwataki and Jim Matsuoka as well as the current leadership. These excerpted pieces, titled “Ordinary People, Extraordinary Deeds,” help to give the backgrounds and motivations of some of the people who shaped NCRR.
Part 2 is called “Voices of Transformation: Community Organizers and Activists” and starts off with Matsuoka’s prologue, “Waiting for Justice to Find Its Time,” which provides a background of the times and a reflection on why it took until the late ’70s for Japanese Americans to seek justice.
Part 2 also includes 50 stories written by NCRR members and friends, past and present. These first-hand accounts of the many individuals who participated in the diverse campaigns waged by NCRR reveal the sense of empowerment felt by ordinary people.
Richard Katsuda explains, “I feel that the existing narrative that people hear about the redress movement is that a few individuals, through their own personal heroic efforts, were responsible for passage of the Civil Liberties Act. What is sorely missing in the narrative is the critical role that the grassroots – ordinary, everyday people – played in the movement. For the movement was much more than the apology and compensation – it was a community digging deep down to find its voice and confidence to speak out for justice at the hearings of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (CWRIC).”
NCRR members at the 1991 Day of Remembrance program in Los Angeles.
The titles of the chapters give some idea of the themes of these individual stories.
“Roots of the NCRR” includes stories about how people joined NCRR and stayed involved over a decade;
“Gathering Voices to Speak for Redress” talks about the difficulty of getting people to testify and the push to make the CWRIC hearings more inclusive;
“Rallying the Community and Building the Movement” shares the important roles of women and of outspoken Nisei;
“The People Go to Washington 1987” describes the experiences of the massive 1987 lobbying delegation from the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas;
“The Role of Art and Media” brings out the importance of artists and performers in almost every NCRR event;
“The Civil Liberties Act of 1988 and Challenging Redress Denials” brings to light the cases that were denied and the courage of those who continued to fight for redress;
“Creating Linkages in the Quest for Justice” shows the legacy of redress and the commitment to stand up for others; and
“A New Generation of Activists” includes the impact of NCRR on today’s youth both here and in Japan. There is a special color section of 16 Day of Remembrance posters created by community artists and an NCRR chronology at the end.
NCRR and UCLA AASC hope that the community will join them at the book launch and party to honor the work carried out by so many and to commemorate the community’s redress victory. The Editorial Team tried to cover as much of the history and current work of NCRR as they could, but realizes that there is much more to the legacy. Future readings in Los Angeles as well as in the Bay Area will be posted on the NCRR website and will be an opportunity to apply the lessons from this historic grassroots struggle.
For questions or to RSVP (requested by June 6) for the book launch, email firstname.lastname@example.org.