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SDSU Hosts Event Focused on ‘Courage’ To Honor Civil Rights Advocate

Aired 1/30/12 on KPBS News.

SDSU hosts event to commemorate California's second annual Fred Korematsu Day.

— Community members will gather at San Diego State University tonight to observe California's second annual Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and The Constitution.

Korematsu was arrested and imprisoned when he refused to report to an interment camp for Japanese Americans in 1942. More than 40 years later lawyers appealing his case succeeded in getting a federal court in San Francisco to overturn the decision on the basis of government misconduct.

A team of lawyers had uncovered documents that showed the government had no evidence of Japanese-American acts of treason to justify the internments.

The SDSU event will include a panel discussion about the courage it takes to stand up for what is right and screenings of clips from a documentary about Korematsu.

Susan Woo-Fukuda joined the effort to research and draft the Fred Korematsu Day legislation while studying law at the University of San Diego. She will be one of the evening's panelists.

“I grew up in a pretty small town in Arizona not too far from the internment camp where my father-in-law’s family was held and shockingly, I didn’t even know about this history until I went to college,” she said.

That's part of why she's happy the legislation focused on educating California's students about Korematsu's story.

“There’s a good deal of emphasis for educators to celebrate Fred Korematsu Day for Civil Liberties and the Constitution but also to teach the lessons to the learned from history," she said. "There’s no greater mistake you can make than one you’ve already made.”

Korematsu lobbied for an official government apology and reparations for internment. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bill Clinton. He also filed friend of the court briefs protesting the government's detention of inmates at Guantanamo Bay without giving them trials.

“It’s critical for Californians to know the story of Fred Korematsu: his fight against racism and wrongful internment and his devotion to righting a great wrong,” said California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson.

Local Assemblyman Marty Block was a principal co-author of the legislation along with Assemblyman Warren Furutani. He will also speak at the San Diego State event.

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