City Council Member Daniel Dromm (D-Elmhurst, Jackson Heights) today led a bevy of elected officials and civil right activists in celebrating the City’s first annual Fred Korematsu Day Of Civil Liberties and the Constitution.
Fred Korematsu (1919-2005), a Japanese-American from California, refused to comply with Civilian Exclusion Order 34, based on the federal Executive Order 9066, which imposed strict curfew regulations and resulted in the forcible removal of 120,000 Japanese Americans from their communities to be incarcerated indefinitely in American concentration camps during World War II.
He was arrested and convicted, but fought back because he believed the conviction went against the basic freedoms guaranteed to him by the U.S. Constitution. While the U.S. Supreme Cout upheld the internment order in Korematsu v. United States, Korematsu’s conviction for evading internment was overturned four decades later.
Kormatsu’s work as a civil rights activists through is honred in several states, including California and Virginia who also commemortae Korematsu and his work on Jan. 30 birthday as Fred Korematsu Day of Civil LIberties.
Dromm led the movement for the city to name a day in Korematsu’s honor with a 2015 resolution, which was unanimously passed on December 19, 2017.
“In these times of Muslim bans, attacks on immigrants and refugees, and neo-Nazi rallies encouraged by the Trump administration’s hateful rhetoric, it has become increasingly important to reiterate the lessons of history,” said Dromm, who represents one of the most diverse districts in the city.
“Fred Korematsu’s courage to take a stand against injustice is an inspiration to us all. By co-founding Korematsu Day in NYC, I hope to educate our youth on Korematsu and all that he did to make our nation a better place. I thank Speaker Johnson, my colleagues in the Council and the many advocates who came together to support this important effort. May the sins of our forefathers never again be repeated,” Dromm added.
“Fred Korematsu was a visionary who always tried to stand up for what was right. His activism and commitment to advancing civil rights were crucial to starting important conversations about race, inclusion, and the history of Asian Americans in our country, imparting deep wisdom that we continue to carry with us,” said NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson. “This year, on what would be his 99th birthday, we establish January 30th as Fred T. Korematsu Day in order to honor his dream of a more equal and just society.”
“The modern world has become increasingly diverse so that people of different races, colors, and creeds cross paths more frequently than ever before,” said City Council Member Peter Koo (D-Flushing). “The modern world has become increasingly diverse so that people of different races, colors, and creeds cross paths more frequently than ever before. We must always remember our country’s multiculturalism and remain vigilant against veiled attempts to marginalize, segregate, and to pit one group against another.
“In naming Fred T. Korematsu Day, we are reminded of the conviction and fighting spirit of America that was embodied in one man. We are also reminded that although times have changed, we still have a long way to go before America can truly become the beacon of ‘liberty and justice for all’ that it strives to be. We thank Mr. Korematsu for his bravery, and we commit to continuing his fight to ensure the injustices that befell the Japanese people does not happen again,” Koo added.
Also gathering on the steps of City Hall to honor the day were Fred T. Korematsu Institute Executive Director Karen Korematsu, City Council Member Margaret Chin, New York Day of Remembrance Committee Co-chair Michael Ishii, Japanese American Citizens League New York Chapter Co-President George Hirose, Long-time activist Suki Terada Ports, Coalition for Asian American Children and Families Director of Programs Mitchel Wu, Bridging Cultures Group Inc. Founder & CEO Debbie Almontaser and Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NY).