On February 19, 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 during World War II. During the last week in April 1942, 75 years ago this year, Berkeley residents, students, faculty and staff were among the 120,000 Americans of Japanese descent who rounded up and imprisoned in remote locations throughout the country.
On Wednesday, April 26, 2017, these events were commemorated with events at UC Berkeley and at First Church Berkeley.
A reception was held at the Multicultural Community Center on the UC Berkeley campus. Special presenter and Cal graduate Sam Mihara spoke to a large crowd. Sam was imprisoned at the Heart Mountain Camp in Wyoming as a child and shared stories and images of the time and connected those experiences with current political situations.
An exhibit was installed in the MCC gallery which included photographs of the forced registration and removal of Berkeley Japanese Americans, the detention centers and concentration camps, and reproductions of news stories and government documents.
After the presentation, two Taiko drummers led a procession to First Church Berkeley where a commemoration service was held in Loper Chapel.
Local religious leaders Rev. Candace Shibata (Berkeley Buddhist Temple), Rev. Kevin Omi (Sycamore United Church of Christ) and Rev. Molly Baskette (First Church Berkeley, UCC) shared prayers and stories. First Church member Milton Fujii read letters from those who were imprisoned and told the story of First Church’s role in providing hospitality during the challenging time when Berkeley residents were being rounded up, family members of those who had been imprisoned shared stories and artifacts and Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin presented a proclamation.
A preview of a plaque prepared by the Berkeley Historical Society was unveiled by Past-President Steve Finacom. Eventually, the final version will be installed at First Church.
Milton Fujii played a major role in organizing the events and curating the exhibit in close collaboration with Steve Finacom of the Berkeley Historical Society. The exhibit was designed by First Church Minister of Art & Communication Phil Porter.
Sponsors for the event included the Berkeley Historical Society, the Berkeley Japanese American Citizens League, First Congregational Church of Berkeley, UC Berkeley Asian Pacific American Student Development Office and the UC Berkeley Asian Pacific American Systemwide Alliance.