california celebrates first ever fred korematsu day

Yesterday, Californians observed the first official statewide day set aside to honor civil rights icon Fred Korematsu, who fought the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II when he was arrested for refusing to enter an internment camp: A civil rights hero gets his day.

Last year, state lawmakers voted unanimously to designate January 30 (Korematu's birthday) as Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution, a measure that encourages Californians to recognize the importance of preserving civil liberties.
Korematsu, a Medal of Freedom recipient who died in 2005, would have turned 92 on Sunday. Instead, schools throughout the state are celebrating the first Fred T. Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution. Signed into law last September by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, it is believed to be the first statewide holiday honoring an Asian American anywhere in the country. A nascent effort is underway for a federal Korematsu Day.

At the heart of this month's celebrations is the idea of resilience, that a great country can correct its mistakes and an ordinary man can make a difference.

Or as Trinh tells her class: "I see things sometimes that are not right, but I don't always have the courage to do something about it. When we think about heroes, people like Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Cesar Chavez, Fred Korematsu, these are people who actually spoke up and did something about it."
It's just awesome to know that grade school kids will be taught civil rights lessons about the courage of Fred Korematsu, who stood up and fought for justice. For more, here's a TIME essay by Ling Woo Liu, director of the Fred T. Korematsu Institute for Civil Rights and Education: California Marks the First Fred Korematsu Day.

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