Civil Liberties cemented in San Francisco's Japantown and 2004/2005 CCLPEP recipients

In early June, the California Civil Liberties Public Education Program (CCLPEP), a competitive grant program hosted by the California Research Bureau, celebrated over seven years of accomplishments with a conference in San Francisco called “Notice to All: California Conference on the Internment of Japanese Americans.”

Some 60 years ago, “Notice to All” was the United States government’s slogan on bulletins ordering Japanese Americans, by virtue of their ethnicity, to leave their homes and “relocate” to internment camps, the most infamous of which was Manzanar.

In San Francisco, though, “Notice to All” became a rallying cry in 2005 for all interested Californians to examine how 20th-century Japanese American history (and the CCLPEP-funded projects that stem from that experience) shapes civil rights imperatives in the 21st century.

State Librarian Susan Hildreth captured the conference’s duality when she said attendees would be “celebrating CCLPEP projects while simultaneously acknowledging the atrocity and memory of internment.” Further, Paul Osaki, Conference Chairperson and Executive Director of the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of California, said “the story of what happened to the Japanese American community during World War II…serve[s] as a bridge with … communities today…It is our [CCLPEP dignitaries’] promise that the past does not repeat itself to anyone, anywhere.”

California legislators, celebrities, and internment survivors joined Hildreth and Osaki as speakers and hosts during the conference. Among conference leaders were: prominent television and film actor, Clyde Kutsatsu; former Assemblymember George Nakano; Sheila Starr, educator; San Francisco NBC news anchor, Wendy Tokuda; California State Superintendent of Education Jack O’ Connell; Assembly member Sally Leiber; and Washington State Assemblywoman Sharon Tomiko Santos.

Organizers designed the conference to be a “working forum aimed at establishing future directives and priorities for CCLPEP” in addition to being a group examination of the historical ramifications of Japanese Internment. Participants attended symposiums and presentations on topics ranging from “A Matter of Conscience: Standing Up for Japanese Americans During the Internment” to “Living in Two Worlds: Civil Liberties in America” to “Civil Rights Today: The Lessons of the Japanese American Experience.”

Two moving events particularly showed conference attendees how the legacy of the Japanese American experience during World War II lives on today: the San Francisco Japantown Landmark Dedication Ceremony and the Nisei Graduation.

Landmark Dedication

CCLPEP and the California Parks and Recreation Department jointly funded a striking San Francisco Japantown landmark sculpture that Susan Hildreth, Japan Consul General Makoto Yamanaka, and other dignitaries unveiled at the conference. The sculpture guarantees that the moving history of the region’s Japanese Americans is cemented for all to see in the city’s historic Peace Plaza.

The landmark sculpture, designed and built by renowned artists Lou Quaintance and Eugene Daub, is almost identical to the artists’ forthcoming landmarks for California’s Japantowns in San Jose and Los Angeles. The landmark’s purpose, as the Landmark Commission required, was to tie the state’s only remaining Japantowns together by telling a story not only of the Internment, but also of the Japanese American community in 20th century California.

The artists explain that they told that “broader story” by creating a soaring bas relief piece that “illustrates on three sides the three crucial elements of the Japanese American legacy in California which are Issei, Internment, and cultural community.”

Counsel General Yamanaka underscored this larger picture at the dedication ceremony saying that the landmark “will serve as a reminder of the hardships and achievements of many Japanese Americans. It will not only inspire people to visit this Japantown but also future generations to become active in the community.”

Nisei Graduation Ceremony

Another conference highlight was a ceremony attended by State Superintendent Jack O’Connell and Assemblywoman Sally Lieber during which Nisei, second generation Japanese Americans forced to leave high school during World War II, finally received their high school diplomas. The ceremony was part of the California Nisei High School Diploma Project, which provides statewide community education and outreach through Assembly Bill 781 that Assemblywoman Lieber authored.

Before the distinguished Nisei marched to the dais to receive their diplomas from him, Superintendent O’Connell commended Assemblywoman Lieber and the Nisei High School Diploma Project “for helping to bring closure, in this positive and meaningful way, to a shameful chapter in our history.” O’Connell concluded by saying that “no group of citizens has demonstrated greater citizenship and greater sacrifice than Nisei who were denied their diplomas and whose lives as high school students were tragically interrupted.”

CCLPEP History

In 1998, recognizing that California government had to ensure that no Californian would forget Executive Order 9066, the law that prompted the incarceration of over 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry during World War II, Assembly member Mike Honda wrote the legislation to create CCLPEP. At that time, Honda saw that CCLPEP projects would teach future generations how stereotyping and intolerance can, at any time, destroy civil liberties in even the most enlightened societies.

Since then, CCLPEP’s more than 180 projects have included oral histories and books telling moving personal stories of evacuation and internment; academic papers and books; monuments at internment sites and Japantowns; theatrical and musical productions; and school curricula that keep history alive in California classrooms.

CCLPEP Today: Current Grants

Today CCLPEP continues to grow. At the conference, the California State Library’s CCLPEP leaders, Alicia Bugarin, Interim CCLPEP Director, Trina Dangberg, California Research Bureau Secretary, and Karen Edson, Assistant Director, California Research Bureau, held a grant process workshop for current grant recipients. Those recipients are:

Applicant: California Japanese American Community Leadership Council
Project: Reconstructing California's Japantowns

The Reconstructing California's Japantowns project will research, identify, and document the historical, cultural, and intangible resources associated with the 40 current and past Japan towns in California.

Applicant: Dale Ann Sato
Project: Japanese American Historical Mapping Project

The Japanese American Historical Mapping Project will compile oral histories and digital maps of the Japanese American farming communities and their accompanying agricultural associations that operated and were located in the Palos Verdes Peninsula of Los Angeles County prior to WWII.

Applicant: David Unruhe, Placer County JACL
Project: Four Japanese American Communities of Placer County

The Four Japanese American Communities of Placer County project will contribute to the historical understanding of the contributions of the Japanese America farmers in the communities of Penryn, Auburn, Newcastle, and Loomis with the publication of a book and the preparation of a museum exhibit.

Applicant: Japantown Community Congress of San Jose
Project: San Jose Japantown

The San Jose Japantown project, in consultation with the City of San Jose, will conduct an intensive level of documentation and survey by researching, identifying, and recording the significant cultural resources in the San Jose Japantown area.

Applicant: Martha Nakagawa
Project: The Bronzeville Project

The Bronzeville Project will develop an educational website with oral interviews, audio tapes, and visual images illustrating the historical importance of the African American community established in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles, during WWII.

Applicant: Japanese Cultural & Community Center of Northern California
Project: Birth of a Community

The Birth of a Community project will celebrate the establishment of California's first Japantown by acknowledging the 100th anniversary of San Francisco's Japantown in 2006.

Applicant: Dave Iwataki
Project: J-Town/Bronzeville Suite

The J-Town/Bronzeville Suite project will contribute to the historical understanding and artistic appreciation of the influences of Japanese American music and traditional jazz during the Bronzeville period of Little Tokyo when African Americans occupied the area with the composition and performance of an original Japanese American jazz suite in three movements.

Applicant: California State University Sacramento
Project: The Matsui Collection

The Matsui Collection project will consult with the Robert Matsui Family to arrange for his Congressional records and papers on Redress and Reparation to be deposited at the Japanese American Archival Collections of CSUS for processing, digitizing, and management according to archival standards.

For more information about CCLPEP contact Alicia Bugarin, Interim CCLPEP Director, at 916-653-7522 or email at



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