If you missed the 2016 Day of Remembrance honoring Minoru Yasui, here is a short summary of the proceedings from February 21, 2016 at Portland State University’s Hoffman Hall
The agenda opened with an energetic performance from youth taiko group, En Taiko. Although the youngest member barely stood taller than the chu daiko drums, the group displayed an amazing level of skill and chemistry.
Following Taiko was a welcome by emcee, Jeff Selby, and a short introduction by Portland JACL President, Marleen Wallingford. The panelists then gave a chronological look back at Min’s life and accomplishments.
Homer Yasui (Min’s brother) started by showing family pictures while giving an overview of their early family history. He shared some little known facts about Min—he played in the school band, lettered in track, and sported a mustache during college. One of the most impressive facts is that Min founded the Mid-Columbia Chapter of the JACL at the age of 17.
After showing a trailer for “Never Give Up!” Holly Yasui (daughter) gave an update on the documentary’s progress. The film is about halfway through production, but still looking for more recordings of Min. For more information or to contribute please visit www.minoruyasuifilm.org. Heath Hyun Houghten then performed an emotion-filled monologue entitled “EO9066” which reenacted Min’s response to the executive order that changed his life and the lives of many. This gave a temporary look into the fear at the time and Min’s thought process leading him to intentionally break curfew, which resulted in arrest.
A video clip of Min was played to give a first-hand account of his arrest and the sacrifice he made by using himself as a test case against the U.S. Government. He went to great efforts just to get arrested, walking the streets for hours before approaching an officer (who dismissed him) and then going directly to a the police department. After being convicted and spending nine months in solitary confinement, Min was sent to Minidoka.
Holly returned to the stage to share Min’s life in the Denver area after camp. After appealing the Colorado Supreme Court, he was allowed to practice law and his office became the headquarters for the JACL Mountain Plains District. He helped arrange the first JACL National Convention, which focused on recovering wages lost during the incarceration, and naturalization for Issei. Min became involved with many different community groups and was an early advocate for cross cultural collaboration and support. The final presentation was given by Peggy Nagae, who spoke about Min’s court cases in comparison to Hirabayashi and Korematsu and emphasized their relevance in today’s post 9/11 world. She expressed great joy and satisfaction that President Obama recognized Min’s legacy with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Peggy also cautioned the audience that “justice is fragile and we must remain vigilant.” She challenged us to continue Min’s fight and ended by exclaiming “Let’s go forward and ignite justice in the name of Minoru Yasui.”