by Merilynne Hamano Quon and Mike Liu
Nikkei for Civil Rights & Redress (NCRR) and Visual Communications (VC) will premiere Stand Up For Justice at the Aratani/Japan America Theatre, Los Angeles,on February 21, 2004, 7pm as part of the 2004 Day of Remembrance (DOR). The annual DOR commemorates the day that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 authorizing the removal and internment of 120,000 Japanese Americans from the West Coast.
This 30-minute drama tells the true story of Ralph Lazo, a sixteen-year-old Mexican/Irish Belmont High School student, who joined his Japanese American friends at the Manzanar concentration camp during World War II. Stand Up For Justice explores the enduring values of friendship and loyalty between teenagers of different cultural and ethnic backgrounds and reveals how one person’s actions earn the undying gratitude of a community.
NCRR, a civil rights and organizing organization, has long-wanted to capture Ralph Lazo’s story and has raised funds to produce the film. NCRR has helped recreate his saga through interviews with his Nisei friends. They also recruited 100 persons to volunteer as “extras” in the film. Friends and businesses generously donated meals for the cast and crew, and the production members worked at reduced rates or volunteered to assure that the filming phase of the story was completed. NCRR felt that Lazo's example of 'standing up for justice' was particularly relevant in today's environment, where Americans of Middle Eastern and South Asian descent, like the Japanese during World War II, have become the targets of racism.
Visual Communications, with a reputation as a premier media arts center devoted to honest and accurate portrayals of Asian Pacific Americans, is producing Stand Up for Justice. VC, based in Little Tokyo, also has strong community ties.
Kathy Nishimoto Masaoka & Janice Yen of NCRR said that, "The film will be premiered at Japanese American communities throughout the country hold programs as a reminder of the importance of protecting the civil rights of all people. It is a fitting occasion to premiere Stand Up For Justice – and to honor people like Ralph Lazo who stood up in the face of injustice. We are very excited to be able to make this film available to teachers as a tool to teach high school students about civil liberties and the power of one person’s actions. Ralph’s story will inspire them to take positive action too. “