NCRR Publishes Book on Four Decades of Activism

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This is an abridged press release from the Nikkei for Civil Rights & Redress

The Nikkei for Civil Rights & Redress (NCRR) and the UCLA Asian American Studies Center (AASC) invite the community to celebrate the publication of the book, “NCRR: The Grassroots Struggle for Japanese American Redress and Reparations.” Edited by the NCRR Editorial Team, led by Lane Hirabayashi, UCLA Emeritus Professor and published by the UCLA Asian American Studies Press.

The NCRR Editorial Team, including Richard Katsuda, Suzy Katsuda, Kathy Masaoka, Kay Ochi and Janice Yen. Los Angeles-based artist, Qris Yamashita, designed the book.  The book is full of photos, taken mostly by NCRR members, which complement the individual stories.   

Part 1 is called “History and Origins of NCRR” and begins with Glen Kitayama’s UCLA thesis titled “Japanese Americans and the Movement for Redress:  A Case Study of Grassroots Activism in the Los Angeles Chapter of the National Coalition for Redress/Reparations,” a thoroughly researched study of NCRR’s organizing principles and its roots in the Little Tokyo Peoples Rights Organization (LTPRO).  NCRR operated as a national network with a statewide steering committee representing chapters based in California, and as Kathy Masaoka states, “Like many of the chapters in other cities, NCRR grew out of the activism and benefited from the lessons of the struggles of the 70’s around redevelopment and the anti-war movement. Although this book centers on the work of the Los Angeles chapter, we do believe that it reflects the experience of other chapters.”   NCRR received a grant from the Civil Liberties Public Education Fund to record the oral histories of some of the founding members, such as Bert and Lillian Nakano, Alan Nishio, Miya Iwataki and Jim Matsuoka as well as the current leadership. These excerpted pieces, titled “Ordinary People, Extraordinary Deeds,” help to give the backgrounds and motivations of some of the people who shaped NCRR.

Part 2 is called “Voices of Transformation: Community Organizers and Activists” and starts off with Jim Matsuoka’s Prologue “Waiting for Justice to Find Its Time,” which provides a background of the times and a reflection on why it took until the late 70’s for Japanese Americans to seek justice.  Part 2 also includes 50 stories written by NCRR members and friends, past and present. These first-hand accounts of the many individuals who participated in the diverse campaigns waged by NCRR reveal the sense of empowerment felt by ordinary people.  Richard Katsuda explains, “I feel that the existing narrative that people hear about the Redress Movement is that a few individuals, through their own personal heroic efforts, were responsible for passage of the Civil Liberties Act.  What is sorely missing in the narrative is the critical role that the grass roots – ordinary, everyday people – played in the movement.  For the movement was much more than the apology and compensation – it was a community digging deep down to find its voice and confidence to speak out for justice at the hearings of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (CWRIC).” 

The titles of the chapters give some idea of the themes of these individual stories.

Roots of the NCRR includes stories about how people joined NCRR and stayed involved over a decade; Gathering Voices to Speak for Redress talks about the difficulty of getting people to testify and the push to make the CWRIC hearings more inclusive; Rallying the Community and Building the Movement shares the important roles of women and of outspoken Nisei; The People Go to Washington 1987 describes the experiences of the massive 1987 lobbying delegation from the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas; The Role of Art and Media brings out the importance of artists and performers in almost every NCRR event; The Civil Liberties Act of 1988 and Challenging Redress Denials brings to light the cases that were denied and the courage of those who continued to fight for redress;  Creating Linkages in the Quest for Justice shows the legacy of redress and the commitment to stand up for others; and A New Generation of Activists includes the impact of NCRR on today’s youth both here and in Japan.  There is a special color section of 16 Day of Remembrance Posters created by community artists and an NCRR chronology at the end.