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Of Civil Rights and Wrongs Featuring Ms. Karen Korematsu; 2016 Journalism Hall of Fame and Heaton Award

From November 1st until about November 8th, we didn't attend too many events because we were helping our friend img_5900Ms. Meryl Johnson get elected to the State Board of Education (District 11). Fortunately, Ms. Johnson had the support of outgoing board member Ms. Mary Rose Oakar as well as the endorsement of quite a few educational and community organizations such as CAMEO as well as those of many prominent people so she won handily on November 8th and we are confident that she will do a fine job.

The election itself was the main topic at a Plexus luncheon on Wednesday, November 9th, which was held at FABO Architecture on Columbus Road.

To be sure, the rhetoric of President-elect Donald Trump had troubled us all. Fortunately, Ms. Tracie Pascoe from "Food for Thought" provided us all with an excellent lunch that had several vegetarian options which we really appreciated.

After we had finished eating, Mr. David Phillips encouraged us all to stand and introduce ourselves and, since we were all upset about the election, share some good things that had been happening. One of our friends talked about how his partner who immigrated here from Europe had recently obtained his green card.  We talked about how img_5907grateful we were that Ms. Johnson had won the previous day and how fortunate we were to be able to work for such a fine office as "Margaret W. Wong and Associates" because diversity is respected there.

Afterwards, we all felt better and were very glad that FABO Architecture, owned by Mr. Brian Fabo, has been doing as well as it has been doing and his cat, Cleo, the company mascot, was purring like never before.

On Thursday, November 10th, we went to the City Club for a program titled "Of Civil Rights and Wrongs" featuring Ms. Karen Korematsu, the Founder and Executive Director of the Fred T. Korematsu Institute.

img_5909 Ms. Korematsu, herself, is the daughter of the late Mr. Fred Korematsu who, as a young Japanese American who was born in this country, refused to comply with the U.S. government's order to be interned at an incarceration camp for Japanese Americans during WWII in 1942. After being tried and convicted for defying the order, Mr. Korematsu filed a case which went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court which ruled against him 6-3 in 1944. In the early 1980's, however, it was discovered that important documentation existed that proved that Japanese Americans were not guilty of acts of treasonous espionage as some had initially thought.

This documentation was deliberately made unavailable to the U.S. Supreme Court back in 1944. Thus in November, 1983 Mr. Korematsu's case was overturned by the U.S. District Court of Northern California and in 1998 Mr. Korematsu received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He devoted his later years to speaking out against injustices and on behalf of our civil liberties and our responsibilities as U.S. citizens. He was a prominent advocate on behalf of the American Muslim community in the days after 9/11.

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Mr. Korematsu passed in 2005 but in 2010 California passed a law proclaiming January 30th (his birthday) to be the Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution. On this day in California, teachers are urged to tell their students about Mr. Korematsu and why what he did was so important. Other states are passing or are considering similar laws.

What is disturbing though is that the U.S. Supreme Court has never reversed its 1944 ruling saying that the internment camps were constitutional even though in 1988 President Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act which offered an apology for the camps and reparations for internees that were still alive.

During her presentation, Ms. Korematsu talked about her father's life and how he had encountered considerable discrimination in his early years; for instance he could not join the U.S. Armed Forces prior to the Pearl Harbor attack because of his ethnicity even though his white friends were readily accepted.

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It was especially poignant when Ms. Korematsu about those being sent to the incarceration camps only had 48 hours advance warning before they were to leave. They had to dispose of all of their belongings and property in that short time frame. Fortunately, Mr. Korematsu's grandfather, who immigrated to the U.S. from Japan, a nursery owner was able to make a deal with a Portuguese immigrant to take care of his property and pay the taxes on it until he returned.

Interestingly, Mr. Fred Korematsu never talked about his court case to his daughter, Karen, who learned about it accidentally in school. For a long time, it was just too painful for him to talk about because he was ostracized within his own community (most of whom thought it was best just to endure the injustice instead of trying to fight it) for daring to speak out.

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During the Q and A, in response to a question concerning discrimination against Muslims, Ms. Korematsu said that it was important that people of all ethnicities be shown respect and we must agree to disagree. From a political standpoint, she urged everyone to work together in a bipartisan fashion against injustice.

We then asked her about the importance of immigration reform. Ms. Korematsu said that it was very important and must be addressed sooner than later. She reminded us that her grandfather immigrated her from Japan and successfully built a small business. He did this because he wanted a better life and that is the story of all immigrants. She was particularly hurt by the prospect that the "dreamers" who have lived here practically their entire lives might be forced to return to a country and a culture that they know nothing about. She said that it was the responsibility of those of us who were born here to help people who have immigrated to this country all that we can.

Another question came from someone who wanted to know how we can expose past injustices so we can learn from them. Ms. Korematsu said that she believed that education was the key. The trouble is that budgets keep getting cut and that teachers are forced to spend so much time preparing the students for governmental testing. Therefore, we img_5910must keep fighting for better courses in which history and civil liberties are discussed. She realized that this will not happen overnight but we must "keep chipping away" because prejudice and ignorance can only be fought through education.

Today we were happy that Ms. Margaret W. Wong was able to join us at the City Club. She believed that Ms. Korematsu's presentation was quite compelling and deserved to be heard by more people particularly in lieu of the current political climate heightened by the unexpected outcome of the U.S. Presidential election.

We were delighted that our good friend, Parma City Council President and high school teacher of government Mr. Sean Brennan attended this program and that he brought over 20 of his students with him. Mr. Brennan told us that he watched a very informative video about the Korematsu case that is included in a collection of famous Supreme Court cases at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.

On this day, we also met Dr. Leah K. Sieck, MD, a charming person who accompanied Ms. Korematsu to this event because her own daughter, a student at Shaker Heights High School, connected with Ms. Korematsu as a result of a high school history project which lead to her speaking before us on this day. During the introductions, Dr. Jill Korbin of the Schubert Center for Child Studies (which was one of the Community Partners for this program) thanked the young woman for helping to make this program possible.

Later on Thursday we dropped in at the 2016 Journalism Hall of Fame and Heaton Award put on by the Press Club of Cleveland at LaCentre in Westlake.

As the program notes informed us, "the Press Club of Cleveland established its Journalism Hall of Fame in 1981 to recognize individual achievements and contributions to Cleveland media, preserve a sense of local journalism's past img_5930 and create a tradition and collective inspiration for those who followed in the future."

We congratulated each member of the 2016 Hall of Fame Class. These noted people were Mr. Steven Litt, of the "Plain Dealer"; Ms. Elizabeth McIntyre of "Crain's Cleveland Business"; Mr. Mike McIntyre of "The Plain Dealer"; Ms. Eva Parziale of "The Associated Press"; Ms. Romona Robinsion of "WOIO CBS 19"; and Mr. George Shuba, the prominent photojournalist.

We also complimented the recipient of the Heaton Award who was Ms. Danita Harris of "WEWS News 5" and Mr. img_5928Thomas Fladung of "Hennes Communications" who was the principal organizer of the entire affair.

We enjoyed visiting with Mr. John Betchkal, now retired from GE; Ms. Eileen Korey from Eileen Korey Communications; and Ms. Alex Boone of GAP Communications who all sent their best to Ms. Margaret W. Wong.

In addition, we chatted with Ms. Denisha Thomas, the producer of the 6pm news at WKYC who said that she really liked the interview that Ms. Wong gave on Sara's Circle in the last part of September.

By:

Michael Patterson 

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC

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