Jim Matsuoka was 7 years old when he and his family were torn from their home in Little Tokyo and forced to spend World War II in a guarded camp in the Central Valley.
For the rest of his life, he would speak out against the government’s mass incarceration of people of Japanese descent — and any time he saw injustice.
In the 1980s, Matsuoka helped lead a successful campaign for reparations — and demanded the same for African Americans.
He also condemned discrimination against Muslim Americans after they experienced a surge in violence and government profiling after the 9/11 attacks.
Matsuoka died last October at age 86. He will be the subject of a special dedication at the L.A. Day of Remembrance.
What to expect
The perennial theme of the Day of Remembrance is solidarity. That will be the subject of a conversation between Manjusha Kulkarni, executive director at AAPI Equity Alliance and co-founder of Stop AAPI Hate and traci ishigo, director of Programs and Healing Justice at Vigilant Love, an L.A.-based group fighting Islamophobia.
This will be the first L.A. Day of Remembrance without Matsuoka present, noted Joy Yamaguchi, one of the event’s organizers.
His legacy continues to inspire younger Japanese Americans like Yamaguchi, who is yonsei, or fourth-generation. They said Matsuoka earned the moniker of “North Star” among fellow activists.
“We’re just really still feeling his presence, still feeling guided by him in this work,” Yamaguchi said.