The Former U.S. Secretary of Transportation and World War II camp internee Norm Mineta and Consul General Jun Niimi from the Japanese consulate in Los Angeles were in Riverside on June 27, 2012, to speak at the preview opening of Riverside Community College District’s new Center for Social Justice & Civil Liberties, and the official commemoration of the 100th anniversary of noted Japanese American artist Miné Okubo’s birth (June 27, 1912).
Nearly 300 guests and dignitaries were in attendance at the Wednesday afternoon event, which began with an official program in the adjacent White Park, followed by a tour of the Center for Social Justice & Civil Liberties.
The center features the works of Riverside native and Japanese-American artist Miné Okubo, who left the bulk of her collection to her alma mater, Riverside City College (RCC). Miné Okubo’s family was present to commemorate the 100th anniversary of her birth and participate in the tribute to Okubo’s public roles as artist, activist and feminist.
Okubo graduated from RCC in 1933, and went on to earn her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at UC Berkeley and was on her way to fame as an artist before she was among 100,000 to 200,000 Japanese and Japanese-Americans in the western states who were sent to internment camps.
While she was confined, she created approximately 2,000 drawings and sketches of her experiences in the camps. Okubo’s seminal work Citizen 13660 was the first chronicling of the Japanese American internment camp experience by an internee and was published to critical acclaim in 1946. Her personal collection of 8,000 pieces of artwork, professional papers, correspondence, and memorabilia, which she bequeathed to her alma mater Riverside City College in 2001, was the catalyst for the new Center, and anchors the inaugural exhibitions.
Photo courtesy of the Press Enterprise: David Bauman/Staff Photographer
Complementing the Okubo Collection is the plaza level “Riverside Stories” interpretive exhibition that explores the struggle for social justice and civil rights through citizens engaged in the fight for equality. These stories include the Harada Family, who challenged the Alien Land Act in U.S. courts; Frank Johnson, who fought to integrate the city’s public swimming pool in the 1920s; Rupert Costo, an RCC alumnus and national leader in the fight for economic and social recognition for Native Americans; and Johnny Sotelo, the first Mexican American to serve on Riverside’s city council. Also profiled are poet and author Tomas Rivera, UC Riverside’s first Mexican American chancellor, and hotelier and peace ambassador Frank Miller, original builder and innkeeper of the Mission Inn, a national historical landmark.
The center will have regular operating hours in the fall and is open by appointment only this summer.
Read more from the RCC Press Release for June 25, 2012.
Read the full article from the Press Enterprise about the opening event.
Read an article from KCET about the hidden history behind the building being used to house the Center for Social Justice & Civil Liberties.