Nearly 70 years after being arrested in downtown San Leandro for refusing to go to a Japanese-American internment camp -- and more than five years after he died -- Fred Korematsu will get his day.
"It's both sad and happy all at the same time," said Karen Korematsu, his daughter and co-founder of the Fred T. Korematsu Institute for Civil Rights and Education. "He's obviously not here to see this, and that's what makes it sad; but it's wonderful to see his legacy grow."
In September, then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill making Jan. 30 -- Korematsu's birthday -- the Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution. A special event with the Rev. Jesse Jackson and others will take place on the UC Berkeley campus to honor Korematsu.
It also marks the first time any state has designated a day in honor of an Asian-American.
"It's very significant," Karen Korematsu said. "He would be very humbled by the whole thing. That's the way my father was."
Korematsu's story is significant to many.
During World War II, Korematsu refused to go to Japanese-American internment camps and was arrested in downtown San Leandro and held in the city's jail. He then was convicted of violating the internment order.
He appealed and the case went to the Supreme Court, which upheld the conviction.
The Supreme Court's decision was seen by many as an injustice, and in 1983, his conviction was overturned.
Korematsu died in 2005 at age 86.
His legal case -- which is now studied at many law schools -- has helped Korematsu become a new civil rights icon for a younger generation of Japanese-Americans, and Americans in general.
In the fall, the San Leandro Unified School District dedicated its new freshman campus to its longtime resident, naming the campus the Fred T. Korematsu Campus. Korematsu's wife, Kathryn, 89, still lives in San Leandro.
Like many schools in the area, San Leandro Unified also passed a resolution this month recognizing the day, and students at the Korematsu campus will learn about his life during school Jan. 31.
"I hope the day is a day of education," Karen Korematsu said.
"The same issues my father faced are still here and relevant today," she added, pointing to subjects such as racial profiling, immigration and national security concerns.
The Fred Korematsu Day event in Berkeley will begin at 2 p.m. General admission tickets are $25, tickets for teachers, nonprofit representatives and seniors are $15 and there is a special student rate of $5. The event will be held at the Wheeler Auditorium on UC Berkeley's campus.
For ticket information, go to http://tickets.berkeley.edu or call 510-642-9988.
For details about the event, go to http://fredkorematsuday.org or call 415-848-7727.
Contact Chris Metinko at 510-293-2479.