Civil Rights Hero Gordon Kiyoshi Hirabayashi Passes Away

Most people think that all the Japanese Americans went meekly into the concentration camps during World War II. But that’s far from the truth. In reality, there were some brave individuals that put themselves out there to test the constitutionality of the exclusion order. One of those people is Gordon Kiyoshi Hirabayashi, who unfortunately passed away yesterday.

Mr. Hirabayashi is my hero. I don’t use that term lightly. While most people are familiar with the Fred Korematsu case, I’d like to take the time to give you a very brief overview of Mr. Hirabayashi’s fight for justice.

Gordon K. Hirabayashi, a member of the American Friends Service Committee, was upset about the exclusion order and about the curfew laws following Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. He defied the military order to register for the “evacuation” and then broke the curfew law.

His case eventually made it to the Supreme Court and was the first challenge of the exclusion order. They ruled against him nine to zero. He was to be imprisoned for 90 days but was not given any money or means to get to the prison in Arizona. And because people of Japanese ancestry were not allowed to travel on trains, he was forced to hitchhike his way to jail. Once he got there, he was told they were not ready for him and it was suggested he’d go to a movie and dinner in the meantime. Mr. Hirabayashi served his time and ultimately his case was over turned in the late 1980s.

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Author: Koji Steven Sakai

Writer/Producer Koji Steven Sakai is the founder of Little Nalu Pictures LLC and the CEO of CHOPSO (www.CHOPSO.com), the first Asian English streaming video service. He has written five feature films that have been produced, including the indie hit, The People I’ve Slept With. He also produced three feature films, a one hour comedy special currently on Netflix, and Comedy InvAsian, a live and filmed series featuring the nation’s top Asian American comedians. Koji’s debut novel, Romeo & Juliet Vs. Zombies, was released in paperback in 2015 and in audiobook in 2016 and his graphic novel, 442, was released in 2017. In addition, he is currently an adjunct professor in screenwriting at International Technological University in San Jose.