July 21, 2020
State Superintendent Tony Thurmond and Dr. Karen Korematsu Discuss Fighting for Justice During Virtual Classroom Lesson on Asian American Studies
SACRAMENTO—Students who gathered for a virtual classroom lesson on Asian American Studies on Tuesday, hosted by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, learned about Fred Korematsu’s fight against imprisonment during World War II. Korematsu’s 40-year battle in the Supreme Court would in part lead to the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 which included a formal apology as well as reparations to Japanese Americans imprisoned during the war.
“Fred Korematsu’s story is one that should empower all of us stand up for ourselves and for what’s right, even if it takes years or decades for justice,” said Thurmond. “As our nation experiences an urgent movement for racial justice, we’ve heard from students from around the state speaking up that this work begins in the classroom. Today’s virtual classroom was an example of what that can look like.”
The virtual classroom session was hosted by Superintendent Thurmond and featured Dr. Karen Korematsu sharing her father’s personal story as well as her own. Guests included students from throughout California, Assemblymember David Chiu, and Professor Grace Yeh, Ph.D. of California Polytechnic State University at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, who spoke about the importance of Asian American Studies and gave a brief history of Asians and Pacific Islander Americans. An archived broadcast can be found on the California Department of Education (CDE) Facebook page .
As the CDE prepares to submit a revised Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum for public review, this series will help students, educators, and families familiarize themselves with the core areas of ethnic studies, including how different groups have struggled and worked together, as well as key concepts such as equality, justice, race, ethnicity, and indigeneity.
During Tuesday’s webinar, Dr. Karen Korematsu shared her father’s story and overview of the Korematsu Institute, whose mission is to advance racial equity, social justice, and human rights for all. Since her father’s passing in 2005, Karen has carried
on his legacy as a public speaker, educator, and civil rights advocate. She shares her father’s passion for social justice and education and in 2009 established the Fred T. Korematsu Institute.
In a question-and-answer session, students and members from the Asian Pacific Youth Leadership Project and U.S. Senate Youth Program expressed their support for more Asian American and Pacific Islander history to be taught earlier, and in a more relatable, modern way. Students also drew inspiration from realizing the direct connection and intersection between the history and experiences of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and other indigenous and people of color in the United States. And before delivering closing remarks, State Superintendent Thurmond offered to provide reading materials on Asian Americans to the first 100 students who reach out to the CDE.
This series of virtual classroom sessions continues with one more event on July 28. Each session focuses on one of four foundational groups of ethnic studies: Africana Studies, Asian American Studies, Chicano Latino Studies, and Indigenous Studies. The series features prominent leaders and educators from each discipline to provide a lecture. All events in the series are broadcast on the CDE Facebook page . The remaining event is as follows:
- Tuesday, July 28, 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Indigenous Studies with Assemblymember James C. Ramos, co-founder of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians' Cultural Awareness Program and director of the California Indian Cultural Awareness Conference at California State University, San Bernardino.
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Tony Thurmond —
State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Communications Division, Room 5602, 916-319-0818, Fax 916-319-0100