SACRAMENTO — California State University, Sacramento (CSUS) honored eight of its former and present faculty in the 40th anniversary celebration of the founding of the Ethnic Studies Department at the Alumni Visitor’s Center on April 27.
Nearly 300 friends, family and associates of the program attended the event, many of them seeing each other in nostalgic bliss.
Of those honored, two were Nikkei: Prof. Shotaro Hayashigatani and Prof. Wayne Maeda.
Hayashigatani served as a cultural ambassador to Japan, on top of his work in teaching. His biggest contribution, however, is as an educator. He established the Department of Foreign Language at the university and founded the Port of Sacramento Japanese School, an accredited K-12 Japanese language school where he remains as principal to this day.
Maeda is a prolific scholar of Sacramento-area Japanese American history and a man considered to be the “face” of Asian American studies. He is also a founding board member of the Nichi Bei Foundation.
Along with them, Prof. David Covin and Prof. Alexandre Kimenyi of Pan African Studies, Prof. Frank LaPena and Prof. Charles Roberts of Native American Studies, Prof. Sam Rios, Jr. of Chicano Studies, and Prof. Otis Scott, dean emeritus of the College of Social Sciences and Interdisciplinary Studies, were awarded this honor.
Current Asian American Studies Chair Timothy Fong believes that CSUS boasts one of the best in ethnic studies in California due to not only the school’s commitment to teaching and scholarship, but also the fact that the department is so tight knit and integral to the school as a whole. That sense of community came in full force on the night of the awards ceremony.
The awards dinner included an opening greeting by CSUS President Alexander Gonzalez, who thanked the faculty for their continued work in the name of diversity and problem-solving.
After his opening statement, alumni member Rosanna Chavez gave her reflection on the night. She was converted to ethnic studies by Maeda’s class, where she realized how important it was to “talk about race, in a world that sees itself color-blind.”
Hayashigatani, upon receipt of his award, talked about his journey on a boat that brought him to America. He was on the last boat that admitted new Japanese immigrants to the United States 47 years ago. He talked about how he discovered racism in California — how he had two things against him: being a minority, and being Japanese (during a time with strong anti-Japanese economic sentiments).
The honorees, all a colorful bunch, emphasized that their award, despite singling them out, was the product of a collective effort. They all emphasized that their work was not started by them, nor is it anywhere near its end.
As Maeda put it in his acceptance speech, “The strategy has changed — for one thing, no more little red books, but the struggle continues.”
The last to be recognized was Scott, who was thanked and mentioned many times by his fellow honorees that night. He was described as the epitome of a scholar, educator and mentor by his colleagues and was greeted with a standing ovation and finished with another one as well.
He thanked his parents and grandparents, who “did what they did, so I can do what I do.”
Finally, the night ended with reflections from two current students and a streaming of Joan Baez singing “Forever Young.” As the struggle moved from those such as Scott’s ancestors, to the movement that created the Ethnic Studies Department, to what it is today, Fong noted that ethnic studies will always remain young, by changing with the times.