Aiko Yoshinaga-Herzing receives Lifetime Achievement Award

In keeping with its tradition of recognizing leaders in the Asian Pacific American community, Asian Pacific Americans in Higher Education (APAHE) presented a Lifetime Achievement Award at the conference’s opening session. Aiko Yoshinaga-Herzig received the award for her work in the Redress Movement and her promotion of civil rights.

Along with some 120,000 other persons of Japanese descent, Yoshinaga-Herzig spent World War II in a prison camp administered by the U.S. government. Forty years later, she joined fellow activists in seeking redress for the civil rights violations represented by those camps. Specifically, she and husband Jack Herzig found the documents that helped clear the convictions against Fred Korematsu, Min Yasui and Gordon Hirabayashi — men who resisted the discriminatory government actions against those of Japanese ancestry.

After these landmark cases, Yoshinaga-Herzig continued to participate in projects that addressed wartime injustices. She was the primary researcher for the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, and she also worked for the Department of Justice Office of Redress Administration.

Currently, Yoshinaga-Herzig is working on an incarceration archival project at UCLA, which precluded her attendance at the APAHE conference.

Her son-in-law, California state Assemblymember Warren Furutani (D-South Los Angeles County), accepted the award on her behalf.

“My mother-in-law was honored by this award,” said Furutani. “She is so dedicated to this job,” he added, explaining Yoshinaga-Herzig’s absence.

APAHE treasurer Dr. Judy Sakaki presented the award — an original painting by Patrick Hayashi, a local artist and one of the founding members of APAHE. The canvas depicts two origami figures of special significance. “It has the crane, a symbol of peace and hope, and the ox of devotion,” said Sakaki.

In an e-mail, Sakaki wrote that “APAHE was excited to honor Ms. Yoshinaga-Herzig for her crucial contribution to the Redress Movement and civil rights for all Americans. She’s a reminder of how one humble but hard-working person can have a profound impact on the lives of so many others.

 

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