Grace Uyehara, JACL redress advocate, dies

PHILADELPHIA — Grayce Uyehara, who played an instrumental role in the Japanese American Citizens League’s redress efforts, passed away June 22 at the Virtua Memorial Hospital in Mount Holly, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. She was 94.

Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA) wrote on his Facebook page that she played a “crucial role” in “the grassroots movement for reparations — rallying community members and lobbying to fight for justice” for the wartime incarceration of Japanese Americans.

“Grayce was a person who worked on relationships and on getting broad involvement,” Ellen Somekawa, executive director of Asian Americans United, a Philadelphia advocacy group, told the Inquirer. “She was not shy about urging people to change their minds, or act differently,”

Grayce Kaneda was born on July 4, 1919, in Stockton, Calif., the Inquirer reports. When President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 on Feb. 19, 1942, she and her family were forcibly removed from their homes and put into the barbed-wire concentration camp in rural Rohwer, Ark. during World War II.

She married Hiroshi Uyehara, an engineer who was also in the Rohwer camp, and they helped organize the Philadelphia chapter of the JACL.

In 1984 Uyehara, a retired social worker, took over as the executive director of the Legislative Education Committee, the JACL’s lobbying arm for redress, recalled Japanese American National Heritage Coalition Coordinator Gerald Yamada in a 2011 letter to the editor in the Nichi Bei Weekly.

“Grayce deserves to be recognized as one of the significant community leaders of the 1980s,” Yamada wrote.

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