As part of our Winter Read and focus on the Minidoka National Historic Site and Japanese American incarceration during World War II, The Community Library welcomes civil rights investigator Jessica Asai, presented by the Minidoka Civil Liberties Symposium. Her lecture will speak to the legacy of Minoru Yasui’s Supreme Court case protesting the war-time incarceration and the implications for citizenship and civil liberties today.
Jessica Asai is yonsei, a fourth generation Japanese American, and was raised in Hood River, Oregon where her family has farmed for four generations. After receiving a B.A. in Politics from Willamette University, Jessica worked in marketing and government relations before attending Lewis & Clark Law School. In 2010, Jessica became a civil rights investigator for the Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity Department (AAEO) at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU). At OHSU, she conducts internal civil rights investigations, facilitates the reasonable accommodation interactive process, and provides advice and training to administrators, faculty, staff, and students on civil rights, equity, and Title IX. Jessica is a founding board member of the Oregon Asian Pacific American Bar Association, and contributed to the team effort that successfully nominated attorney and civil rights activist Minoru Yasui for a 2015 Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. More recently, in December 2018, she was appointed to serve on the Oregon Commission for Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs.
Minoru Yasui was an American lawyer and son of Japanese immigrants who fought the restrictions imposed by Executive Order 9066 that allowed the military to set up exclusion zones, curfews, and ultimately the internment of Japanese Americans during the war. The Order was signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on February 19, 1942, and Minoru Yasui’s case was the first to test the constitutionality of the curfews targeted at minority groups.
The Minidoka Civil Liberties Symposium is a partnership between Friends of Minidoka, the National Park Service, Boise State University, and the ACLU of Idaho. The Community Library is extremely grateful to this partnership for bringing Jessica Asai to the Wood River Valley.
The Community Library’s 2020 WINTER READ explores the history and effects today of the incarceration of Japanese Americans in the U.S. during World War II. Throughout February and March we invite the community to read Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Jamie Ford’s novel that focuses on two families, of Chinese and Japanese ancestry, who experience discrimination, incarceration, loss, and friendship during the early war years in Seattle. The novel features the Minidoka War Relocation Center, Idaho’s own site of war-time incarceration where more than 9,000 Japanese Americans were imprisoned from 1942-45. The site is located just eighty miles south of Ketchum. Join us as we engage in conversation around this important regional and national civil liberties history.
The 2020 Winter Read has been generously sponsored by the Spur Community Foundation and Carlyn Ring.