Dr. Homer Yasui (center) accepted the inaugural “Minoru Yasui Voices of Change Award” on behalf of his late brother. He is pictured with APANO leaders and Minoru Yasui Tribute Committee members including (from left) Jessie Domingo, Mary Li, June Arima Schumann, Dr. Phyllis Lee, Dr. Connie Masuoka, Miki Yasui, Rev. Joseph Santos-Lyons, Setsy Larouche, David Fidanque and Gauri Rajbaidya.

The late activist is awarded the inaugural ‘Minoru Yasui Voices of Change Award.’

PORTLAND, ORE. — The Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO) in its annual Voices of Change Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Celebration announced on May 7 the “Minoru Yasui Voices of Change Award,” which recognizes leaders who have promoted civil liberties for all Americans through courageous leadership, activism and advocacy. Yasui, who passed away in 1986, was the inaugural recipient, and his brother, Dr. Homer Yasui, accepted the award on his behalf.

Yasui became a “voice of change” when he was a 25-year-old attorney with a productive legal career and he took a stand that the World War II curfew law imposed on persons of Japanese ancestry was wrong. He was convicted, sentenced and spent months in solitary confinement, followed by imprisonment at Minidoka Internment Camp.

Despite these experiences, his belief in the American system of law was not diminished. Yasui dedicated his entire life to building communities and furthering human and civil rights.

He helped found the Urban League of Denver; the Latin American Research and Service Agency, now called Colorado
Latino Leadership and Research Organization; Denver Native Americans United, now called Denver Indian Center; among many other organizations and programs.

Today, Yasui remains a role model for activism to promote equity for all communities across this country.

In naming Yasui as the recipient for the Voices of Change Award, Dr. Phyllis Lee said, “There is no question that he has been, and continues to exemplify, a great leader, civil rights advocate and most importantly a great American hero . . . to honor the man undeterred in his life’s mission to create the changes that improved the life opportunities for our communities and our nation.”
Earlier this year, the Minoru Yasui Tribute Committee worked with U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) to nominate Yasui for the 2015 Presidential Medal of Freedom. The submission to President Barack Obama included more than 115 elected officials, national, state and regional organizations, as well as notable individuals — including two cabinet officials; nine U.S. Senators and 26 House of Representatives from 11 states; governors, attorneys general, mayors and state legislators; leading national civil rights organizations, including the National Urban League, ACLU, NAACP, National Council of La Raza, JACL, American Friends Service Committee, the Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights and American Jewish Committee; and 46 regional and state organizations and individuals.

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is generally awarded in the fall of each year. If awarded, the president would complete the recognition of all three plaintiffs in the Japanese American Internment Cases, which also include medal recipients Fred Korematsu and Gordon Hirabayashi.

These three landmark cases were reopened when it was determined that the government knowingly represented false information
to the U.S. Supreme Court and their Coram Nobis victory was a critical component in the Japanese American Redress movement.