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Ron Wakabayashi to Receive the Sue Kunitomi Embrey Legacy Award at 55th Annual Manzanar Pilgrimage

By April 26, 2024July 8th, 2024No Comments

Attorney Don Tamaki will be the event’s keynote speaker.

LOS ANGELES — Ron Wakabayashi, former regional director of the U.S. Department of Justice Community Relations Service, has been named as the 2024 recipient of the Sue Kunitomi Embrey Legacy Award.

Ron Wakabayashi

The award, named after the late chair of the Manzanar Committee, who was one of the founders of the annual Manzanar Pilgrimage and was the driving force behind the creation of the Manzanar National Historic Site, will be presented at the 55th Annual Manzanar Pilgrimage on April 27.

Wakabayashi, who was one of the pioneers who participated in the first organized Manzanar Pilgrimage in 1969, was born in Reno, Nev., during the war years and had family members incarcerated at Rohwer and Topaz.

After his family returned to Los Angeles in 1947, Wakabayashi attended California State University, Los Angeles, before becoming the national youth director for the JACL in the late 1960s. He was a founder and director of the Asian American Drug Abuse Program and then went on to become the JACL national director during the redress campaign.

Wakabayashi later became the executive director of the Los Angeles City Human Relations Commission and the director of the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations. He served in this position starting in 1999 and provided conflict resolution services related to race, color or national origin.

“We are honored to recognize Ron for all his outstanding contributions to our community and defending the civil rights of all Americans,” said Manzanar Committee Co-Chair Bruce Embrey.

In addition, the Manzanar Committee announced that attorney Don Tamaki will be the event’s keynote speaker.

Don Tamaki

Tamaki, senior counsel of the Bay Area law firm Minami Tamaki LLP, is best-known as co-counsel for Fred Korematsu during his coram nobis court case in which he appealed his 1944 conviction for violating the order that forcibly removed Japanese/Japanese Americans from the West Coast and incarcerated them in American concentration camps and other confinement sites. Tamaki helped lead a successful effort to get Korematsu’s conviction vacated in U.S. District Court in 1984.

Tamaki also co-founded the Asian Law Alliance in San Jose and has served as the executive director of the Asian Law Caucus in San Francisco.

In 2021, Tamaki was appointed by California Gov. Gavin Newsom to serve on the nine-member California Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans to study the cumulative historic and present-day impact of 246 years of enslavement, 90 years of Jim Crow oppression and 60 years of segregation and its vestiges and to recommend to the Legislature what California should do to address these harms.

“We’re honored to have Don Tamaki as our keynote speaker on this 55th anniversary of the first community-wide pilgrimage,” said Embrey. “Don’s tireless activism over the years, his leading role in the coram nobis cases and most recently his role in the California Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans makes him uniquely qualified to speak at our pilgrimage.”

For more information on the Manzanar Pilgrimage, visit

— Manzanar Committee