Fred T. Korematsu Day to be celebrated Saturday at El Cerrito school named after him

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Fred T. Korematsu (left), the Japanese American civil rights icon.

In honor of Fred T. Korematsu Day this Saturday, an El Cerrito middle school named after the Japanese American civil rights legend is planning a celebration and dedication to its new campus, which is slated to open this spring.

At 10 a.m. Saturday at Korematsu Middle School, 7125 Donal Ave., students, teachers, parents, alumni and local politicians will join Korematsu’s daughter in a ceremony that will include a Taiko drumming corps, according to the West Contra Costa Unified School District.

It will be the first event at the new campus, which features spaces for performing arts, a library/media center, gymnasium, play areas, an administration building and onsite parking.

During construction of the campus, students have been learning in temporary classrooms four blocks away, on the site of the original school.

Korematsu Middle School used to be known as Portola Middle School until the district’s Board of Education voted to rename it in 2014.

During WWII, Korematsu was arrested and convicted for defying the internment order at a time when Japanese-American citizens were forced into camps without cause. In 1983, his case was overturned in U.S. District Court and President Bill Clinton later awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He remained a civil rights activist thereafter.

In 2010, the state of California passed the Fred Korematsu Day bill, making Jan. 30 the first day in the U.S. named after an Asian American, the school district said.

A long list of prominent locals are expected to attend Saturday’s ceremony, including Assemblymember Tony Thurmond, Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia, El Cerrito Mayor Greg Lyman, and WCCUSD Board of Education President Randy Enos.

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