The Power of Our Stories: The Fight for Civil Liberties in the Japanese American Community and Beyond

Sunday Jan 05 2014   2:00 PM
Santa Cruz Public Library  224 Church St., Santa Cruz, CA  map

The Santa Cruz Library is currently hosting an exhibit based on the book Wherever’s There’s a Fight. In line with the exhibit, co-authors Elaine Elinson and Stan Yogi will present an overview of California civil liberties history from the Gold Rush to the post-9/11 era, highlighting courageous Californians whose battles in courts, classrooms and streets shaped the rights we have today.  When they reach the moment of the most egregious violation of civil liberties in California history–the mass incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II–they will be joined by Brian Komei Dempster, editor of Making Home from War, who will read first-person stories written by former camp prisoners. The program will also illuminate how past battles carry lessons for today, as Brian shares poems from his debut collection Topaz, which examines the Japanese American imprisonment experience, its legacy and impact on younger generations, and intersecting issues of race, gender, sexuality, and power.

SPECIAL GUEST: Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston will read from her book Farewell to Manzanar.

Free and open to the public; for more information visit

Elaine ElinsonElaine Elinson was the communications director of the ACLU of Northern California and editor of the ACLU News for more than two decades. She is a coauthor of Development Debacle: The World Bank in the Philippines, which was banned by the Marcos regime. Her articles have been published in the Los Angeles Daily Journal, the San Francisco Chronicle, The Nation, Poets and Writers, and numerous other periodicals. She is married to journalist Rene CiriaCruz and they have one son.

Photo by Matthew Elinson

Brian Komei DempsterBrian Komei Dempster is a Sansei (third-generation Japanese American). He received BAs in American ethnic studies and English from the University of Washington and an MFA in creative writing from the University of Michigan. His poems have been published in various journals and anthologies. Dempster is the editor of From Our Side of the Fence: Growing Up in America’s Concentration Camps, which received a 2007 Nisei Voices Award from the National Japanese American Historical Society. His debut book of poems, Topaz, is forthcoming from Four Way Books in fall 2013.  He is a professor of rhetoric and language and a faculty member of Asian Pacific American studies at the University of San Francisco.  Currently, he divides his time between teaching and serving as Director of Administration for the master of arts program in Asia Pacific studies. Read more on his website.

Photo by Grace Chow

Stan Yogi

Stan Yogi is the coauthor, with Elaine Elinson, of Wherever There’s a Fight: How Runaway Slaves, Suffragists, Immigrants, Strikers, and Poets Shaped Civil Liberties in California, and, with Laura Atkins, of the children's book Fred Korematsu Speaks Up. He managed development programs for the ACLU of Northern California for fourteen years and is the coeditor of two books, Highway 99: A Literary Journey through California's Great Central Valley and Asian American Literature: An Annotated Bibliography. His work has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, MELUS, Los Angeles Daily Journal, and several anthologies. He is married to nonprofit administrator David Carroll and lives in Los Angeles.

Photo by Michael Woolsey