On Saturday, October 14, 2017, Orange County celebrated Fiesta Mendez, a day-long celebration of equality and freedom.
Among a number of events, Fiesta Mendez hosted a screening of the episode “Manzanar” from Huell Howser’s television show, California’s Gold. The screening was followed by a discussion about the relationship between Japanese American incarceration and the landmark Orange County school desegregation case Westminster v. Mendez.
Sandra Robbie, who produced an Emmy winning documentary about segregation in Orange County, “Mendez v. Westminster: For All the Children,” passed out fiesta flowers to students and introduced students to the Mendez v. Westminster case.
Dr. Stephanie Takaragawa, a professor in Chapman University’s Sociology Department, incorporated this screening and discussion into her First-year Foundations Course, “Yellow Peril to Yellow Power”.
One of the topics discussed included the Munemitsu family–a Japanese American family incarcerated during World War II. The Munemitsu Family, lived in Orange County, and when they were displaced, the Mendez family moved into their house and rented the Munemitsu family’s farm. The vast majority of Japanese American families lost their property as a result of the mass incarceration, but the Munemitsu family’s case is one of the rare instances in which leases were signed and honored. Once they were evacuated from their incarceration camp the Munemitsu family was able to receive their property back. The leases that were signed between the Mendez and the Munemitsu family are actually held in the Frank Mt. Pleasant Library of Special Collections and Archives at the Leatherby Libraries under the Mendez v. Westminster Archive, 1920-2008. Learn more about this archive and the significance of the Mendez and Munemitsu family lease agreement in this blog post!