Cherry Blossom Festival and Asian Pacific American Heritage Month


The Cal Alumni Association (CAA), in partnership with the Japanese American Women Alumnae of UC Berkeley (JAWAUCB), the Asian American and Asian Diaspora Studies Program (AAADS) of the Department of Ethnic Studies, and the Office of Asian Pacific American Student Development (APASD), presents a collective campus tribute to the National Cherry Blossom Festival and Asian Pacific American Heritage Month in April and May that celebrate the contributions of Asians and Asian Americans in the US.

Each April the National Cherry Blossom Festival commemorates the gift of 3,000 cherry trees in 1912 from Tokyo Mayor Yukio Ozaki to the city of Washington, D.C. as an emblem of friendship between the people of the United States and Japan. The White House has continued to recognize the national festival, with the nation’s first ladies serving as tis honorary chairs since the 1990s. The San Francisco Bay Area community has hosted its own Cherry Blossom Festival for nearly 50 years.

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month
In 1977 four Congressional members—U.S. Representatives Frank Horton and Norman Y. Mineta (’53(, and Senators Daniel Inouye and Spark Matsunaga—proposed two bills designating the first ten days in May as Asian Pacific Heritage Week, motions that were followed by President Carter’s official resolution in 1978. May was chosen to commemorate both the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants to the U.S. on May 7, 1843, and the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869, the tracks for which were primarily laid by Chinese laborers. In 1992, President George H.W. Bush officially extended the week-long celebration into Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.

Please join us and support our efforts by participating in the UC Berkeley Asian Pacific American events below and learning more about how you can get involved.


Clothilde “Cloey” Hewlett ’76, J.D. ’79
Executive Director, Cal Alumni Association

Joyce Nao Takahashi ’55
Club Historian, Japanese American Women Alumnae of UC Berkeley

In the 1920s, Japanese American alumnae of Cal banded together with students to collect sufficient funds to build a dormitory desperately needed to fill the void created by racially restricted housing in the campus neighborhood. The house at 2509 Hearst was purchased in 1937, rented out between 1942 and 1945 during World War II, and eventually sold in 1967. With the needs of the students as its top priority, the Board of Directors then voted to transfer the assets of the sale of this house to the University to provide scholarships and fellowships.

Since 1969 the organization has awarded 142 scholarships and fellowships. In 1991 the alumnae joined CAA and became the “Japanese American Women Alumnae of UC Berkeley.” Each spring JAWAUCB honors its scholarship awardees and fellows, as well as an Outstanding Alumna, at a luncheon. JAWAUCB also supports the Nikkei Student Club, and the Center for Race and Gender.

The history of JAWAUCB is told in the new monograph, Japanese American Alumnae of UC Berkeley, Lives and Legacy, available through

Jenny Ha ’15
Former Social Chair, Nikkei Student Union

I was part of the Nikkei Student Union, a Japanese American interest group dedicated to issues affecting the Japanese American community. One of the most important events we hold is the annual Day of Remembrance (DOR). DOR commemorates the incarceration of Japanese Americans in internment camps on U.S. soil with the signing of Executive Order 9066.

It is important to educate people about the lasting legacy of such a policy and explain that more unconstitutional policies will be created against other minorities in the future if Americans do not attempt to understand and embrace this country’s diverse groups. The Muslim Student Association now co-hosts DOR because their struggle with our Islamophobic American society parallels that of the Japanese Americans during World War II.

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month is essential to remind people that Asian Pacific Islander contributions and history are weaved throughout American history, and that minorities are fellow Americans who deserve recognition and understanding.

Grace Obata Amemiya
2014 Outstanding Alumna of the Year, Japanese American Women Alumnae of UC Berkeley

Ms. Amemiya’s nursing education at the University of California, San Francisco was interrupted when she was incarcerated in Gila, Arizona during WWII. She completed her nursing degree in Rochester, Minnesota through the Cadet Nurse Corps. Sixty-seven years later, she successfully appealed to the UC Board of Regents to award honorary degrees to herself and 750 other students.

Growing up in northern California in the 1930s, Grace Obata Amemiya assumed she would attend the University of California, Berkeley. Two of her older brothers and a sister were Berkeley-educated. Why would she not be?

But Amemiya’s college days were abruptly interrupted in 1942 when the United States herded her and 120,000 other Japanese Americans on the West Coast to inland internment camps amid racist sentiment during World War II.

Thanks to a gesture by the UC Board of Regents, she was among hundreds of individuals who qualified for a special honorary degree from the same institution that had spurned them during war hysteria. “This is long overdue, but truly awesome,” says Amemiya, an 88-year-old retired nurse now living in Ames, Iowa.

The UC decision marks one of the most recent public acknowledgements of the injustice against Japanese Americans. In the 1980s, Congress determined that the incarceration was wrong, and President Ronald Reagan signed legislation granting $20,000 in financial reparation to each surviving internee.

UC President Mark Yudof called the Regents’ move “one way to apologize” to the displaced students. The diplomas will bear the Latin inscription, “Inter Silvas Academi Restituere Iustitiam,” meaning “to restore justice among the groves of the academy.”

Aiko “Grace” Obata Amemiya, center, speaks about being incarcerated while studying at UC Berkeley in 1942 to the University of California Board of Regents in San Francisco, Thursday, July 16, 2009. At left is Professor Daniel Simmons, UC Davis School of Law, and at right is Judy Sasaki, University of California Vice President of Student Affairs.

Michael Omi ’73
Associate Professor

Michael Omi is Associate Professor of Comparative Ethnic Studies and Associate Director of the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the co-author of Racial Formation in the United States, a groundbreaking work that transformed how we understand the social and historical forces that give race its changing meaning over time and place.

Since 1995, he has been the co-editor of the book series on Asian American History and Culture at Temple University Press. From 1999 to 2008, he served as a member and chair of the Daniel E. Koshland Committee for Civic Unity at the San Francisco Foundation. He is founding member of the faculty steering committee of the Center for New Racial Studies, a University of California Multi-Campus Research Project based at UC Santa Barbara.

Michael Omi is a recipient of UC Berkeley’s Distinguished Teaching Award — an honor bestowed on only 240 Berkeley faculty members since the award’s inception in 1959. Profile »

Khatharya Um Ph.D. ’90
Associate Professor in the Ethnic Studies Department, Asian American Studies at UC Berkeley

Khatharya Um is Associate Professor in the Ethnic Studies Department. Professor Um’s teaching and research interests center around refugees and other forcibly displaced communities and their incorporation experiences. Her specialization is Southeast Asian studies and Southeast Asian diaspora studies, genocide studies and post conflict trauma, reconciliation, memory works, and national healing. Her teaching and research is also community based and policy oriented, with a special focus on equity and inclusion of linguistic and cultural minorities.
Profile »