Outside the Superior Court of California in Santa Ana is a historic Japanese teahouse and garden. After raising $50,000, the monument “A Grateful Arigato” dedicated the space to the community and the Japanese-Americans who helped make the commemoration possible. A plaque reads, “A Grateful Arigato in honor of our pioneer fathers and for the blessings of freedom.”
Janice Munemitsu, author of “The Kindness of Color” mentioned the Orange County Japanese Garden at the end of her presentation on May 10. Munemitsu was invited to Orange Coast College’s Multicultural Center to speak on her memoir, which she self-published in 2021.
This book follows the lives of the Munemitsu’s and the Mendez’s as they faced racial discrimination, and how the Mendez, et al v. Westminster case helped change the United States for the better in the 1940s.
“They knew they were being undervalued,” Munemitsu said.
Munemitsu, who grew up in Garden Grove, covered how she learned about her family’s history, as well as how she came to write this memoir.
In 2019, her family inspired her to write this story about how impactful acts of kindness can be. Fairly quickly she wrote the first draft, publishing it during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Munemitsu was able to find out the truth of her ancestral history through verbal accounts of her family and the Mendez’s, especially Sylvia Mendez, along with official records from this time. Sylvia Mendez was one of the children involved in the court case, often being seen as the “face” of the trial.
Munemitsu never really anticipated how many people this story would impact. In her memoir, she details the cultural blending of people who immigrated to the U.S and how they managed to hold onto and celebrate their heritage while also learning the American lifestyle.
Sandra Mendez, Sylvia’s younger sister, found out about her own family history in a textbook during class one day.
Munemitsu used a slideshow containing pictures of both families and statistics from the 1940s to convey how much everyone went through.
One of the statistics was that of all the Japanese-American people who were forcibly relocated to internment camps, 70% were born in the U.S.
“There is 125,000 stories,” Munemitsu said.
Munemitsu detailed how important generosity within communities was, particularly in this community, with people being able to turn to their neighbors in times of need.
“Collaborating here is sacrificial,”Munemitsu said.
“The Kindness of Color” is a timeless story of strength and compassion that acts as a determined call for change.
“You persevere with all you’ve got,” Munemitsu said.
More information can be found on the memoir’s website.
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