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File #: 220253    Version: 0 Name:
Type: Resolution Status: ADOPTED
File created: 3/17/2022 In control: CITY COUNCIL
On agenda: Final action: 3/31/2022
Title: Honoring and recognizing the voice, vision, and contributions of movement activist and organizer Ellen Somekawa, whose fearless and transformative leadership within Philadelphia's Asian American community has advanced major victories for racial and economic justice, built multiracial coalitions across the City, founded historic institutions, and redefined Asian American activism particularly in the area of youth leadership, education justice, and civil rights.
Sponsors: Councilmember Brooks, Councilmember Gym, Councilmember Jones, Councilmember Gilmore Richardson, Councilmember Parker, Councilmember Squilla, Councilmember Thomas, Councilmember Gauthier, Councilmember Domb
Attachments: 1. Resolution No. 22025300, 2. Signature22025300
Title
Honoring and recognizing the voice, vision, and contributions of movement activist and organizer Ellen Somekawa, whose fearless and transformative leadership within Philadelphia's Asian American community has advanced major victories for racial and economic justice, built multiracial coalitions across the City, founded historic institutions, and redefined Asian American activism particularly in the area of youth leadership, education justice, and civil rights.

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WHEREAS, Ellen Marie Somekawa was born in Minneapolis and raised in the Minneapolis suburb of Wayzata by her parents, the late Carl Kiyoshi Somekawa and Mari Kawanami Somekawa, along with her older brother, Roger; and

WHEREAS, Both her parents were among the more than 120,000 American citizens of Japanese descent forcibly and unjustly interned by the U.S. government during World War II. College-aged Carl Somekawa and his family were evicted from their home in Portland, Oregon and sent to the Minidoka War Relocation Center in Idaho in 1942. Meanwhile, high-school student Mari Kawanami and her parents were taken 1,400 miles from their home in San Jose, California, to Heart Mountain Relocation Center in Wyoming. Mari earned her diploma while she was imprisoned. Carl and Mari met later and were married in 1947 and lived their lives in Minneapolis - the first place Carl found a job after being denied other opportunities due to his Japanese heritage. Together, they celebrated 69 years of joyful marriage and raised their two children as the only Asian family on their block in Wayzata; and

WHEREAS, Despite the injustice of internment and the racism they faced after World War II, Carl and Mari never spoke of their experience to their children. Ellen discovered her parents' history when she was 15 years old and someone handed her a flyer referencing the Japanese American internment at a dinner for the Japanese American Citizens' League. While Ellen was already a politically active teenager who wore bla...

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