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Alumnus honored

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By Tiffany Cammarata

By Tiffany Cammarata

The unveiling of the first renamed RCC street occurred on Feb. 22 in which several guest speakers venerated RCC alumnus Mine´ Okubo.

Internationally acclaimed artist, author and human rights activist, Okubo was once an RCC student.

After graduating from RCC, she attended UC Berkley where, in 1938, she was awarded the Bertha Taussig Traveling Scholarship which enabled her to travel to Europe to strengthen her artistic skills.

Upon her return, she worked alongside the famous muralist Diego Rivera, among others. When the bombing of Pearl Harbor occurred she was exiled to a Japanese internment camp. This is where she wrote and illustrated her most famous work Citizen 13660.

In this book, she depicts the hardships she and 110,000 other Japanese-Americans endured. Despite the horrific afflictions she experienced, she maintained a hopeful and understanding attitude, a rarity in such circumstances.

After being released from camp she continued to accomplish many works up until her death at age 88 in 2001. Her niece, Seiko Buckingham, described Okubo as an amazing, grateful person with a personality and sense of humor to parallel no other.

Among those to speak at the renaming was Mary H. Curtin, who was a friend and admirer of Okubo. She co-wrote the play “Mine´: A Name for Herself” and also recommended Mine´ for the renaming. Mark Takano, president of the Board of Trustees, also a Japanese-American, whose family was associated with Okubos’, had taken a strong historical relationship with Okubo.

He warmly remembers Okubo as “confident in her work” and “knew she was something great whereas most artists are skeptical.”

RCC Chancellor Salvatore Rotella delivered an emotional speech where he relived his close friendship with Okubo. He noted that the last words she spoke to him before her passing were of her enormous love for Riverside and the time she had spent at RCC.

The renamed street sign is a daily reminder that we, too, have the opportunity to overcome adversity and celebrate the beauty of what life has to offer, just as the former student, Okubo did.

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