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POMONA - George Takei, best known for his role as Captain Hikaru Sulu on "Star Trek," is using social media as a platform to bring awareness to social injustice.

Takei's popularity online is evident by 3.

Over 150 students at Cal Poly Pomona wait in line Tuesday for George Takei event at the student center.
Over 150 students at Cal Poly Pomona wait in line Tuesday for George Takei event at the student center. (Thomas R. Cordova/Staff Photographer)
5 million "Likes" on his personal Facebook page and his more than 500,000 Twitter followers, not to mention his electronic book, "Oh Myyy! There Goes the Internet."

Speaking to more than 600 Cal Poly Pomona students and many fans on Tuesday, the 75-year-old, openly gay Takei discussed his social media experience and how it has provided a new chapter to his career.

For Takei, social media has been a vehicle to promote "Allegiance - A New American Musical," which is loosely based on his life. The musical details the experiences of Japanese-Americans, such as Takei, who were forced into internment camps.

"Pearl Harbor was bombed and overnight American citizens of Japanese ancestry were seen as the enemy simply because of what we looked like. It was a time of racial history ... greed and lack of political leadership," Takei said during his talk titled "Social Justice in a Digital World."

To help build an audience for the musical, Takei used various social media outlets.

When he first started on the sites about two years ago, Takei would engage with his audience by talking about Star Trek and telling jokes.

"We wanted to tell that story ...

Stage lights line the stage as George Takei speaks about "social justice in a digital world".
Stage lights line the stage as George Takei speaks about "social justice in a digital world". (Thomas R. Cordova/Staff Photographer)
we needed to develop an audience beforehand and so I started Facebooking and Tweeting essentially to my core audience, which are science fiction, nerds and geeks, and build that up," Takei said.

Once he saw there was a positive response, he started to talk about larger, often controversial, subjects and "Allegiance."

The musical, which is set to be on Broadway in the fall, follows the story of the Kimura family and the Japanese-American internment in the weeks and years following Pearl Harbor.

It is a story that is personal to Takei.

When he was 5 years old, Takei and his family were forced out of their home and sent to a camp at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia and then to Tule Lake and Rohwer, Ark.

"We went outside and the last to come out was my mother and she was carrying my baby sister in one arm and a huge duffle bag in the other and I saw tears streaming down her cheek - that's the picture that is burned into my memory," he said.

Takei called the fallout from Pearl Harbor and how it impacted Japanese-Americans "a dark and shameful chapter of American history."

"We've been making great progress and I expect tremendous progress to be made, but when you take where this country came from and where we are today we have made unimaginable progress," Takei said.

Tuesday's speaking engagement was hosted by Cal Poly's Office of Student Life and Cultural Centers, which oversees the campus's six cultural centers.

"I think that the bigger picture is that we really wanted to bring bring George Takei to talk about his background, beginnings, and individuals who influenced him to who he is today and in relation to that his experience as an Asian Pacific Islander individual as well as an LGBT individual and and more recently his involvement with social media and Facebook and Twitter," said Thavery Lay-Bounpraseuth, coordinator for Asian and Pacific Islander Student Center.

"The bigger picture is to talk about social justice issues and looking at social media as the medium nowadays with college students, young individuals who are onto that."


Reach Canan via email, call her at 909-987-6397 ext. 425, or find her on Twitter @ChinoValleyNow.