Producer/director of CONSCIENCE AND THE CONSTITUTION, now available as a Two-Disc Collector's Edition DVD with two hours of new bonus features on the largest organized resistance to the WW2 incarceration of Japanese Americans.
George Kurasaki was one of those fellows we wished we could have known, one of the Heart Mountain boys who did not seek attention for himself.
When we were searching for resisters to interview for our film, he was among those who sent word back that they did not wish to be interviewed. But George finally did come out to join us. He came to the JACL apology ceremony to the resisters in San Francisco in 2002. We noted his presence there at the time, and now regret we didn’t follow up with him to learn more.
George passed away just after the new year. The San Jose Mercury-News recognized his life with a fine remembrance, “George Kurasaki, prankster on farm,” (requires subscription) in which we learn of his risking arrest for violating curfew and travel restrictions after Pearl Harbor in order to propose to his sweetheart, and of their getting married before eviction so they could stay together.
Two educational forums are coming up in California this spring.
At the Japanese American National Museum, its affiliated National Center for the Preservation of Democracy is preparing to open this fall. Our full-color poster and ITVS Viewers Guide for Conscience and the Constitution will be on display at two Educator Preview workshops on April 21 and April 23 aimed at helping Southern California instructors, as one workshop promises, “capitalize on young people’s idealism while addressing their disengagement from civic institutions.”
Thanks to Teacher Programs Manager Allyson Nakamoto for including our materials on the resource tables, and for including our profiles and photos of Fair Play Committee members Ben Wakaye and Gloria Kubora, from our PBS Online site, in the activity cards for their forthcoming “Tool Kit” for teaching democracy and civic action, called “Fighting for Democracy.”
On June 2 will screen in San Francisco at the “Notice To All” symposium sponsored by the California Civil Liberties Public Education Program, a 4-day conference intended to acknowledge all the projects that program funded and get participants to help map out a course for its future.
Producer/director Frank Abe will also be speaking on a panel from 3:30 to 5:00 p.m. titled “Dissidence: Resisters and Renunciants” that will also feature scholar Eric Muller, author of Free to Die For Their Country, and some first-person testimonies from Nisei who chose, under wartime duress, to protest by renouncing their U.S. citizenship. More details later as the schedule shapes up.
In addition to his many public appearances on behalf of redress and his coram nobis case, Fred was a great supporter of the resisters, recognizing that they, like him, chose to use the courts as their wartime battlefield.
We last saw Fred at the JACL apology ceremony in San Francisco in 2002.
Our condolences to his wife Kathryn and their two children.
Our film continues to provide different points of entry and different perspectives for audiences across the country this year. Just after screenings for the “Seattle Reads” program, two more programs have picked up our story: university students in Minnesota, and another humanities program in a town north of Denver:
“I am the co-advisor for a student organization called Asian Students in Action at St. Cloud State University. They are organizing a week-long on-campus event in April called Social Activism in Asian America. As part of the event, I wanted to show your film on April 21 for a campus wide audience… I thought your film was important in discussing not only the issue of what constitutes an American and what it means to be loyal, but also the difficulties of social activism especially when it creates a division within the community. Moreover, your film itself is a perfect example of social activism – the use of documentaries to educate people.”
— Dr. Kyoko Kishimoto, Assistant Professor, Department of Ethnic Studies
“Just wanted to let you know that Conscience and the Constitution is a unit of a seven part series that the Estes Park Public Library Foundation will be presenting this summer. The Foundation has a We the People Grant from the Colorado Endowment for the Humanities that is titled “Pivotal Events in American Constitutional Hisotry: Their Impact on We the People.” The video will be presented on July 30th”
— Catherine K. Speer, Estes Park Public Library Foundation
Estes Park lies halfway between the cities of Denver and Cheyenne, Wyoming, which should make for a very meaningful local presentation. Denver was the wartime home for James Omura’s Rocky Shimpo newspaper, and Cheyenne was the site for the federal conspiracy trial for Omura and the 7 leaders of the Fair Play Committee in 1944.
The screening is to be followed by a discussion, “The Story of Japanese-American Detention and Civil Disobedience,” led by Mrs. Lynn Young.
Here is book critic Michael Upchurch’s take on our film:
First up is Frank Abe’s “Conscience and the Constitution” (2000), about a group of draft-age internees who refused to volunteer for military service or, later, to be drafted, until their and their families’ civil rights were restored. Abe, a former senior reporter for KIRO Newsradio and KIRO-TV, does a fine job of tracing how this draft-resistance arose, and how it became such a bitterly divisive issue within the Japanese-American community. The Japanese American Citizens League — which adapted more of a “my country right or wrong” attitude to internment and military service — was particularly harsh in its judgment of the draft resisters.
It would be more than 50 years before any reconciliation between the JACL and the draft resisters was effected. The eyewitnesses in this hourlong film are eloquent, wry and level-headed as they make their case about the constitutional principles at stake. Abe has done an admirable job of illuminating the issues behind the divisiveness. The film screens at 2 p.m. Saturday.
Two upcoming screenings in the Seattle area are tied to two regional reading programs, both centered on Julie Otsuka’s 2002 novella, When the Emperor Was Divine.
The Washington Center for the Book at the Seattle Public Library is having us screen in the citys’ new world-class Downtown Library, in the Microsoft Auditorium, on Saturday afternoon, March 26, 2005, at 2:00 p.m. This one is part of “Reading Across the Map,” a multi-year project to foster reading and discussion of works by authors from diverse cultures and ethnicities. Joining us for the post-film discussion will be Gene Akutsu, Minidoka resister and brother of the late Jim Akutsu,who is featured in our film.
We will be also be screening CONSCIENCE with a post-screening talk on the evening of March 22 at the Bellevue Regional Library, east of Seattle at 1111 – 110th Avenue NE, Meeting Room 1, in Bellevue. It’s part of a faculty seminar and campus-wide programming, again tied to a discussion of the Otuska book as a common text, sponsored by Bellevue Community College with funding from the National Endowment for the HumanIties. Gene Akutsu will also be joining us for this.
For the past several months, writer William Hohri has been developing the theory that it was illegal under the Selective Service Act of 1940 for the U.S. government to draft young Japanese American inmates while in the custody of the War Relocation Authority.
He published his argument in the January 2005 issue of The Objector, in an article titled, “Free Us Before You Draft Us.” He writes, “Someone was violating the law. And it was not the resisters. It’s about time we recognized this.”
William shares with us a talk for today that he says for one reason or another was undelivered:
Day of Remembrance – UC Santa Barbara – 2005
For the purposes of this talk, I’d like to change “Day of Remembrance” to “Day of Reconsideration.” Of course, we have already reconsidered the name of the camps from “Relocation Center” to “internment camp” or “concentration camp” or “prison camp.” I would like us to reconsider the military conscription of young men from the camps. Was it legal? Was military service via the draft an act of patriotism by the draftee or an act of illegality by our government?
In entry 5 of the IV-F classification section of the Selective Service Act of 1940, one reads this requirement, (I quote) “Is being retained in the custody of criminal jurisdiction or other civil authority.” (End of quote.) [emphasis mine] Were we internees “being retained in the custody of . . . other civil authority”? If we were, we should have been classified IV-F, as unsuited for military service. We were, instead, classified I-A, as suited to take subsequent steps, including the physical examination, to be accepted or rejected for military service. Most of the draft resisters resisted by refusing to take their physical exams.
Well, had we been retained in the custody of civil authority? The first place I looked for my answer was in my dog-eared, nth Xeroxed copy of The Evacuated People: A Quantitative Description, written by the U.S. Department of the Interior and the War Relocation Authority.
Section one begins with, (I quote) “Some 120,313 persons of Japanese descent came under the custody of the War Relocation Authority between May 8, 1942 (the date the Colorado River Relocation Center opened) and March 20, 1946 (the date Tule Lake closed).” (End of quote) So according to our government, the War Relocation Authority, had served as “other civil authority” that had held us in its custody. Hence, the draft age men should have been classified IV-F and not been draft eligible until they were no longer being held in camp and were living in free America.
Of course, the definition for this custody resides in Executive Order 9066 plus one of two Public Proclamations. Why the Public Proclamations? Well, if you read E.O.9066 carefully, you will notice that it only seems to order exclusion. The powers of the President of the United States delegates the power (I quote) “to prescribe military areas in such places and of such extent as he or the appropriate Military Commander may determine, from which any or all persons may be excluded, and with respect to which, the right of any person to enter, remain in, or leave shall be subject to whatever restrictions the Secretary of War or the appropriate Military Commander may impose in his discretion.” (End of quote)
Note that the main verbal expression is “may be excluded.” This is followed by legally undefined subordinate verbs, “to enter, remain in, or leave.” Of course, we remember E.O. 9066 by remembering it on or near the date of its being signed by President Franklin Roosevelt on February 19, 1942. But the subordinate verbs are implemented and legally defined in two Public Proclamations, number 8 and WD-1. WD-1 seems to be the most precise and does implement “to enter,” “remain in,” and “leave.” (Note: proclamation 8 applied to camps within the jurisdiction of the Western Defense Command, while WD-1 applied to camps further inland in the states of Wyoming, Colorado, and Arkansas.) These proclamations were published several months later in August and October of 1942.
[Please note in advance of the following quotation that “War Relocation Project Areas” is the term used for “camp sites.”]
Paragraph b of WD-1 states, “All persons of Japanese ancestry . . . are required to remain within the bounds of said War Relocation Project Areas are required to remain within the bounds of said War Relocation Project Areas at all times unless specifically authorized to leave . . . .”
Thus, when E.O.9066 is combined with these proclamations, the relocation centers become detention camps. And the inmates of the camps are being held in the custody of the U.S. government and their young men should have been classified IV-F.
So, on this Day of Reconsideration, we should reconsider what it meant when 315 draft resisters tried to challenge the propriety of conscripting young men into military service after forcing them, with their families, into detention camps. They were charged with committing an illegality and punished accordingly. This is how most of us felt for the last 60 years. But they were, in fact, not violating the Selective Service Act of 1940. It was our government that was committing the illegality.
My review of Frank Chin’s book on the resistance, Born in the USA, is now published in the special “A Tribute to Miné Okubo” issue of Amerasia Journal, Volume 30:2, 2004. It is available for $13 per issue plus tax and $4 handling from: UCLA Asian American Studies Center Press, 3230 Campbell Hall, Box 951546, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1546. For more information, call (310) 825-2968, e-mail [email protected] or visit the center’s Web site.
By special permission, you can also read it here:
A story told in Born in the USA has journalists James Omura and Larry Tajiri prowling the hills of pre-war San Francisco late at night, dreaming about which of them would write “The Great Nisei Novel.” It would be an epic that spanned the immigration of their Issei parents and the appearance of the second-generation Nisei as a new breed of American.
Little did they know how war with Japan would soon interrupt that social progress and place them on opposite sides of Japanese America’s response to expulsion and incarceration: whether to cooperate or resist.
Read the rest of the review. I would love to hear your response to the review or the book itself. Just use the Contact Us link above or leave a Comment below.
An archive of news updates from our home page in 2004:
Update: Thursday, January 1, 2004
We start the new year by catching up to the passing of one of the earliest supporters of this project. Brooks Iwakiri passed away on Nov. 6 in the Burbank area at the age of 82. Brooks was among the first private donors to support the initial production of our film. It was his support that, among other things, allowed us to travel to Los Angeles and film a marathon interview session with the Heart Mountain resisters and James Omura. That session in the dance studio of Jeanne Nakano and Dick Obayashi in 1994, in between stops for the planes flying overhead, provided most of the sound cuts that appear in the finished piece. In the case of Omura, Art Emi and Dave Kawamoto, those interviews came just in time. Brooks believed in us and in the cause of restoring the good name of the Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee. Many of the resisters attended his funeral on Nov. 15 at Fukui Mortuary. It’s Brooks’ name and that of his wife Sumi that appear in the underwriting credits at the top of our show. Brooks always enjoyed a good laugh and we were lucky to keep in touch with him over the years. Our condolences to Sumi, his son Vince, and the rest of his family. He will be missed.
Another passage to report, that of Nisei poet Toyo Suyemoto. John Streamas writes from Bowling Green State University in Ohio:
Hi, Frank. I have some sad news to pass along. I have received word from friends in Columbus that my dear friend Toyo Suyemoto has died. I don’t know many details, but I know that her health has been failing for years due to a variety of ailments. Last summer when my wife Val and I visited her, she told us that her weight had declined to 80 pounds and her height had shrunk to 4’6″. But still she was sharp and lucid as ever. On January 14 she would have turned 88 years old.
I spoke with her on the phone just last Wednesday.
I know that Lawson Inada and Frank Chin tried for years to persuade her to send them a manuscript of her poems, so that they might get them published as a book. She never managed to do this, and so she never published a book in her lifetime. People will have to take Lawson Inada’s word in the 1995 article in The Nation that Toyo is Japanese America’s poet laureate. Three or four years ago Lawson Inada spent several days in Ohio, visiting with Toyo and interviewing her. I know that Toyo felt affection and respect for them.
Even in her old age, Toyo was a feisty and strong-willed person. When I told her a few years ago that I had been approached by the Dayton chapter of JACL, she went into her anti-JACL lecture mode, denouncing the organization’s wartime politics and swearing she would never join. She saw your film and admired it very much. She also had a great sense of humor and managed to make many artist-friends, including Val.
I wish you could have met her. She was a remarkable person. Val and I will miss her very much.
Update: Sunday, February 1, 2004
Screenings are set this Tuesday, Feb. 3, at the Rockridge Branch Library in Oakland and around Feb. 14 in New York City for their Day of Remembrance ceremony. The Oakland screening is sponsored by the Not In Our Name anti-military campaign and accompanied with a group discussion.
I want to thank resister Mits Koshiyama and his wife (right) for coming to the funeral of my sister Patricia on Jan. 25 at the Berkeley Buddhist Temple. Pat passed away on Jan. 18 after a lengthy illness. Mits drove up from San Jose to offer comfort, and his presence meant so much to me.
John Streamas writes from Bowling Green that a memorial service has been set forNisei poet Toyo Suyemoto, “on the early afternoon of Saturday, March 6, probably on the campus of the Ohio State University.”
Details are now online for the Feb. 20-21 symposium hosted by the University of Oregon’s Center for Critical Theory and Transnational Studies. The panel, “Japanese-American Internment and Its Contemporary Implications,” features an opening talk by writer Frank Chin and a panel on camp experiences with Chin, Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee leader Frank Emi, Jim Hirabayashi, younger brother of curfew violator and draft resister Gordon Hirabayashi, Ashland poet Lawson Inada, and Peggy Nagae. Chin writes that he will “be making presentations on the JACL betrayal of civil rights and the resisters who went to court in defense of civil rights.” His newest book, Born in the USA, draws from interviews conducted for Conscience and the Constitution and his other years of extensive research. The book is not carried in bookstores but you can order it online from Amazon.com by using this link. Our review of the book is scheduled for publication in the fall issue of Amerasia Journal. Incidentally, Frank’s landmark play Year of the Dragon has just been issued on DVD; the best price I’ve seen is online is nearly half off list price by using this linkto Deep Discount DVD.
Update: Monday, February 23, 2004 Fred Hirasuna appears in our documentary near the end, standing at the Central California District JACL meeting speaking against any apology to the Heart Mountain resisters. Despite our differences, he graciously invited us to his home in Fresno in 1998 where he told us about his attending the very first JACL convention in 1930. Read his obituary in the Fresno Bee. We first heard last week from Martha Nakagawa:
I was just informed that Fred Hirasuna passed away last week. Fred was
probably the oldest JACL member (he was in his 90s) and was staunchly against
national JACL issuing an apology to the Nisei draft resisters. His feeling was that
in times of war it was okay for the U.S. government to ignore constitutional
rights. I think now Clarence Nishizu may be the oldest JACL member.
The Frank Chin road show evidently continues with word of another panel on the resisters now scheduled for the Boston Public Library on March 27 at the Organization of American Historians annual conference. Read the full workshop description or download a printable press release. Cherstin Lyon from the University of Arizona writes:
The Organization of American Historians has invited Frank Emi, Frank Chin, Art Hansen, Martha Minow and myself to present a roundtable discussion on the Nisei draft resisters and both the limits and possibilities of recent JACL reconciliation attempts.
Art Hansen will preside, and guide the discussion following the presentations. Frank Emi will begin with his perspective on the resistance and constitutional matters during the war as well as some of his thoughts on the limits of reconciliation. I will speak on resistance that took place in other camps, like that of the Tucsonians from Topaz and Amache, and the community of resisters that they formed by holding reunions and developing life long friendships with each other after the war. I will also comment on some of the other wartime prisoners that the Tucsonians met while in prison who had been convicted of other forms of civil disobedience, like Hopi conscientious objectors and Gordon Hirabayashi, whose case against evacuation and curfew went before the Supreme Court. Frank Chin will be presenting work from his new book, Born in the U.S.A. as well as his thoughts on the roots of the conflict between “Americanized” JACLers and those who developed a strong, complex Nisei identity before the war, many of whom became resisters in one form or another during the war. Martha Minow will comment based on her extensive research on the Holocaust and reconciliation attempts that followed WWII. Minow is an extremely prolific author on the law and social justice, and is Professor of Law at Harvard University. A formal invitation has been extended to Floyd Mori, president of the JACL, to attend the roundtable and respond from the JACL point of view.
Update: Monday, March 15, 2004 Congratulations to Alan Nishio of the old National Conference of Christians and Jews in Long Beach for arranging for Heart Mountain resistance leader Frank Emi to literally receive the “keys to the city” at a Day of Remembrance ceremony there last month. Read the story, “Former Internee Tells Story of Resistance,” from the Long-Beach Press Telegram. Thanks to Alan for providing the link, and also this other online interview with Frank from the War Times that uses photos and a story from this site.
Update: Friday, March 19, 2004 The National Conference for Community and Justice, formerly the National Conference of Christians and Jews, has just put out a news release on their Feb. 19 tribute to Heart Mountain resistance leader Frank Emi and the presentation to him of the “key to the city” of Long Beach. Surprised but pleased to hear that clips from our documentary were shown at the event. There’s also astory, “Former Internee Tells Story of Resistance,” from the Long-Beach Press Telegram. Thanks to Alan Nishio for organizing the tribute and Annette Kashiwa and Martha Nakagawa for providing the photos. Click on the photo for an enlarged view. See also an older online interview with Frank from the War Times that uses photos and a story from this site.
The next Tule Lake Pilgrimage will focus on Citizens Betrayed [pdf file], the 5,589 renunciants at Tule Lake whose story is often confused with that of the Fair Play Committee. Barbara Takei, who has been doing work on the renunciants along with Judy Tachibana, has issued details about the 4th of July weekend event.
Update: Monday, April 12, 2004 Writer and scholar Frank Chin is offering you, the readers of this site, a series of scripts that boldly bring to life issues of Japanese American art and literature, all tied tightly around the questions of loyalty, betrayal and resistance in WW2. He says the scripts can be read or performed in class, and used in conjunction with his recent compilation of oral history, research and original insight, Born in the USA.He has sent three scripts so far. You can download them here as Adobe Acrobat files [requires free Adobe Reader] and print them out just as they came out of his Powerbook. He says the first script serves as an introduction to the series. They are framed as proposals for a conference at the Japanese American National Museum and suggest actors that might be used for the readings; you can read them for yourself and pick out anything you find useful:
Chin is also drumming up support for publication and distribution of a resisters newsletter. He points out that 2004 is the 60th anniversary of the institution of Selective Service for the Nisei inside the camps, the rise of draft resistance inside 8 of the ten camps, the formation of the Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee, and their arrests, trials, convictions, and the start of their prison terms. As he puts it, “The object is to prod Japanese America into taking over their history, art, and Japanese American criticism.”
About 40 people turned out on March 27 at the Boston Public Library for what sounds like a spirited panel on the resisters, as part of the Organization of American Historians annual conference. Read the full workshop description or download a printable press release. Thanks to Cherstin Lyon from the University of Arizona for distributing our posters and fliers there and for sending this update. Cherstin also sent some photos we will post shortly:
Frank Chin delivered an animated presentation about the literature and cultural treatment of Japanese in the white press, novels and music before the war setting up pre-war racism. He discussed the early rifts between people like Mike Masaoka and James Omura over how AJAs should respond to the war and proposals for evacuation and internment.
Frank Emi delivered his own personal take on the costs (both economic and personal) of evacuation, and the events and circumstances that led him to resist the draft. He ended with his experiences in prison, mentioned others he met in prison and ended with a bit on the JACL apology, reiterating that the JACL should issue an apology to all AJAs for their role in the entire evacuation process. If the United States government could do it, why not them?
I introduced the lesser known resisters, those who resisted as individuals and posed the question — why both during the war and after did some criticize those who resisted as individuals of just dodging the draft? For wasting their time? For committing acts of lawlessness that would have no great effect at all? I compared the full range of resistance to the abolitionists before the Civil War and related the actions of all who resisted internment — no-no boys, strikers, petitioners, resisters — to the “revolutionary tradition” in America. I ended with stories about the Hopi draft resisters those Nisei resisters from Topaz and Amache and even Gordon Hirabayashi himself met in prison and explained how the Hopis welcomed the resisters into their “family” symbolically with a hair-washing ceremony.
Dean Hashimoto ended with his own personal understanding of internment as a child of a Nisei who had been interned at Amache. A Sansei himself, Hashimoto learned in school that internment was justified and just, which both disturbed and puzzled him. He worked as a law student on the Korematsu case in the 1980s and explained that despite the ruling of a lower court, the Korematsu case is still technically “good” law. He urged the audience that we should never forget that it is like a loaded weapon waiting to be used and related the importance of remembering internment and continuing the conversation to the current political situation with enemy combatants, the USA Patriot Act and the continued survival of Korematsu.
The discussion that followed was engaging and at times heated. Some high school teachers mentioned the importance of teaching the story to their students, a former internee expressed his reluctance about the tone of the panel that seemed to demonize the JACL and suggested that we all be forgiving of wartime misjudgments (this received some fairly heated responses from Chin). One audience member insisted that there were no concentration camps, only benign ” relocation centers” which turned into a shouting match which Art Hansen quickly brought back under control and redirected the conversation. And one student, who was quite taken by the story of the Hopi resisters’ alliance with the Nisei resisters wanted to know on a more personal level how much fluidity there was between those who resisted and those who served in the military which opened up interesting responses and stories where individual families were divided over their decisions and responses to the draft.
Over all, the session was quite productive and the audience stayed a full extra half hour to discuss the issues and finally had to be kicked out of the library as it had already closed.
Update: Wednesday, April 14, 2004 Congratulations are in order to the narrator of our documentary, poet Lawson Fusao Inada, for being named a 2004 Guggenheim Fellow. The prestigious fellowships are awarded to men and women who have already demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts. David Ishii Bookseller says he called Lawson after reading the Guggenheim Foundation ad in the New York Times and that he was the first to actually confirm for Lawson that he’d won.
Lawson was with us in Wyoming in 1995 when we shot video of Heart Mountain resister Yosh Kuromiya sketching the mountain at the site of the old camp, a shot that never made it into our final cut. As we worked I remember Lawson kneeling and examining the earth and the stones, and that moment and that image of Yosh sketching inspired the title piece of his most recent book, Drawing the Line(Coffee House Press, 1997). You can read the poem and see a photo of Yosh at his draftsman’s table in camp, at our PBS Online site. This is a good time to catch up to Frank Chin’s recent observation about the importance of Lawson’s work, inspired by their recent joint appearance at the resisters workshop at the University of Oregon:
I was in Eugene with Emi and Inada and it came to me that Lawson’s book was the first book of poetry in 60 years to deal with the resistance. Where are the Japanese American writers? Where are the Japanese American poets? Where are the Japanese American critics? Yes there are JA writers but no Japanese America. Why? Why 60 years later does a JA poet step forward to show the emptiness of JA writing and poetry of the last sixty years? What happened 60 years ago?
Lawson Inada is a Japanese American poet who is curious about his people’s history and goes out to meet it. He doesn’t mistake himself for history, and wait for his appreciative people to come to his door bearing gifts. Japanese American film makers have used him for his voice and his meter in their work, as a narrator.
He has accompanied me on my researching the resisters and Jimmie Omura and joined the CARP/AIIIEEEEE! boys in publishing NO-NO BOY. The last two remarkable books LEGENDS FROM CAMP and DRAWING THE LINE have thrust Lawson’s work to the foreforent of Japanese American history …. if his people have the heart and guts to claim their history that is. DRAWING THE LINE about Yosh Kuromiya at Heart Mountain is the first book of poetry about the resistance movement at Heart Mountain ever -in 60 years. Did the blacks take 60 years to generate a poet to write about slavery? After the Civil War did it take 60 years for the whites (from the North or the South) to get it together to write about the Civil War? Of course white poets wrote about the Civil War –before during and after-but Japanese America has only one daring only one (not) chickenshit only one poet of the period that still tries the conscience of Japanese America. It’s as if Lawson Inada were all the poets of the Civil War including Walt Whitman and Carl Sandburg 60 years after the war. The audience was the people, and the people embraced their work.
What holds the Japanese Americans back? What crushed the poetry and fiction of Toyo Suyemoto and Toshio Mori and the critical organ of James Omura? What disintegrated poetry, fiction, criticism from activism and Japanese America? I feel silly saying it, but the JACL/camp 442nd, of course. From Mike Masaoka to his brother-in-law Norman Mineta.
The resisters, and Frank Emi, have reached out to the people, James Omura reached out to the people; now Lawson Inada reaches out to the people. It’s up to the people to accept what’s being offered.
Update: Tuesday, May 11, 2004 Two upcoming resister events have just been announced for this fall. The first being talked about for September takes note of the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship recently awarded to the narrator of our documentary, poet Lawson Fusao Inada. Writer Frank Chin envisions the following event:
On Sept. 8th (a Wednesday) at 7pm at the old General Lee’s in Chinatown there will be a party to install a Kwan Kung and celebrate Lawson Inada and the Japanese American writers whose work he has championed.
The title poem to DRAWING THE LINE is about Yosh Kuromiya who, at 19, resisted the draft from Heart Mountain concentration camp on constitutional grounds. He became a part of the Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee’s draft resistance, when he refused an offer by the JACL’s Min Yasui (a paid “Confidential Informant” of the FBI) to drop the charges against him in return for his testimony against Frank Emi.
The fact that Mike Masaoka’s entire staff of the JACL were the first generation of FBI “Confidential Informants” was revealed in my book BORN IN THE USA….
The JA’s have published only two (three if you count Ed Miyakawa’s self published novel TULE LAKE) works about the camps and the (anti-JACL) resistance in the sixty years since the war. The two works are, John Okada’s NO-NO BOY (1957) and Lawson Inada’s DRAWING THE LINE. What if the blacks took sixty years to write about slavery and Nat Turner and Harriet Tubman? What if the Jews had taken sixty years to write about the holocaust and left the Jewish Ghetto Police and the Judenradt and other traitors of ghettos to non-Jewish writers?
John Okada and Lawson Inada and Ed Miyakawa TULE LUKE, a novel self published in the 70’s are the only Japanese Americans that have dealt with the camps, the JACL betrayal of civil rights and the resisters who stood for civil rights –in the sixty years since the camps.
Paul Vangelisti, head of the writing program at Otis College of Art & Design has a deal with the owners of the former General Lee’s, a bar in Chinatown … to use the bar as a reading venue. Chinatown across Hill Street from the old General Lee’s has turned the old curio shops into a series of galleries. A few curio shops remain, like Gim Fong’s shop Fong’s that has been at the same location since this movie set Chinatown was built.
My daughter Betsy invited me to a reading at General Lee’s, renamed “The Mountain.” … I noticed that The Mountain didn’t have a Kwan Kung. One of the three owners was at the bar, and I mentioned Kwan Kung was in all the shops in Chinatown, and being a bar, they should have a Kwan Kung like the old General Lee’s….I called Paul Vangelisti and arranged to take him on a solo tour of Chinatown tong temples, restuarants and curio shops and book stores to prove how well known Kwan Kung was among Chinese, Koreans, Japanese and Chinatown …
They want to officially open the Mountain with an installation of Kwan Kung and a revival of a community Asian American writers, actors, and critics such as used to exist in Japanese America around James Omura and his magazine CURRENT LIFE, until WWII and the JACL shut Japanese American culture down.
The second event announced for this fall also takes note of the 60th anniversary. “Judgments Judged and Wrongs Remembered: Examining the Japanese American Civil Liberties Cases of World War II on their Sixtieth Anniversary,” will bring together a number of lawyers and legal scholars November 5 and 6, 2004 at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles. It’s a conference jointly sponsored by by the University of North Carolina School of Law, the UCLA Asian American Studies Center, and the Japanese American National Museum. Download their invitation card[99K .pdf], and read theirpress release:
On December 18, 1944, the United States Supreme Court decided the landmark cases of Korematsu v. United States and Ex parte Endo, the first of which approved of the forced eviction of 120,000 Japanese Americans from their homes, and the second of which struck down their continued incarceration after the government had recognized their loyalty. Over the months leading up to December 18, 1944, judges and juries in the lower federal courts across the western United States heard hundreds of criminal prosecutions of young apanese American men who sought to turn their conscription into the military from behind barbed wire into legal test cases of the lawfulness of their confinement.
On the occasion of their sixtieth anniversary of these cases, this conference will provide a rich and varied opportunity to reflect on their meaning, their legacy and their continued relevance to the world of today. It may well be the last major gathering at which at least some of the participants in the cases (especially litigants and law clerks) are still living and able to share their recollections. The emphasis of the conference will be on the legal cases themselves, rather than on the larger incarceration story that is their backdrop. For this reason, the conference will be of special interest to lawyers, judges, and others with interest or expertise in the law and legal history.
The conference will begin on Friday afternoon, November 5, 2004, in the Great Hall of the Japanese American National Museum, at about 2:00 p.m. That afternoon’s panel will provide a historical grounding for the conference by presenting as panelists a number of surviving participants in the legal cases. These will include litigants, law clerks to judges who decided the cases, and attorneys from the team that secured coram nobis writs in the 1980s for the men who had been wrongfully convicted during the war. A reception will follow.
That evening, after a break for dinner, there will be performances in the Great Hall of a dance piece by Gordon Hirabayashi’s son Jay and a play by Minoru Yasui’s daughter Holly. Both pieces are artistic interpretations of the artists fathers’ legal battles against curfew, eviction, and incarceration.
The conference will resume on Saturday morning, November 6, 2004, with a continental breakfast and the first of the two academic panels. Scholars including Greg Robinson (U. of Quebec), Patrick Gudridge (U. of Miami School of Law), Art Hansen (Cal State Fullerton and JANM), Eric Muller (University of North Carolina School of Law), and John Q. Barrett (St. John’s University School of Law), will examine the historical setting of the various Japanese American civil liberties cases.
A keynote address will be delivered before lunch by the Honorable A. Wallace Tashima, a judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Judge Tashima, the highest-ranking Japanese American judicial officer in the nation, spent several of his childhood years at the Poston Relocation Center and has recently published pointed and moving comments about these World War II cases in the pages of the Michigan Law Review.
A box lunch will be provided for conference attendees, for them to consume at their leisure during the noon hour.
After lunch, the panels will resume. A second panel of academics will address the legacy of the World War II civil liberties cases for the post-9/11 world. These scholars will include Roger Daniels (U. of Cincinnati, emeritus), Jerry Kang (UCLA Law School), Eric Yamamoto (U. of Hawaii Law School), Frank Wu (Howard U. Law School), Margaret Chon (Seattle U. Law School), Donna Arzt (Syracuse U. Law School), Neil Gotanda (Southwestern U. Law School), and Natsu Taylor Saito (Georgia State U. School of Law).
The final panel of the day promises to be moving. Children of men who fought the incarceration in court will speak about the personal legacy of the decisions their fathers made sixty years ago. Panelists will be Karen Korematsu (daughter of Supreme Court litigant Fred Korematsu), Jay Hirabayashi (son of Supreme Court litigant Gordon Hirabayashi), Holly Yasui (daughter of Supreme Court litigant Minoru Yasui), Kenji Taguma (son of a draft resister from the Granada Relocation Center), and Carol Hoshizaki (daughter of a draft resister from the Heart Mountain Relocation Center).
The conference will end late in the afternoon on Saturday, November 6, 2004.
Here finally are two photos from the resisters panel on March 27 at the Boston Public Library, as part of the Organization of American Historians annual conference. Click on the images to see an enlarged view of the panel featuring(left to right) Dean Hashimoto, Cherstin Lyon, Frank Emi, Frank Chin, and Art Hansen, and the second photo ofFrank Emi speaking. Thanks to Frank Emi’s daughter, Kathleen, for providing them.
Update: Wednesday, May 12, 2004 The following obit appears in today’s Nichibei Times (thanks to Kenji Taguma for passing it along). This comes as very sad news as Kozie Sakai was one of the very first angels for our Resisters Video Project, as it was known back then at the start. My mother in Santa Clara knew Kozie socially from their shigin folk singing club, long before I came to know him as a friend of the Heart Mountain resisters who came to their trial in Cheyenne, Wyoming and sent letters back to camp to Frank Emi, one of which is now immortalized on pp. 446-448 of Frank Chin’s Born in the USA. His photo in which he appears to the left of Frank Emi was one of the images we used as one of our ITVS publicity shots:
SAKAI, KOJI passed away in Mountain View, CA on May 8, 2004. Born in Alviso, CA, he was 91. Koji was also known as Kozie Sakai. He was a restaurant owner for 20 years (Kozy’s Grotto) and lived in this area all his life. He was a past member of The Lion’s Club; The Mountain View Buddhist Temple, the Tri-City Association and the Kinyu Ginshi Kai.
Beloved husband of Tayeko Sakai; loving father of Yukiye Sakai, Akio Sakai, Aileen (Paul) Yoshida, and brother of Fusaye (the Late John) Miyamoto, Itsuye Sakai, Gingo Sakai, Tomoye (Ben) Ishikawa, the Late Kitao (Miyo) Sakai and Yoshiye (the Late Ken) Ishikawa. He is also survived by numerous nieces and nephews.
Friends are invited to attend a service May 13, 2004 at 7:00 p.m. at the Mountain View Buddhist Temple, 575 N. Shoreline Blvd., Mountain View, CA. Commital Service May 14, 2004 at 10:00 a.m. at Alta Mesa Memorial Park, Palo Alto, CA. Arrangements by Cusimano Family Colonial Mortuary.
Update: Monday, June 7, 2004 The story of the draft resisters and the JACL apology is briefly mentioned in today’s Seattle Times profile of our good friend Tom Ikeda, founder of the online Densho Project here in Seattle. Read “Old stories open new chapter of Ikeda’s life” by Florangela Davila, who I spoke with years ago about the resisters and JACL:
Initially classified as “enemy aliens,” some of these citizens eventually were allowed in the military and served in the legendary 442nd Infantry Regimental Combat Team. Others resisted the draft, arguing they couldn’t serve a country that had incarcerated them.
The different actions caused a rift within the Japanese-American community that wasn’t publicly mended until two years ago, when the Japanese American Citizens League, which once had said the draft resisters should be charged with sedition, formally apologized to them.
Ikeda knew and accepted both perspectives. His father, Victor “Junks” Ikeda, is a WWII veteran; his father-in-law, Frank Yamasaki, resisted the draft.
Update: Monday, August 2, 2004 It’s with deep sadness that we learn tonight of the passing of Dr. Clifford Uyeda, last Friday after a long bout with prostate cancer. Kenji Taguma reports there is to be a meeting Tuesday in San Francisco to discuss his service. Clifford rose to national prominence for his championing of the case of Iva Toguri, the so-called “Tokyo Rose,” and later as president of National JACL for his leadership on the then-struggling notion of redress for the WW2 incarceration of Japanese Americans. In that role he said “yes” when we in Seattle asked JACL for support for the first-ever “A Day of Remembrance” redress event at the Puyallup Fairgrounds. Cliff authorized $2,000 from what I recall was a $12,000 national budget, demonstrating his belief in our ability to break the ice and kick-start a national movement by proving Nisei no longer needed to fear a white backlash by remembering the camps and standing for redress with their families. And of course Clifford gave us a long interview for “Conscience and the Constitution” in which he uttered the memorable line that JACL’s wartime leaders “strongly felt and believed that they were doing the right thing, and yet they were doing the wrong thing. They were really a government agent, that’s all they were.” Clifford always did the right thing, and he will be missed. See the longer version of the interview he gave us in Frank Chin’s Born in the U.S.A.
Update: Wednesday, August 4, 2004 More details received today on the passing of Clifford Uyeda:
Dear resisters and friends:
I have some sad news to report, which most of you have heard already: Dr. Clifford Uyeda passed away on Friday after a long bout with prostate cancer.
The memorial service is on Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2004 at the JCCCNC here in SF’s Japantown. Mits Koshiyama has agreed to speak from the perspective of a Nisei draft resister. Other speakers are John Tateishi of the national JACL, Rosalyn Tonai of the National Japanese American Historical Society, Karl Matsushita of the JA National Library, George Araki, and others yet to be confirmed. Steve Nakajo of Kimochi will emcee. I’ve been asked to give an overview of Clifford’s life and some personal comments as well.
As you know, Clifford hosted an early forum on resisters, and was vocal in his support of resisters throughout the years.
There is a little more detail below on his service and donation information. Please feel free to forward it to whoever you think may be interested.
Kenji G. Taguma
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Clifford Iwao Uyeda, a noted human rights activist, died on July 30, 2004 in San Francisco. He was 87. Uyeda was a past national president of the Japanese American Citizens League and a past president of the National Japanese American Historical Society. Born January 14, 1917 in Olympia, Washington to Matsutaro and Kimiyo Uyeda, he made innumerable contributions to various organizations as well as human rights and social justice issues. Loving husband to Betty Uyeda; brother-in-law to Sachiko Uyeda, Edward and Cherie Nakamura, and Hiroshi and Emiko Miyake; uncle to Katherine Uyeda, Richard Uyeda, Donna Baba, Gail Haslett, Stan Miyake and Gary Miyake. Memorial services will be held on Wednesday, Aug. 18, 7 p.m., the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California, 1840 Sutter St. in San Francisco’s Japantown. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations in his honor may be sent to National Japanese American Historical Society, 1684 Post St., San Francisco, CA 94115.
Update: Friday, September 3, 2004 What’s our film editor, Lillian Benson, and our co-producer, Shannon Gee, been up to lately? Next week on many PBS stations you can see their new documentary, “All Our Sons,” which premieres appropriately enough on Sept. 11 on WNET/13 in New York City:
Framed by the events of September 11th, ALL OUR SONS-FALLEN HEROES OF 9/11 tells the story of the twelve Black firefighters who gave their lives along with 332 other emergency personnel in the World Trade Center tragedy. There are now only 312 Black firefighters in the New York City Fire Department out of a total force of 11,350. They make up 2.7% of the fire department, in a city where 24.5% of the population is Black and nearly 50% is minority. The fire department is the city’s least diverse municipal work force. In sometimes wrenching, exclusive interviews seven parents, one spouse and two representatives of the FDNY remember their loved ones and colleagues.Narrated by Alfre Woodard.
The memorial tribute to Clifford Uyeda on August 18 yielded some interesting stories. Follow the links to read Kenji Taguma’s presentation at the service, where he speaks openly about being the son of an Amache draft resister, and his story about the servcie in the NichiBei Times. Then read Frank Chin’s novelistic perspective on the same event. Eyewitnesses say Frank just “fills in the blanks with his own material” when he misheard or misunderstood something, but that’s always been part of his charm, right? We corrected the name of Wayne Maeda for clarity. Here’s also a link to a printable version of the memorial service program [pdf, 107K].
Update: Tuesday, September 7, 2004 Calling all ye Asian American hipsters of the real and the fake. The place to be Wednesday, Sept. 8th is going to be The Mountain Bar (left), “Chinatown’s haven for art-damaged hipsters, according to LA.com, and “a molten red bastion of bohemian cool,” according to Los Angeles Citysearch. The address is 475 Gin Ling Way, in L.A.’s Chinatown between Hill and Broadway Streets.
That is to be the scene for Frank Chin’s long-planned gathering of “actors, activists and artists” to celebrate two things: the awarding of the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship earlier this year to the narrator of our documentary, poet Lawson Fusao Inada, and the legacy of the Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee.
What’s actually happening today at the birthplace of Jimmie Omura, on Bainbridge Island near Seattle, is not so exuberant. Read today’s Seattle Times, “Debate lingers over internment of Japanese-Americans,” to see how the ghost of Lillian Baker lives on in her sleek new clone, Michelle Malkin, in the Bainbridge school system. Walt Woodward would be ashamed. More on that later, with the latest from William Hohri.
Update: Wednesday, October 6, 2004 The call went out to all ye Asian American hipsters of the real and the fake, and about 50 turned out Sept. 8th at The Mountain Bar, what LA.com calls “Chinatown’s haven for art-damaged hipsters, and “a molten red bastion of bohemian cool,” according to Los Angeles Citysearch. It was the scene for Frank Chin’s long-planned gathering of “actors, activists and artists” to celebrate two things: the awarding of the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowshipearlier this year to the narrator of our documentary, poet Lawson Fusao Inada, and the legacy of the Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee.
So there was Fair Play Commitee leader Frank Emi, resister Yosh Kuromiya, and Lawson (above left) to meet with writing students from Otis College of Art & Design and other assorted hipsters. Excerpts were read from Chin’s Born in the U.S.A.(Rowman & Littlefield, 2002) by Chin, actress Momo Yashima, supporter Paul Tsuneishi, with Yosh introducing Lawson’s reading of Drawing the Line (Coffee House Press, 1997), based on the day Lawson accompanied us to Heart Mountain to shoot B-roll of Yosh sketching the mountain at the site of the old camp. Read the poem and see a photo of Yosh at his draftsman’s table in camp, at our PBS Online site. Read more about the dedication of the Kwan Kung figurine with Paul Vangelista, head of the writing program at Otis College, and Sam Hoi (above right). Thanks for the video stills by Curtis Choy, director of the work-in-progress, “What’s Wrong with Frank Chin?”
Rich Wada reports that Chin is also coming to Northern California to give one of his few public readings from Born in the U.S.A., which features interviews conducted with our documentary, with much more focus on the WW2 government collaboration by the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL). The reading isSaturday, October 30 at 1:00 p.m. at the new AACP bookstore at 529 East Third Avenue in San Mateo. See the directions. Frank Chin writes, “Here is something to run to provoke people to come to or stay away from my reading:”
Michelle Malkin’s book is no threat to Japanese American history. She grants that the JA’s as Americans had the right to protest and resist the camps in the courts any way they could.
The real danger is that the traitors of Japanese America the JACL and the 442nd (from camp) will convince JA’s that betrayal of the JA’s to get them to go into camp and the betrayal of civil rights was necessary for the 442nd to “earn” back their civil rights overseas fighting for the Euopreans whille their own people were held hostage to assure their loyalty.
The JACL surrendered JA civil rights entered the camps with assimilation in mind. The JA’s have married themselves out of existence the NY Times of last month noticed.
The JACL continues to reject the fact that they won back in court all the JA civil rights. The books that list the defense of civil rights only list the cases of the resisters. Not a word of the JACL.
The JACL claim that they were cowards and draft dodgers though they can’t name one coward or draft dodger. But we can name several JACLers were were liars and secretly worked against JA and civil rights. Mike Masaoka and the entire staff of the JACL were “confidential agents” for the FBI.
The known JACL were proud to have been traitors and cowards. You see the names of the cowards and traitors on buildings and statues around J-towns across the country. The volunteers and draftees from camp following the lead of Mike Masaoka, the No 1 volunteer, were the cowards of camp. They may have been heroes on the battlefield, but they sacrficed their parents and their people to be free to fight for the freedom of whites overseas. And yet they claim their betrayal and the 442nd saved JA civil rights. when the lawbooks make it clear, that the JA’s have their civil rights today only because the resisters stood up for them.
But to date no Japanese American has dared to be seen in public thaking a resister for JA civil rights and shaking his hand. Not one in sixty years. The JACL has had a deathgrip of JA writing and publishing so that not book on the camps and the resistance has appeared in 60 years. Not one JA has had the courage to curse the JACL for the traitors they continue to be and praise the resisters for the return of JA civil rights. What if the blacks had taken 60 years to write about slavery and the resistance to slavery? What if the Jews had taken 60 years to write about the Holocaust and the resistance to the Holocaust? Would we respect them?
Malkin poses no threat to the race, civil rights or the respect that America holds for the JA. But the continued JA silence in the mounting noise of American histories of the JACL, James Omura, Kioyshi Okamoto, Frank Emi seems to confirm the Times conclusion that JA is extinct and the few of them alive are chicken.
The only JA to write about the camps and the character of the resistance is a poet. He doesn’t pose behind the title of “Historian” He is just a poet. Lawson Inada is the poet and DRAWING THE LINE is the book. The book is about Yosh Kuromiya, who was interned at Ht. Mt. and was 19 when he resisted the draft and is now in his seventies and has yet to be thanked by a Japanese American. Other Americans have already shaken hands with the resisters. It’s the JA that are reluctant, that are afraid or non-existant.
Chin dismisses the danger of Malkin’s new book, In Defense of Internment, and the traction it has gained among Fox News Channel devotees and historical revisionists eager for a means to inflame racial and cultural fears. For a full-bodied critique of the Malkin book, see Professor Eric Muller’s 18-post blog revealing the flaws in her work. Read the recent Seattle Times, “Debate lingers over internment of Japanese-Americans,” to see how the ghost of Lillian Baker lives on in Malkin, her sleek new clone, in the Bainbridge school system. Walt and Millie Woodward would be ashamed.
Update: Monday, November 1, 2004 Frank Emi, Yosh Kuromiya, and two children of resisters, Kenji Taguma and Carol Hoshizaki, are among those speaking at theNov. 5-6 conference.“Judgments Judged and Wrongs Remembered: Examining the Japanese American Civil Liberties Cases of World War II on their Sixtieth Anniversary.” The program brings together a number of lawyers and legal scholars at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles. It’s a conference jointly sponsored by by the University of North Carolina School of Law, the UCLA Asian American Studies Center, and the Japanese American National Museum. Download their invitation card[99K .pdf], read their press release, and then use the registration form[1.1 MB PDF].
Update: Monday, November 8, 2004 TheJudgments Judged and Wrongs Remembered: Examining the Japanese American Civil Liberties Cases of World War II on their Sixtieth Anniversary” conference is now over. The program brought together a number of lawyers and legal scholars at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles. You can read the presentation from Heart Mountain resister Yosh Kuromiya, who sent us his text, “The Trial of the 63 (or Uncle Sam plays Dirty Pool),” along with this note:
We just had our “Judgments Judged and Wrongs Remembered” seminar organized by Eric Muller. Frank Emi, Gene Akutsu and I represented the draft resistance cases and were well received (politely, at least). I’m sending you, by attachment, the full text of my talk. I believe there is information in it that is pertinent to citizens’ rights and issues involving deceptive governmental policies which impacted present day attitudes within our community. Thanks, Yosh
Update: Sunday, November 14, 2004 Original Heart Mountain resister Yosh Kuromiya sends a photo from theJudgments Judged and Wrongs Rememberedconference. Click on the photo to see the enlarged view of (back row, left to right): Dan Kubo (resisters’ son), Frank Emi (Heart Mountain), Jimi Yamaichi (Tule Lake), Gene Akutsu (Minidoka), Ken Yoshida (Amache), (front row, left to right): Joe Yamakido (Jerome), Noboru Taguma (Amache), Tak Hoshizaki (Heart Mountain), Fred Korematsu of Supreme Court test case fame, and Yosh Kuromiya (Heart Mountain).
Update: Thursday, November 25, 2004 This just in from Don Nakanishi at UCLA. Let’s see if Judge Tashima mentions the resisters in his speech:
C-SPAN To Nationally Broadcast Keynote Address from Recent “Judgments Judged and Wrongs Remembered” conference this SATURDAY, November 27, between 7 – 8 p.m. (Eastern Standard Time).
C-SPAN will nationally broadcast the powerful keynote address by the Honorable A. Wallace Tashima, Ninth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeal, at the recent “Judgments Judged and Wrongs Remembered” conference this SATURDAY, November 27, between 7 – 8 p.m. (Eastern Standard Time).
Judge Tashima gave the speech at a conference that was held in Los Angeles on November 6, 2004 on the 60th anniversary of the major U.S. Supreme Court cases challenging the curfew and incarceration of 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War II. Judge Tashima is a California native who was interned as a child in an Arizona camp with his family. He later attended UCLA for his undergraduate studies, and then Harvard Law School. He was elevated to the Ninth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals by President Bill Clinton in 1996.
The conference was co-sponsored by the University of North Carolina Law School, UCLA Asian American Studies Center, and the Japanese American National Museum.
In their chapter on “Military Service and Resistance” the authors analyze their data to show that before camp the resisters had “substantially lower occupational aspirations,” came from families with fewer socioeconomic resources, and had fewer Japanese Americans best friends, compared to the veterans. That sounds about right. During our interviews we found that the resisters came more often from farm families and thus closer to the land, and were not the more educated, professional types who went into JACL.
The authors find that after the passage of sixty years the resisters have closed the gap with the veterans in terms of personal income and educational or occupational achievement, and have just as many Japanese American best friends. But they also find that compared to the veterans, the resisters belong to fewer Japanese American organizations, are less likely to attend a Japanese American church or kenjinkai event, and are half as likely to belong to an organization of any kind. From this data the authors draw this “provisional picture of the impact of the war on the resisters:”
“Our data are consistent with anecdotal reports that resisters have been, by and large, shunned by the Japanese American community and that the effects of this are still observable, even though their actions have been lauded by many in the community in recent years. Difficult choices made during their incarceration almost sixty years ago still reverberate for these incarcerees today.” (104)
The book has quotes from Minidoka resisters Frank Yamasaki and Gene Akutsu, younger brother of Jim Akutsu, as well as from Heart Mountain resistance leader Frank Emi. Also noteworthy is their inclusion of an image we would have put into our documentary had we known of this existing copy, that of a post-Pearl Harbor Oath of Allegiance created by Mike Masaoka and the National JACL as a kind of “citizen ID” card complete with passport photo, thumbprint, and voluntary forswearing of any known or unknown allegiances to the Japanese enemy. It was all to no avail, of course, as the government swept both citizen and alien into the detention centers and then the permanent camp. But it was an ominous precursor to the Loyalty Oath the government would then try to administer inside camp and fuel the distrust for the later draft resistance.
Steve and Marilyn were here in Seattle last weekend for a Town Hall Seattle forum sponsored by Densho. You can read the coverage of the event in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, “Seattle’s Japantown remembered.” You can watch streaming video of the entire event, including Steve and Marilyn’s academic presentation, by clicking on this link for The Seattle Channel, and scroll down about one-third of the way to the link for Community Ties: Memories of Japantown dated Nov. 22, 2004 [requires free RealPlayer].
Writer and scholar Frank Chin is offering you, as readers of this site, a series of scripts that boldly bring to life issues of Japanese American art and literature, all tied tightly around the questions of loyalty, betrayal and resistance in WW2.
Frank says the scripts can be read or performed in class, and used in conjunction with his recent compilation of oral history, research and original insight, Born in the USA. You can download them here as Adobe Acrobat files [requires free Adobe Reader] and print them out just as they came out of his Powerbook.
The first script serves as an introduction to the series. They are framed as proposals for a conference at the Japanese American National Museum. He suggests using actors for the readings.
[update July 2012: Keep in mind these are imaginative works based on facts, and as I pointed out in my review of Frank’s book, be sure you know which part is fact and which part springs from his imagination. While some sections quote actual documents, articles, and interviews, other selections may not be actual interviews. I just had to warn one writer not to quote from the Chiye Mori monologue as if they were her words from an actual interview; it is not.]
Chin is also drumming up support for publication and distribution of a resisters newsletter. He points out that 2004 is the 60th anniversary of the institution of Selective Service for the Nisei inside the camps, the rise of draft resistance inside 8 of the ten camps, the formation of the Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee, and their arrests, trials, convictions, and the start of their prison terms.
As he puts it, “The object is to prod Japanese America into taking over their history, art, and Japanese American criticism.”