While in Idaho for a symposium, I took the opportunity to research settings for the forthcoming graphic novel on camp resistance, in particular the places where the draft resisters from Minidoka were jailed and put on trial in September, 1944.
With the Friends of Minidoka — Hanako Wakatsuki, Mia Russell, and Kurt Yokoyama Ikeda — we started at the Ada County Courthouse, where Jim and Gene Akutsu and the other draft resisters were brought from camp and held in the old jail on the top floors. We could still see the iron grates over the windows, from where they could look out. The top floors are now sealed off from the public.
To get to the old federal courthouse two blocks away, the prisoners would have to have been marched across what is now Cecil Andrus Park, where they would have seen the grand dome of the Idaho State Capitol to their right, and brought into what’s now known as the Borah Buiding, at 304 N. Eighth St.
They they were tried in what Jim Akutsu called the kangaroo court of U.S. District Court Judge Chase Clark. I was lucky to be with Hanako as she talked our way into getting the courtroom unlocked so that we could photograph every square inch for the graphic novel. The full story of the trial is vividly retold in Eric Muller’sFree to Die For Their Country.
The occasion for my being in Idaho was to deliver the keynote address for the 13th annual Minidoka Civil Liberties Symposium, as we approach the 40th anniversary of the very first “Day of Remembrance” at the Puyallup Fairgounds. Look for a blog post coming up closer to the actual anniversary of the first DOR, which took place on November 25, 1978.
UPDATE: On August 27, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California denied, without prejudice, the Tule Lake Committee’s motion for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO). The order allows the Tule Lake Committee to file a renewed motion for
a TRO, which the Tule Lake Committee is preparing to file, and directs additional support on particular issues, according to a TLC news release, which added:
As documented in our new book, JOHN OKADA: The Life & Rediscovered Work of the Author of No-No Boy, the Japanese American experience was in some ways the reverse of this week’s child separations on the southern border. In our case it was the fathers — harmless men like the fathers of both John Okada and Jim Akutsu — who were ripped from their children and wives in Seattle on Feb. 21, 1942, locked up in the Immigration Detention Center on Airport Way, and then paraded out at King Street Station the morning of March 19, 1942, and put on a train for the Justice Department alien internment camp at Fort Missoula, Montana. Their children and wives reached through an iron fence and screamed out to the men in English and Japanese, not knowing if they would ever see them again.
I shared this story yesterday with this five-minute interview with the BBC World Service that aired in London and worldwide on June 20.
This graphic in last Monday’s Sacramento Bee says it all: “The proposed fence would encircle the Tulelake Municipal Airport next to the town of Newell,”
The Tule Lake Committee has issued an urgent call to #SaveTuleLake, where more than 24,000 Japanese Americans were imprisoned during World War II. They are appealing for voices to be heard against the construction of a three-mile-long fence that will close off an airport that sits on two-thirds of the former concentration camp site and which, if built, would permanently close off access to the barracks area where most people lived. A national civil rights site will be irreparably damaged. Continue reading Save Tule Lake: Send a letter by Oct. 10→
Documenting the history of Japanese American incarceration, and the resistance to incarceration, was always important, but it remained just that — history, something good to know about, to make sure that mass exclusion on the basis of race “never happens again in America.” But when rangers in the National Park Service have to go undergound, and Smokey the Bear is raising a fist in flames, you know something has gone terribly wrong.
We have just passed the tipping point and now live with an authoritarian American government. #Resistance is a trending hashtag. Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich posts a daily “Resistance Report” on YouTube. Former sportscaster Keith Olberman rebrands his show on GQ as “The Resistance.” Reuters is instructing its reporters how to cover the new Administration as if it were a banana republic. And the story of the Heart Mountain resisters is getting renewed attention.
Thanks to host Bill Radke and producer Shane Mehling for having me on Seattle’s NPR affiliate today, on KUOW’s “The Record,” to connect the Japanese American resistance to the current actions in the streets. Here’s a link to the full 11-minute conversation, which has been well-received. As I said to Bill, I feel both validated that the Fair Play Committee is getting recognized, and appalled that we are now talking about a very real threat to Muslim Americans and Mexican Americans for the purpose of fulfilling a campaign promise to a resurgent white nationalism. Continue reading What #Resistance Means Now→
None of the 24,000 Japanese Americans sent to live in the shallow volcanic lakebed of Tule Lake for the duration of World War II wanted to be there, but their presence makes this a National Historic Landmark.
In hindsight, an airstrip operating on a site of this historic significance is not an appropriate or compatible use, but before anyone could know that, the government after the war granted homestead rights to farmers, and in 1951 granted two-thirds of the main detention and barracks site to the city of Tulelake for an airstrip, which today hosts just one business, a crop-dusting service. It’s not easy to see without an aerial view, but the airstrip runs left to right in the photo below.
The Heart Mountain resisters refused induction in 1944 as a last-ditch attempt to clarify their status as American citizens and challenge the constitutionality of the American concentration camps in which they were held. With the actions being threatened by a new Administration, a new kind of resistance is now being called for in the 21st century.
It’s only been one week since the election, and an adviser to the President-elect is testing the public’s willingness to go along with creation of a national registry of all Muslims in America — a database whose only useful purpose would be to make it possible to round them all up for some kind of mass action.
Journalist James Omura saw the dangers of mass registration in February 1942, in his testimony to the Congressional Tolan Committee, which was preparing the public for acceptance of the mass exclusion of a feared racial minority perceived as the enemy. “Has the Gestapo come to America?,” he asked.
In her revelatory new book, Mira Shimabukuro sets a new standard in camp studies with her framing of what she calls “writing-to-redress.” She goes beyond Bulletin #3 from the Fair Play Committee to recover a wide range of camp writing that challenges authority, much of it by women. such as the letter from the Mothers Society of Minidoka protesting the drafting of their sons, signed by more than 100 Issei women.