Who knew that one of the unforeseen benefits of creating the first Day of Remembrance at the Puyallup Fairgrounds in 1978 would be the creation of an annual platform for the screening of our film? So it is that this year we’ll have the privilege of showing CONSCIENCE at South Seattle Community College for the college’s Day of Remembrance program, and speaking afterwards with students, faculty, staff and the larger community. It’s free and open to the public, with this eye-catching flyer:
Meanwhile, in the Bay Area, Kenji Taguma and the Nichi Bei Foundation will present the third annual Films of Remembrance on Sunday, Feb. 23rd, at New People Cinema, 1746 Post St. in San Francisco’s Japantown. The program last year featured CONSCIENCE, and one film this year has a Fair Play Committee connection:
The film ““Hiro: A Japanese American Internment Story” by Keiko Wright, winner of a Student Academy Award by the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences, covers how Keiko and her grandfather Hiro Hoshizaki rediscovered the painful memories of his wartime incarceration at Heart Mountain. The 30-minute film also includes a small portion on the resistance of Hiro Hoshizaki’s brother, Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee resister Tak Hoshizaki.
“Hiro” won the Gold Medal in the Documentary category at the 39th Student Academy Awards. It screens at 5:00 p.m. on Feb. 23.
Happy new year. It was a busy 2013 — so busy that we’re only now catching up to posting new video, audio and images from events of the past year: three panels at the JANM national conference and two fall screenings.
JAPANESE AMERICAN NATIONAL MUSUEUM national conference – July 5, 2013
The museum recently provided an audio recording of our panel on redress and creation of the first Day of Remembrance in Seattle. Click on the montage above to hear about the “Tangled Routes to Japanese American Redress.”
It was a great pleasure to catch up with an old friend, and my former housing officer at UC Santa Cruz, Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston. We enjoyed a lively discussion after a screening of her “Farewell to Manzanar,” in which I was forced to relive my on-screen character’s beating at the hands of one of Hanako Wakatsuski’s uncles, or so she says. The museum website promises an audio file will be forthcoming.
In another audio file you can hear Heart Mountain resister Tak Hoshizaki present his fascinating insider’s look at the Fair Play Committee, “Kiyoshi Okamoto and the Four Franks,” which you can also read online here. Joining him in the “Standing on Principle” panel were Professor Tets Kashima and author Mary Woodward.
Thanks to Tracy Kumono for all the sharp photographs from the JANM conference.
FIFE HISTORY MUSUEM: “Rights, Rations, Remembrance” exhibit – October 17, 2013
Of the hundreds of screenings we’ve done over the years, this one was memorable for the number of Fife residents for whom this history is a living memory, and who brought that energy and interest to the film. This Facebook photo album shows the nearly 100 who joined us for a special evening. Museum director Molly Wilmoth has since moved on, but thanks to her for choosing our film to launch their museum program series.
NAGOMI TEA HOUSE: “Nikkei Heroes” film series – November 2, 2013
Another special program this year was one aimed at the Japanese-speaking community in Seattle. This was the first time in the U..S. that we screened CONSCIENCE with the Japanese subtitles created for the Fukuoka Film Festival in 2001. It was the first event in a ”Nikkei Heroes” film series at the Nagomi Tea House, a new performance venue inside the old Uwajimaya supermarket at 6th and Weller. Our thanks for the support of Uwajimaya owner Tomio Moriguchi and Hokubei Hochi Foundation director Elaine Ko.
Two videos are posted here. The first is a link to my introduction to the film. The second video, embedded below, captures the Q and A after the screening. The second video begins abruptly after these opening words were already heard:
“As I was growing up, the party line in our community was that our response to the forced expulsion was represented by one of two catchphrases. The first was ‘Shikataganai,’ Japanese for “it can’t be helped.” Passive resignation in the face of injustice. The second was ‘Go For Broke,’ Hawaiian slang for “go all out, give 100 percent.” That just didn’t seem right…. “
The video picks up from there:
Thanks for a busy and productive 2013. Here’s looking forward to what the new year brings.
Japanese America comes to Seattle this weekend for the JA National Museum annual conference at the Seattle Sheraton, commemorating the 25th anniversary of winning redress for the camps.
Heart Mountain resister Tak Hoshizaki speaks Saturday at 2:00 pm on a panel called “Standing on Principle.” I’ll be there Friday sharing the Conscience DVD at a Marketplace exhibit table. I’m also speaking on a panel called the “Tangled Routes to Japanese American Redress” — a title you’ll hear me dispute — and looking forward to reuniting with Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston for a Friday evening screening of Farewell to Manzanar, which the Museum recently freed from the clutches of Universal Studios for a long-overdue release on DVD. More on that in our next post.
For the redress panel Friday we will welcome conferees to the region that, in our humble opinion, saved the redress campaign before it ever got off the ground. I will share the story of how the Seattle Evacuation Redress Committee, with the advice and experience of writer Frank Chin, delivered the key strategy for reframing the issue after an AP story quoted California Senator S.I. Hayakawa calling the JACL’s resolution for redress “ridiculous,” and saying “The relocation was perfectly understandable … even the JACL supported it at the time.”The Wall Street Journal backed him up with an editorial titled, “Guilt Mongering.”
You could feel the air leading out of the redress balloon, until Seattle created and staged the first “Day of Remembrance” on Nov. 25, 1978, as a means of leveraging the media to tell our story and encouraging the local community to “remember the camps/stand for redress with your family.” At Friday’s panel we’ll talk about the turnout of 2,000 people — the largest single gathering of Japanese Americans since, well, World War II — that made national news and rallied our community behind our shared experience of incarceration and injustice.
On this Day of Remembrance 2013, everyone is marking the 25th anniversary of winning redress for the wartime incarceration of Japanese Americans. And rightfully so: it was a community-wide, decade-long campaign that united us around our common experience of mass exclusion and detention.
A big thanks to Takeshi Nakayama for talking to us and capturing the big picture on how redress went down in his “25 Years Since the Civil Liberties Act of 1988: A look back at the historic Japanese American Redress Movement. ” It’s part of a complete Day of Remembrance issue of the Nichi Bei Weekly edited by Kenji Taguma.
The redress legislation was key to the creation of Conscience and the Constitution. To win redress it was strategically important to show a united front as a community. Once redress was secured, we could dig deeper into an examination of our community’s dual response to that mass injustice: collaboration or resistance. And the Civil Liberties Act included the Civil Liberties Public Education Fund, which provided the major grant that leveraged our project into one eligible for completion funding by the Independent Television Service and PBS.
We’ll be talking more about the Seattle Evacuation Redress Committee and the creation of Days of Remembrance at a panel on July 5, when the Japanese American National Museum comes to Seattle for its 2013 national conference. For now, here’s our section of Takeshi’s feature story:
What’s Not to Hate?
In the Northwest, the Seattle JACL chapter’s Seattle Evacuation Redress Committee (SERC) wanted Congress to enact redress legislation without having to wait for a commission to study what was obvious to them.
Frank Abe, whose father was incarcerated at Heart Mountain, Wyo., while his Kibei Nisei mother spent the war years as a schoolgirl in Japan, said of the Nikkei incarceration, “The false imprisonment stole the life and vitality of the Issei. The loss of civil rights crushed the optimism and spirit of the Nisei. The business and property losses disinherited an entire generation of Sansei. What’s not to hate about it?”
The Seattle activists had “the ability to bring the issue out of our inner circles and out into the public arena,” he noted. “The SERC had the ideas created by Boeing engineers like Henry Miyatake, Chuck Kato, Ken Nakano, and the Issei stock analyst, Shosuke Sasaki. Frank Chin had the knowledge of how to work the news media.”
The SERC staged the first two Day of Remembrance events in 1978 and 1979, noted Abe, producer of “Conscience and the Constitution,” a documentary about the largest organized resistance to the Japanese American incarceration. “SERC provided the framework through which the Issei and Nisei could finally step out in public en masse, out of the closet so to speak, and simply speak to the anger they’d bottled up for 40 years … So we arrived at the idea of re-creating the eviction from Seattle.”
The first Days of Remembrance “were designed as a visual piece of public education for the news media; and something about the staging struck a nerve,” Abe commented. “We got sympathetic coverage. The story got picked up nationwide by the Associated Press and the Nikkei vernaculars.”
Miyatake and Kato said their congressmen, Mike Lowry and Brock Adams, owed Japanese Americans “a chance to make their case,” Abe related. “Mike Lowry was so moved by seeing the crowd assembled in the Sicks Stadium parking lot for the caravan to Puyallup that he, on the spot, vowed to introduce a redress bill in the House, and he did (on Nov. 28, 1979).”
The Lowry bill called for an official apology and individual payments of $15,000 plus $15 for each day served in camp, but it never advanced out of committee.
NCJAR Files Lawsuit
SERC members believed they could get an individual payments bill passed in 1979, Abe said. “But we didn’t have the kind of national organization and the lobbyist in D.C. like the JACL had. So we figured we’d just start our own national organization.”
After meeting with William Hohri, who came from Chicago, the group decided to create an organization with the single purpose of passing a direct redress bill, said Abe, who came up with the name, National Council for Japanese American Redress, with Hohri as national spokesperson.
NCJAR’s position was that the Japanese American community suffered great injury, and pursued a class-action lawsuit to seek remedies for the damages caused by the government’s violation of their constitutional rights.
Once the Lowry bill got co-opted by the Commission bill, Hohri advocated launching a class-action lawsuit against the U.S. government, funded by supporters contributing $1,000 each for the legal fund, Abe recalled. “I remember thinking he was nuts, but the lawsuit may have been what finally convinced some Congress members it would be cheaper to pass a redress bill with a $20,000 award, than risk an adverse court judgment for many times that amount.”
One of the featurettes on our new DVD, “The JACL Apologizes,” will screen in San Francisco Japantown on Monday, Feb. 18 as part of this year’s, “Films of Remembrance.”
It’s a one-day film series held in conjunction with the Bay Area Day of Remembrance, commemorating the 71st anniversary of the signing of Executive Order 9066, which set the wheels in motion to forcibly relocate some 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry into American concentration camps during World War II. Our piece caps off the day’s program, which ends with this description:
5:30 p.m. “A Divided Community: Three Personal Stories of Resistance” (2012, 73 min.) This documentary by Momo Yashima highlights the struggles of three Japanese American World War II resisters — Yosh Kuromiya, Frank Emi and Mits Koshiyama — who challenged the U.S. government’s decision to draft Japanese Americans while they and their families were being held in America’s concentration camps.
Followed by “The JACL Apologizes” by Frank Abe, from the DVD “Conscience and the Constitution.”
The screenings are at Nihonmachi Little Friends, 1830 Sutter St. (near Buchanan) in San Francisco Japantown. The event is sponsored by the Bay Area Day of Remembrance Consortium, the Nichi Bei Weekly and the National Japanese American Historical Society. Free admission, though they’d welcome donations. Thanks to Kenji Taguma for including our piece in the series.
The Heart Mountain resisters, under the heading of “Internment Dissenters,” will be among 16 individuals and groups honored in San Francisco this Sunday at the third annual Fred Korematsu Day celebration. Thanks to the organizers for linking to this site for information about the resisters and, for the short film to be screened at the event, thanks for using two of the stills from our film: the shot of Frank Emi in camp with grocer Kozie Sakai, and the iconic courtroom photo of the 63 resisters on trial in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
In what is billed as “a historic gathering of civil rights heroes and the descendants of heroes who have passed on,” the Nisei draft resisters are sixth on a list of 16 American civil rights heroes who organizers say have been long overlooked:
#6. INTERNMENT DISSENTERS: “No-Nos,”draft resisters and renunciants who challenged the WWII incarceration and mistreatment of Japanese Americans. ‘No-No’ Hiroshi Kashiwagi will represent this honoree group at the event.
The video to be shown is described as a 2-minute short produced by filmmaker Winnie Wong, who interviewed Hiroshi for it She hopes to be able to share a Vimeo link at some point. The Institute’s Education Coordinator, Tim Huey, writes:
We are offering 2 free VIP tickets to each living member of our honoree groups. So, for those that are a Filipino WWII veteran, Japanese American WWII veteran, Internment Dissenter (draft resister, No-No, renunciant), or Dollar Store Striker that wish to attend, have them call us at 415-848-7737 to request complimentary tickets or email [email protected]. At this point resister Jimi Yamaichi plans on coming, as well as No-No Jim Tanimoto. We’d love to have more dissenters attend if they are able.
The 16 Heroes are all featured on an educational poster that is going into our teaching kits that are sent for free to educators across the country. We’ll be unveiling the poster at the event. More information on the teaching kits can be found on our website. Most of the materials can be downloaded for instant gratification, but for those desiring a physical kit, they simply have to fill out a basic online form to request them.
Tickets for the event are available for purchase. And again, Japanese American draft resisters, renunciants, and no-no boys are among those who can get free VIP tickets.
One hundred years ago today, November 27, 1912, Utaka Matsumoto was born to a sawmill worker and his wife on Bainbridge Island, Washington. At age 6 his mother returned ill to Japan and he never saw her again. At age 13 he would take the name James Omura and leave home to work in the Alaskan salmon canneries. In this centenary year we recognize Omura as the Japanese American journalist most willing to take a stand — demanding of the Tolan Committee “Has the Gestapo come to America?,” editorializing against the draft resistance at Heart Mountain in “Let Us Not Be Rash,” and testifying decades later to the Bernstein Commission for redress.
Jimmie would always tell me that he didn’t expect to be remembered or recognized for his accomplishments until 50 years after his death. Then he would go on to complain about the lack of guts among the third-generation Sansei journalists, including, one had to assume, myself. But he seemed genuinely pleased to be awarded the first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award from the then-fledgling Asian American Journalists Association, and we were fortunate to have recovered and told his story in our PBS film Conscience and the Constitution.
In this centenary year we may get word of publication of Jimmie’s memoirs, a work left incomplete by his passing in 1994 and painstakingly edited ever since by Professor Art Hansen under the working title, Nisei Naysayer: The Memoir of Militant Japanese American Journalist Jimmie Omura.
We were saddened to recently hear from Art of the passing of Jimmie’s second wife, Haruko Karen Omura, on September 4th at the age of 85, but we have been in touch with the two sons of Karen and Jimmie. The younger son Wayne is a writer, author of the book Movies and The Meaning of Life: The Most Profound Films in Cinematic History, available on Amazon. We asked Wayne for his reflections on this date:
On the Hundredth Anniversary of My Father’s Birth
Many fathers tell stories about their lives, and it is hard to know how much is true and how much is tall-tales. It was only after my father retired that he became involved, once again, in politics, history, and journalism. It was then that I began to suspect that those “tall-tales” might be true.
After his death, after seeing all that was written about him, all the many books in which his name appeared, I realized that those tall-tales were really “true-tales.” I should have listened better and taken more interest as I was growing up. But like all kids, we had our own lives to live, our own problems in the here and now. The past was history. The words went in one ear and out the other.
A personal anecdote may be in order which displays my Dad’s character, as well as the most important principle he taught me.
While working after college as night-manager in a small grocery store, I had numerous physical confrontations with shoplifters. My Mom (being a mother) thought it was reckless and stupid. “Why risk your life and physical injury for a candy bar?” On a practical level she was right, but on an ethical level she was wrong. My Dad’s response was an unusual outburst of anger. (He had mellowed a lot in his later years.)
“He should do what he thinks is right!” he shouted.
Whether an action is dangerous, unpopular, destroys your career and reputation, makes you an outcast in your own community and to your own people: You should always do what you think is right! (Not just when the world is at peace and you are relatively safe.)
written on Thanksgiving Day 2012
If you knew Jimmie, or just share our admiration of him, consider this an open thread and please leave a comment below.
For this occasion here is a part of the extended interview with James Omura in which he describes his trial for conspiracy, as featured on Disc Two of our new DVD. Happy birthday, Jimmie. Your fighting spirit is deeply missed.
Thirty years ago, William Hohri picked up our Days of Remembrance movement here in Seattle and took us national. William’s memorial service was today in Little Tokyo. Nice of Elaine Woo at the L.A. Times to call and ask for a quote. Martha Nakagawa offers exhaustive coverage of William’s life and times in the Rafu Shimpo, and she still says she feels bad that she wasn’t able to include William’s earlier life in the Shonien and Manzanar’s Children’s Village.
William Hohri passed away Friday after a long illness. William was a seminal figure in changing the way we understand American history and Japanese American history. Like the Heart Mountain resisters he admired and chronicled, William stepped up to organize Japanese America and go to court to challenge the injustice of selective incarceration based solely on race. He was a leader, a lead plaintiff, an author and an artist, and he will be deeply missed.
William got the government’s attention with his lawsuit seeking monetary damages for illegal wartime incarceration. What seemed at first to be a quixotic action helped focus Congress on passing a real redress bill before “Hohri et.al. vs. U.S “ could come to trial in federal court.
After the first successful Days of Remembrance at the Puyallup Fairgrounds and the Portland Expo Center, and the national Open Letter to Hayakawa, we in the Seattle Evacuation Redress Committee were contacted by this guy out of Chicago who wanted to keep the momentum for genuine redress going. At a time when the Nikkei in Congress and national JACL were calling for a commission to study the issue, William said it was time to organize for something better. In that, he shared the same instincts as Harry Ueno, Kiyoshi Okamoto, and Frank Emi.
The one footnote I can claim in William’s legend is an edit. William, Shosuke Sasaki, Henry Miyatake and others of us were sitting around the table in our redress “war room,” the conference room in the law offices of Ron Mamiya and Rod Kawakami at 7th and Jackson – the same block where John Okada imagined Ichiro Yamada’s grocery store to be in his novel No No Boy – trying to forge the name for this new national organization that would work around JACL and lobby Congress directly for a redress bill that provided for direct compensation to incarcerees. We spitballed a number of ideas, taking awhile to decide that “Japanese American” should be included in the name, and came around to “National Coalition for Japanese American Redress,” but I thought that sounded too … sixties, and after all here we had progressed to the tail end of the 70’s. I suggested we call it a “National Council” and Shosuke quickly agreed that sounded loftier, and we were on our way. William adopted Frank Fujii’s ichi-ni-san barbed wire logo from the Days of Remembrance for the masthead of his own monthly NCJAR newsletter, keeping the spirit alive.
We were in Washington, DC for the first round of hearings of the Congressional commission in 1981, when as our informal media coordinator William casually told me he had turned down an invitation from ABC News to appear on something called “Nightline,” because it was late and he was tired and he thought it was a local broadcast. I was horrified and chewed him out for the lost opportunity to raise money for what was by then his class-action lawsuit; ABC used JACL district governor Tom Kometani instead. At the hearings where even I wore a suit and tie, William insisted on testifying to Congress in his Frank Fujii ichi-ni-san T-shirt, with the yellow redress button in his lapel.
Like myself, once redress was won and American history had been cured, William turned his attention from holding the government accountable to holding our wartime community leaders accountable and exposing the story of the largest organized resistance to wartime incarceration. Besides his well-known REPAIRING AMERICA: AN ACCOUNT OF THE MOVEMENT FOR JAPANESE AMERICAN REDRESS, William self-published three other books. He compiled and introduced RESISTANCE, a book with first-person accounts from the Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee. He published a bound edition of the notorious LIM REPORT, which chronicled the wartime collaboration of JACL leaders in their own words. He self-published a novel, MANZANAR RITES, that made fiction of the insurgency of Kitchen Workers Union leader Harry Ueno, the riot sparked by unrest at camp conditions and the JACL’s call for drafting the Nisei out of camp, and which climaxes with the Army’s fatal shooting of two young men. Ever the historian, William expresses relief in an end note that he did not have to footnote his sources.
My condolences to Yuriko and their family. The family is planning a celebration of William’s life at the Fukui Mortuary in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo. Frank Emi and Yosh Kuromiya are being asked to speak. More details as they become available.
The bad boy of Asian American letters has done it again. The Manzanar Committee has discovered what the Organization of Chinese Americans and the Northwest Asian American Film Festival learned before them.
Frank Chin may make for a lousy guest, and I didn’t hear exactly what he said, but I think characterizing his legitimate points as “name-calling” diminishes what he had to say and the intelligence of their constituency:
The Manzanar Committee expresses their deepest apologies to those who were offended by remarks made by Frank Chin, one of the speakers at the 37th Annual Manzanar Pilgrimage.
Though the intention and focus clearly communicated to Chin in the Committee’s invitation was to focus on his central role with beginning the annual Day of Remembrance and being part of a Pan-Asian movement that supported redress as well as encouraging youth today to become more politically aware and informed, Chin departed from this intention when he resorted to name calling against the Japanese American Citizens League and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.
These are views which may reflect those of Chin but not the Manzanar Committee.