Category Archives: Redress

Resisters honored on Fred Korematsu Day in San Francisco

Korematsu heroes graphicThe 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.

The Fred T. Korematsu Institute for Civil Rights and Education is a program of the Asian Law Caucus, which was co-founded by longtime supporter and civil rights lawyer Dale Minami. The event is this Sunday, January 27, 2:30-4:30pm, at Herbst Theatre in San Francisco on 401 Van Ness Ave.

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 info@korematsuinstitute.org. 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.

Korematsu teaching kitThe 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.

Korematsu heroes program

The James Omura centenary: 1912-2012

James Omura - Broadway High School photo
James Omura at Broadway High School, Seattle

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.)

Wayne Omura
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.

Newspaper obits for William Hohri

William Hohri at Manzanar / Los Angeles Times photo 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.

In memoriam: William Hohri

book cover: RESISTANCE by William Hohri et. al. 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.

Day of Remembrance logoThe 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.

William Hohri 1981, c. Frank AbeWe 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.

Manzanar Committee apologizes for guest speaker Frank Chin

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.

Read the entire, indignant news release from the Manzanar Committee.

Remembering Japanese American redress at the University of Washington

You know you’ve come a long ways when the things you did in your youth come back as “history.”

Join us at the University of Washington this Friday, April 28, for a day-long forum on “Remembering Japanese American Redress: A Symposium on History, Incarceration, and Justice.” I’ll be showing two surviving TV news clips from the first “Day of Remembrance” in 1978 and projecting photos and news clippings demonstrating the news coverage we earned that showed Japanese Americans nationwide that no mob would attack if they spoke up and stood for redress.

I’ll be speaking at two screenings of CONSCIENCE coming up: “Friday Night At The Meaningful Movies” for the Wallingford Neighbors for Peace and Justice, May 5, 2006, at Keystone Church in Seattle, and Emerald Ridge High School in Puyallup, Washington, on May 12.