Category Archives: Reviews

L.A. Times review critical of “Allegiance”

Opening night at The Old Globe Theater
First-nighters await the opening curtain for “Allegiance.” Nice set.

The first reviews have come in from the press opening for Allegiance. As expected, the San Diego Union-Tribune and the North County Times are carried off by the emotion of melodrama (“bring your Kleenex, you’re going to need it,” one says with glee). However, the review by Anne Marie Welsh in the Los Angeles Times, “‘Allegiance’ gives Japanese internment a soft focus,” is especially clear-eyed about the material itself:

The musical premieres at the Old Globe as a mild story of broken family ties, not a judgment of U.S. mistakes related to the internment of Japanese Americans in the 1940s. … “Allegiance” presents a surprisingly mild story of family fractures, not an indictment of American failures. … Though peppered with promising scenes and powerfully sung by the largely Asian American cast, “Allegiance” retreats from the challenge of its own material and hasn’t found a consistent focus, tone or musical idiom. For all its historical reach and welcome significance, the book (by Marc Acito, Jay Kuo and Lorenzo Thione) drifts into two generic romances and in the second act meanders into sentimental warblings that family is “what really matters.” … Mike Masaoka (Paolo Montalban), head of the Japanese American Citizens League, the show’s sole historical figure, (is) here caricatured. … (T)heir show needs a sharper emotional focus and musical edge to match its bold subject.

There may be a reason for the fuzziness of the show’s focus. Whatever artistic aspirations they may have, Broadway shows are by their nature commercial ventures: they have to sell the tickets week to week to pay the cast and keep the doors open. Based on the show’s synopsis, video clips, and reports from preview audiences and first-nighter’s, the dramatic arc of this show appears calculated to shift the audience’s attention away from the actions of the U.S. government — the general who lied about military necessity, the army major who was the architect of mass eviction and incarceration — and onto a straw man: the show’s caricature of “Mike Masaoka.”

Make no mistake,  the real Mike and the real JACL bear plenty of responsibility for waiving Japanese American rights at the height of war and racial hysteria, and Mike in particular for acting as a confidential informant for the government (see the evidence on the DVD extended interview with Prof. Roger Daniels).

But by setting up Masaoka as the antagonist of the piece, the show gets to take the focus off wartime America’s responsibility for accepting the mass eviction and incarceration, lest the predominantly white New York theater audience for whom this work is intended squirm in their seats – especially in a city just 11 years removed from its own 21st century experience of a Pearl Harbor.

From all accounts the focus on Mike as the villain has the emotional effect, intended or unintended, of letting the government off the hook, as if to say, “Look at Mike, he was the culprit, not the generals or the bureaucrats.”

This portrayal was especially strong in early drafts of the musical’s script, and the alarms went up after community pre-screenings of a videotaped workshop performance. However, the creators brought in a new collaborator to rewrite the book, and a first-nighter who provided the two photos offers this contrary view:

“(A friend) who had not seen the pre-screenings came away a bit shocked at how he (Mike) was portrayed. This was her first time to see the show, so she had nothing to compare it to.  So I think she was surprised by the musical portraying Mike Masaoka in such a negative light. In the end, we see George yelling at the spirit of Masaoka “You son of a bitch!”… Wow…

“It is interesting -I have seen the pre-screenings so I came away thinking the representation of Mike Masaoka is much more balanced now. He is not the villain as originally scripted. In fact, at times he appears very uncertain, almost meek and indecisive. He is now a 26-year old thrust into all of this pressure and a bit unsure of what to do, trying to lead his people. We see him in uniform – grieving for his brother – trying to figure out what to do and sometimes struggling to remain strong.

“But at the end when the show suggests it was Mike that had the idea for a suicide battalion and George calls him an SOB, then I think it really leaves a sour taste in people’s mouths.  For me, since I had seen the earlier versions which were so bad, this current version is ironically very refreshing…”

DVD in gift shop
Shameless plug alert: The DVD that tells the real story of Frank Emi and the Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee is available at The Old Globe gift shop.

More reaction is expected in the days ahead, so subscribe to new posts using the box in the column above and to the right, or leave your comment below. (Our DVD is now available in the Old Globe gift shop. Yes, next to the Lea Salonga CDs. Proving, as Brian Wilson sings on the Beach Boys reunion CD, that it’s a strange world after all.)

Resisters at heart of new musical

Allegiance photoLike it or not, the history and legacy of the Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee is being dramatized and will be kicked around in the media for weeks and months to come. The vehicle for the uproar is a new musical with Broadway aspirations that appropriates the story of the resisters and puts them on stage against the Japanese American Citizens League and the real-life Mike Masaoka.

That’s the story first revealed to a national television audience by Conscience and the Constitution, and it informs the framework of Allegiance. Several years ago the songwriter and co-producer contacted us to ask for a copy of our film for a theater workshop. We obliged by sending a VHS tape, and heard nothing more until recently.

At Resisters.com we will always appreciate George Takei for his two decades of support for the Heart Mountain resisters — from his volunteering to read the part of Frank Emi at our first resisters homecoming / readers theater event in San Jose in 1992 (sadly but understandably losing him to a paying film gig), to his later lending his voice talents to our film to read the manifesto of Frank Emi and an editorial from James Omura. With his massive following and two-million Facebook friends, George is emerging as our lead advocate for getting mention of the resisters into the mass culture, as evidenced by this NPR interview over the Labor Day weekend where he expresses his admiration for the resisters and what he correctly characterizes as their “courageous and principled stand.”

While audiences may only remember the performances, musical arrangements and stagecraft, and whatever the intentions of the creative team, the risk of staging this material is that even as Japanese Americans appreciate this history being exposed to a wider audience, there are many ways for them to take offense at the way this one is told:

  • The JACL — Where our documentary lets Masaoka’s words and deeds speak for themselves, the musical puts Mike on stage as a living person, by name, and that’s a different animal. The emotional arc of the stage play sets up Mike as the villain of the piece. In early drafts, and in a YouTube video, “Mike Masaoka” is portrayed as a “scheming vaudevillian,” to use the words in the video caption.For all his rhetoric and bluster, Mike didn’t create the camps, or the draft, nor did he have the authority to stop the drafting of young men into the 442. The government did. JACLers are up in arms, though the organization so far has been silent.
  • The veterans — With the show appearing to champion those who resisted over those who enlisted or complied with the draft in camp, the stage was set for pushback. The first shot was fired by Charles Kobayashi and others in Sacramento in a letter reacting to a community preview: “The dialogue in Allegiance where Sam Omura tells his father he wished he had never volunteered for the 442nd needs to be removed. It is demeaning and disrespectful of the Nisei veterans.” Another of Kobayashi’s complaints however is easily dismissed: artists have no obligation to “uplift the race,” as it were.
  • The resisters — I can only wonder what Frank Emi would say if he were still alive. The show in earlier drafts had the lead resister, called by the diminuitive “Frankie,” exhorting crowds in camp to resist, under a banner that proclaims “Resist!” Frank would tell you that is a conflation with the washo-washo cries at the Tule Lake Segregation Center. The draft resisters at Heart Mountain never publicly rallied or raised banners. That would have invited sure arrest, and confusing their methods with those of the Tule Lake no-no’s and renunciants was precisely the thing that Frank Emi insisted the group avoid. It’s not just a technicality.The Fair Play Committee was organized around a principle to which they hoped to attract support. Frank Emi made it clear they would not pressure anyone to join the Fair Play Committee or to resist the draft, in order to avoid a federal conspiracy or sedition charge. They studiously limited their activities to offering legal advice to those who asked for it, quietly posting fliers throughout camp, and holding public meetings in the mess hall. To show them rallying under a banner alters the fundamental nature of the Fair Play Committee’s stand. It feeds into the stereotype of “agitators” and “troublemakers” that has dogged the FPC for 70 years.

Murmuring about the content of Allegiance has simmered all summer, based on a series of community previews, clips on YouTube,  and a glimpse of an early version of the script, as reported last month by J.K. Yamamoto in the Rafu Shimpo.

The murmuring finally burst into the open today with release of this from the president of the Japanese American Veterans Association (you can download a PDF of the letter here).

Open Letter about “Allegiance”

The play “Allegiance” is scheduled to open in San Diego, CA, on September 19th.  The producers of the play have received criticism about a pre-opening version of the play and they may make some changes before opening.  However, we understand that they do not intend to change the play’s characterization of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), Mike Masaoka, who was National JACL Secretary at the time Executive Order 9066 was issued, and the Nisei soldiers.  Thus, in our opinion, the play’s plot is objectionable in that it misleads the American public and is a disservice to the Japanese American community.  The comments in this letter are based on a review of a pre-opening version of the play.

The play tells how two groups showed their loyalty to the United States during World War II.  In telling their stories, the play pits those who volunteered to serve in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team against the”resisters” (aka “No-No boys” and draft resisters).  The play also implies that JACL and Masaoka colluded with the government in shaping various governmental policies.  These policies related to the forced evacuation of persons of Japanese ancestry, Question 27 and Question 28 in the loyalty questionnaire, segregation of “resisters” in Tule Lake WRA camp, and misleading Japanese Americans into volunteering for military service.

First, the play gives the false impression to the American public that the evacuation and unjust imprisonment of persons of Japanese ancestry would not have happened but for the aid provided by JACL and Mike Masaoka.  In reality, JACL and Masaoka had no ability to influence Executive Order 9066, which authorized the Army to evacuate persons of Japanese ancestry from the western United States.  They should be applauded for their efforts to minimize the pain and harshness of the Executive Order’s implementation during a time of war hysteria and within a culture of hostile and deceitful governmental officials.

Moreover, the play makes no mention of the actions of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who signed Executive Order 9066, and LTG John DeWitt, who implemented Executive Order 9066.  These actions were later found to be the result of “prejudice, war hysteria, and lack of political leadership.”

Rather, the play would mislead the American public by attributing
unsubstantiated actions to Japanese American leaders who were attempting to bring reason to absolute chaos confronting the community.  The play appears to be pandering to the American public with the implicit message: “We don’t blame the government for what happened to us during World War II.  JACL and Masaoka did this to us.”

What happened to persons of Japanese ancestry during World War II was overt racial profiling. The lesson learned from that experience is that we must guard against racially motivated governmental policies.  This play, “Allegiance,” only serves to dilute or confuse the lesson that the American public should take away from the sacrifices and suffering of those who bore the unjust effects of Executive Order 9066.

Furthermore, there is no question that there was an angry division in 1943 within the Japanese American community between those who volunteered to serve and “resisters” on the matter of loyalty.  The play attempts to make the case that the “resisters” made the right choice and that those who volunteered were deceived by Masaoka and made the wrong choice.  By fueling this controversy, the play attempts to re-open old wounds and does a disservice to both groups.

Both choices were difficult and had permanent life-altering consequences. In hindsight, both groups should recognize that there was more than one way to show one’s loyalty.  Neither choice was the right one or the wrong one. Today, we should celebrate both groups for following their convictions rather than fueling this hostility by continuing to pit these two groups against each other.

Finally, the play uses fictional characters except for Mike Masaoka. The play assaults his good name and reputation by alleging his direct involvement in shaping the government’s controversial policies.  Let us hope that the play’s producers and investors can substantiate their apparent character assassination of Masaoka.  We will leave it to Mike Masaoka & Associates, a consulting firm that continues to do business in Washington, DC, to raise any challenges related to possibly malicious damage to its business reputation caused by “Allegiance.”

Sincerely,

Gerald Yamada
JAVA President

A couple of things are worth nothing about this letter. It signals we’re in for another round of confusing the resisters at Heart Mountain with the no-no’s at Tule Lake. The resisters were not “angrily divided” against the boys who served; they always said they made their choice and the volunteers made theirs. The resisters always recognized there was more than one way to show one’s loyalty; it was the veterans groups and JACL that took 60 or 70 years to come around. What’s notable is the degree to which the two letters above acknowledge the civil disobedience as a legitimate response.

Yamada’s challenge that the producers document their characterization of Masaoka was evidently anticipated by their reposting on their site of Mike’s 1942 and 1943 memoes to the WRA, the color scans of which were downloaded uncredited from our site, Resisters.com, along with several photos of Mike and the HTML code that William Hohri created for us for posting of the uncensored Lim Report. Having said that, and to show how many conflicting interests are at play, we do appreciate the link to our PBS. org site and to the DVD ordering page and hope they remain.

Previews for the show began last Friday. Opening night is Wednesday, September 19, and the all-important trade reviews will come in soon after that. More as this story develops.

DVD review by John Streamas

John Streamas is Associate Professor of Asian American Studies at Washington State University in Pullman. His book, Japanese Americans and Cultures of Effacement, is forthcoming from the University of Illinois Press.

On Conscience and the Constitution, Two-Disc Collector’s Edition

Shortly after I met her in 1995, poet Toyo Suyemoto advised me never to join the Japanese American Citizens League.

She was still bitter, a half-century after the war, over the JACL’s presuming to speak for all Japanese Americans, as it urged them gladly to comply with government orders to evacuate their homes and enter concentration camps in barren, hostile places in the desert. At the time of her own evacuation, Toyo was a young mother whose husband had abandoned her and their infant son Kay. She and Kay left for camp with her parents and siblings, and they would all leave after the war for new homes in Ohio.

In the late 1950s Kay, who should have been a hearty teenager, died of illnesses induced by the harsh conditions of camp. All her life, Toyo wrote about her camp experience, and her poems, though seemingly serene descriptions of the Utah desert where she was imprisoned, are full of underlying despair, rage, and hope. Late in life she spoke before high school and college audiences about her wartime experience, and with energetic humor she urged them to fight back against institutional oppression, warning that only constant vigilance can hope to resist racism.

In the 1970s novelist Frank Chin and his literary circle helped the world rediscover Toyo’s poems, seeing in her life and work a feisty resistance of the sort they also saw in Frank Emi and the Fair Play Committee, young men in the Heart Mountain camp in Wyoming who resisted the military conscription that became possible during Japanese Americans’ incarceration.

Toyo had read the wartime editorials of James Omura, and was aware of the Heart Mountain resisters. The JACL urged the community to prove their loyalty by becoming part of the military effort, but Emi and the others, supported by Denver journalist James Omura, refused, insisting that their constitutional rights must first be restored before they would consider service.

The resisters’ refusal and subsequent trial was for decades a “dirty secret” of Japanese American history, as the JACL continued to presume to speak for the community. The story of these resisters forms the core of Frank Abe’s 2000 film Conscience and the Constitution, which was broadcast on PBS and which has surely done more than any other film or book to tell it from their perspective.

Now the film is reissued with new material. This is no gimmicky “director’s cut” with twenty additional minutes that amount to a vanity project. The core film remains, but Abe adds to the discs – of which there are now two, one of them dedicated exclusively to additional material – extended interviews with people featured in the film, footage from the 2002 event in which the JACL publicly and formally apologized to the resisters, and access to a helpful viewers’ guide.

In the film itself, historian Roger Daniels reminds audiences that history is written by the winners, and observes that in postwar Japanese America those winners have been the JACL, who have dictated how even a civil rights-era nation might read the incarceration – until now when, thanks to Abe and other activists such as Chin and historian Michi Weglyn, the suppressed narratives are finally surfacing.

The material in Abe’s new edition reinforces Daniels’s caution about the JACL version of history. More than a century ago, African American writer W. E. B. DuBois argued that the black American develops a “double consciousness,” one for engaging with whites, the other for living in the home community. History for all communities of color can be understood as existing on two planes. Most Americans know little about Japanese Americans’ imprisonment during the war, and so the historian’s first job is to teach that history. On this plane, the U.S. government reduced all Japanese Americans to potential saboteurs, a threat serious enough to warrant mass incarceration. On the other, interior plane, the JACL reduced them all to good Americans happy to prove their loyalty, even if at the price of incarceration; but, on this plane, they were not reducible, as some complied while others despaired and still others fought back. But the resisters fought two foes, the uncomprehending government and the capitulating JACL.

The focus of Abe’s feature film is to tell the story on both planes, focusing on the outer plane, the general history for audiences unaware even of the incarceration. The focus of the new material is the inner plane, the suppressed history of resistance’s consequences.

Most valuable, perhaps, are comments by Frank Emi, a core organizer of the Fair Play Committee. Emi acknowledges the JACL’s formal apology, but he also refers to the “unholy ghosts” of the organization’s past: During the war it willfully kept the government informed of resisters’ actions, and after the war it ostracized them, drove them out of community life. These ghosts must also be atoned for, says Emi.

Lest squeamish Japanese Americans worry that the new edition of Abe’s film package threatens to air the community’s dirty laundry, let it be remembered that the federal government acknowledged in 1988 that the wartime incarceration was not only wrong but even deserving of symbolic restitution – a fact that implicitly repudiates the JACL’s wartime position. During the war, Japanese Americans’ only enemy should have been institutional racism, not neighbors working as snitches for the racists.

Abe’s new material clearly shows the consequences of both complicity and resistance, and, maybe even more importantly, it celebrates the courage of those young men who resisted not only the government but even their community’s own weak leaders.

My old friend Toyo was proud of the resisters and, had she lived to see this film and its supplementary material, she would have been proud of Frank Abe.

                                          — John Streamas

Newspaper cover story

cover of Northwest Asian WeeklyI admit was floored when I saw the Northwest Asian Weekly put its review of our DVD on the front page this week. I mean, I was glad to talk to their correspondent, Andrew Hamlin, but not this. Editor Stacy Nguyen didn’t think so either, at first, but she read the piece and thought it was a great story. So she put it up there.

Regarding the reference in the piece to anti-war movements of the 1960s, I hope readers don’t come away with the notion that the Heart Mountain draft resisters were in any way pacifists or somehow reluctant to fight in WW2. These were guys who said they would be glad to fight – just as soon as their rights were first restored and their families released from camp. And the proof of that is that some of the guys who served time in prison for refusing to be drafted from inside a concentration camp, later gladly reported for duty, as free Americans, when drafted into service for the Korean War.

Incidentally, the DVD will be back in stock early this week at Kinokuniya Books at Uwajimaya in Seattle. Thanks for those who have asked for it there, it helps keep the bookstore interested in carrying Japanese American material. If you can’t make it there, it’s also available here.

DVD review in International Examiner and preview of Seattle screening

Wing Luke Museum logo Thanks to Moira Macdonald of The Seattle Times for highlighting in her column in the “Movietimes” section our first public screening of the new Two-Disc Collector’s Edition DVD of “Conscience and the Constitution.” And thanks to those who have RSVP’d on Facebook. No reservation or ticket needed. Just come by the Wing Luke Asian Museum in the Tateuchi Story Theater, 719 South King Street, Seattle, on Saturday, Feb. 18 at 1:00 p.m. Producer Frank Abe will screen the film and debut a new DVD featurette, “The JACL Apologizes,” on events that occurred after the film’s release, answer questions, and sign DVD’s.

Also in Seattle, see the new review in the International Examiner. Having read the paper for decades, it’s an honor to be included in the IE Arts section edited by poet and greengrocer Alan Lau. This review from Chizu Omori is among the most detailed yet. Looks great online but the article is truly impressive in print, pick up the paper if you can.

Finally, this Saturday, Feb. 11, Seattle University is hosting the The 25th Anniversary of the United States v. Hirabayashi Coram Nobis Case: Its Meaning Then and Its Relevance Now, with a lineup starting with Tom Ikeda and Peter Irons and ending with the Sansei attorneys on the legal team. Should be quite a reunion with old friends.

Book: “American Nikkei Nisei Draft Resistance,” by Prof. Yukio Morita

book coverI paid a visit in August to Mits Koshiyama in San Jose and he was just in receipt of a new book published in Japan about the Nisei draft resisters, America Nikkei Nisei no Chohei Kihi (American Nikkei Nisei Draft Resistance). The author is Professor Yukio Morita.

Mit’s wife translated the cover blurb for me as reading something like: “They were called into the army, but they refused to go!” and on the obi strip: “Voices of the Nikkei who lost their property taken by the government!”

Prof. Morita includes the Guntaro Kubota translation into Japanese of a Fair Play Committee bulletin that is briefly glimpsed in Conscience, along with photos of Mits’ family, Frank Emi, George Nozawa, and a Hawaiian draft resister who wanted to renounce his citizenship.

Kenji Taguma, English Edition Editor of the Nichi Bei Times, wrote a story, “New Book Brings Little-Known Story of Nisei Resistance to Japanese Readers,” and is moderating a book talk with Prof. Morita  (who will be speaking in Japanese) and Nisei draft resisters Ken Yoshida and Mits Koshiyama. Kenji’s personal note tells the story:

This 600+ page book, published by Sairyusha Publishing Co. in Tokyo, is the first original Japanese language book solely dedicated to Nisei draft resistance. The back cover has an image of Frank Emi, and there are historical and contemporary photos interspersed throughout.

Professor Morita started interviewing Nisei resisters about five years ago, and the book includes results of interviews with folks like Frank Emi, Mits Koshiyama, George Nozawa, Jim Akutsu, Poston resisters, and the “Tucsconians” — resisters who were sentenced to the same federal labor camp as Gordon Hirabayashi. This latter group included my father Noboru, Joe Norikane and Susumu Yenokida of Granada (Amache), and Ken Yoshida (Topaz or Central Utah). There’s also a chapter on James Omura. I believe that this is the first book to include Granada and other resisters since Ellen Levine’s A Fence Away From Freedom.

As the son of a Nisei resister, I’m forever grateful to those of you who have helped to bring out this story. Frank Abe’s Conscience and the Constitution, Chizu Omori’s Rabbit in the Moon, and Eric Muller’s Free to Die For Their Country brought the story out to a wide audience. Hopefully, Prof. Morita’s book will bring the story to a new audience, in Japan and to Japanese-speakers here in America.

As you can imagine, his actual paying audience must be rather limited, and the small press probably has no marketing capabilities here. So, if you have any access to any library with a Japanese-language collection, I’m sure it would be appreciated if they are encouraged to purchase a copy. The book costs 7,200 yen, which is about $61 today. I actually have about 15 copies here that the publisher sent on Prof. Morita’s behalf, which Prof. Morita plans to sell at the event. If anyone can make the book event on Nov. 3, I can look into trying to set up some type of meal gathering.

“Japan Focus” online journal

Japan Focus logoAn online journal called Japan Focus (“regional and global perspectives on politics, economics, society, history & culture”) has posted a new article that references our film and draws some material from our PBS Online site and this one, including our photos of Frank Emi in camp and Mits Koshiyama in court.

Japanese-American Incarceration Resistance Narratives, and the Post 9/11 Era” opens with a quote from James Omura and examines our film and Satsuki Ina’s remarkable From A Silk Cocoon in the context of “fifty years of Japanese American counternarratives challenging prevailing views about the incarceration experience.”

Author Jean Miyake Downey says:

“Many thanks for your inspiration and sharing news of inspiring resisters during this time when we need to speak out again… My background is in the African American Civil Rights Movement/Solidarity Movement in Poland (nonviolent social change movements) and, growing up in the 1970’s and not graduating from law school until 1988, in Florida, I bought the official versions of the incarceration, even though they smacked “false” to me.

“Before the age of internet, I remember seeing very little about the redress movement and Civil Liberties Act in the paper, and the takes were spinned, to minimize important aspects of the history. Of course, I knew about Fred Korematsu, but nothing about the FPC and other protesters.”

Frank Chin also sent a 29-page script for what looks to be a proposed staged reading involving himself and the Heart Mountain resisters:

“Here’s a piece linking the camp resistance that began with Hirababyashi, the draft resisters and Ehren Watada.”

The script is titled “CITIZENS DEFENSE OF THE CONSTITUTION: THE JAPANESE AMERICAN RESISTANCE TO CAMPS OF 1942 to THE RESISTANCE OF LT. EHREN WATADA OF 2006.”

Read it online, unedited, as a PDF document.

Op-ed by high schooler based upon viewing of our film

An eventful Day of Remembrance just past. The Fresno Bee on Feb. 19 published an op-ed from 16-year old Marissa Honda, an insightful piece in which she speaks of her faith in her generation to remember the legacy of the draft resisters, in contrast to her older relatives who lived through those times:

I can tell by their shifty eyes and serious expressions that many of them still feel embarrassed by those who might have been seen as disloyal Americans. It is as if by supporting the resisters after 50 years, they still fear being labelled as disloyal Americans themselves.

It’s a remarkable piece, inspired in part from a viewing of our film. You can read “Japanese draft resisters deserve better,” as a 1MB PDF file to see how it looked in the paper. Renews one’s hope for the future.

Two law school journals examine the Japanese American draft cases

Two new law school journal articles examine the Japanese American draft cases.

Seattle University forum noticeThe most recent is by Seattle University Law Professor Lorraine Bannai. Its publication in the Seattle Journal for Social Justice is being marked with a Day of Remembrance event, “Honoring Courage: Remembering the Japanese American Internment” on Wednesday, February 15, at 5:00 p.m. in the second floor gallery of Sullivan Hall, 901 12th Avenue. The event is co-sponsored by the school’s Asian Pacific Islander Law Student Association. It’s free and open to the public.

“I’ve written an article, focusing on Fred Korematsu, Gene Akutsu, and Yosh Kuromiya for their resistance to the WWII internment. I drew from the Conscience and the Constitution website and film and am grateful for all of your work.

“To launch the issue of the Seattle Journal for Social Justice that the article will appear in, Seattle U. is hosting the event described in the attached. Gene will be speaking at the event. We very much would like to have members of the Japanese American community here to recognize the courage of those who were interned.

“Again, thank you for your work on the resisters’ cause, upon which I could draw.”
— Lori Bannai

The other article was published by our good friend Professor Eric Muller, in the Spring 2005 edition of Law and Contemporary Problems, a quarterly published by the Duke University School of Law. Never short for words, Eric is Special Editor of the entire issue devoted to “Judgments Judged and Wrongs Remembered: Examining the Japanese American Civil Liberties Cases On Their Sixtieth Anniversary.” The entire issue is worth reading and is posted online.

Eric’s article,”A Penny for Their Thoughts: Draft Resistance at the Poston Relocation Center,” adds to our knowledge of the inner workings of the Poston resistance and the different sentences handed to three different groups of Poston resisters, with exhaustive research into Richard Nishimoto’s diary, Community Analysis reports and letters from the project attorney.

Capsule review: Seattle Times

The Seattle Times today published a capsule review of our film, in advance of our Saturday screening at the Seattle Public Library as part of the “Seattle Reads” program for Julie Otsuka’s 2002 novel, When the Emperor Was Divine.

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.

Abe will be present for a post-film discussion.