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.
The resisters’ readers theater presentation, “A Divided Community,” will be presented on Saturday, March 11, 2006, at 2:00 p.m., at the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy in Los Angeles.
See the flyer which makes nice use of Yosh Kuromiya’s original water color sketch of Heart Mountain. As before, three of the original resisters from the Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee members will take part in the staged reading. Yosh Kuromiya, Frank Emi, and Mits Koshiyama, in the center of the photo below, will be joined by WW2 veteran Paul Tsuneishi (far left) and actors Momo Yashima (far right) and Mike Hagiwara.
The program will be repeated at UCLA on May 2, 2006, at Kinsey Pavilion.
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 new law school journal articles examine the Japanese American draft cases.
The 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
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.