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.
Screenings are set this Tuesday, Feb. 3, at the Rockridge Branch Library in Oakland and around Feb. 14 in New York City for their Day of Remembrance ceremony. The Oakland screening is sponsored by the “Not In Our Name” anti-military campaign and accompanied with a group discussion.
I want to thank resister Mits Koshiyama and his wife (right) for coming to the funeral of my sister Patricia on Jan. 25 at the Berkeley Buddhist Temple. Pat passed away on Jan. 18 after a lengthy illness. Mits drove up from San Jose to offer comfort, and his presence meant so much to me.
John Streamas writes from Bowling Green that a memorial service has been set for Nisei poet Toyo Suyemoto, “on the early afternoon of Saturday, March 6, probably on the campus of the Ohio State University.”
Details are now online for the Feb. 20-21 symposium hosted by the University of Oregon’s Center for Critical Theory and Transnational Studies. The panel, “Japanese-American Internment and Its Contemporary Implications,” features an opening talk by writer Frank Chin and a panel on camp experiences with Chin, Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee leader Frank Emi, Jim Hirabayashi, younger brother of curfew violator and draft resister Gordon Hirabayashi, Ashland poet Lawson Inada, and Peggy Nagae. Chin writes that he will “be making presentations on the JACL betrayal of civil rights and the resisters who went to court in defense of civil rights.” His newest book, Born in the USA, draws from interviews conducted for Conscience and the Constitution and his other years of extensive research. The book is not carried in bookstores but you can order it online from Amazon.com by using this link. Our review of the book is scheduled for publication in the fall issue of Amerasia Journal. Incidentally, Frank’s landmark play Year of the Dragon has just been issued on DVD; the best price I’ve seen is online is nearly half off list price by using this link to Deep Discount DVD.