Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Incarceration and Reservations: Japanese and Native Americans Intersect

"This country has had a history of forced evacuation and detention of non-white Americans." --Bernie Whitebear, United Indians of All Tribes Foundation

Politically oppressed people of color share storylines in American history. Asian immigrants and their descendants were subjected to legal discrimination designed to diminish them as individuals and economic competitors. African Americans experienced as much and worse. The story of how the first Americans were driven from their lands, traditions, and livelihoods stands as a terrible precursor for the government's treatment of Japanese Americans during World War II. The connection is more direct than some would suspect. Like the Bureau of Indian Affairs, charged with managing the country's displaced Native American population, the War Relocation Authority managed the displaced Japanese American population by penning them in desolate government-controlled territories. The connection does not end there.

Read more of this article.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Auction to Help Densho - Tom Ikeda

For a non-profit, raising money is always challenging. One of the fun things we do is to have a silent auction at our annual Sushi & Sake Fest on Nov 5th. I say fun because we get to spend time looking over an amazing array of items. One item that caused some chuckles is the “Seen on TV” basket with the Magic Bullet, Snuggie, Moving Men, Open It, Underbed, Windowshield Wonder, Pedipaws, Ped Egg and Ove Glove!

Doing an auction is also an excuse to contact old friends for favors. I just heard that my junior high, high school, and college classmate, Kenny G, is generously donating an autographed saxophone. Luckily he is still talking to me after I advised him in high school to give up his music ambitions and stick to business!

Other notable auction items include:

BOSSHIKO live painting at the event

Roger Federer autographed tennis racquet with case

Suite tickets to the Seattle Sounders (this is for my soccer friend fanatics!)

Gerard Tsutakawa sculpture

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Restoring a Lapsed Asian American Initiative

Yesterday at a White House ceremony, President Barack Obama signed an executive order re-establishing an advisory commission "to improve the quality of life of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders through increased participation in Federal programs where they may be underserved (e.g., health, human services, education, housing, labor, transportation, and economic and community development)."

The AAPI initiative was begun under the Clinton administration but expired during the Bush administration. You can read the president's signing remarks and view a video of the ceremony. (photo: Press Trust of India)

During the signing ceremony, Obama recognized Nisei vets in the audience. He rejected the "model minority" myth and pointed out the wide diversity of the AAPI community. In a nice show of cultural diversity, he then lit a diya lamp to observe Diwali, the ''Festival of Lights'' celebrated across faiths in India. This is a first.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Value of Freedom

We've been wondering what Roxana Saberi has been doing since her release from prison in Iran, where she was falsely charged with espionage. This Salt Lake City news article (photo credit: Keith Johnson, Deseret News) reports on a lecture she gave there with veteran newsman Daniel Schorr.

Saberi, a U.S.-born journalist of Iranian and Japanese descent, recounted incidents of censorship preceding her sudden arrest in Tehran. Written from the perspective of a young female Iranian American, the book she was researching promised to be fascinating even before her personal drama heightened the mix.
Saberi told the audience, "I hope you will value the freedoms you have. I didn't realize the value of freedom until I was deprived of it."

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Embargoed Interview: Ehren Watada

This month we announced the addition of what could be a controversial interview to the Densho Digital Archive. In our October eNews, you can preview a video clip of Densho's interview with Ehren Watada, the Army lieutenant who refused deployment to Iraq on the grounds that the war is illegal. You may consider Watada either a hero or a coward, depending on how you feel about the war in Iraq and a soldier's obligation to follow orders. This news article tells how Watada was allowed to resign from the Army after being court-martialed for charges that could have led to six years in prison.

We conducted the interview in 2006 but embargoed it until Lt. Watada's legal situation was resolved. In the featured clip, Watada describes feeling betrayed when he discovered there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The full interview is available with free registration to the archive.

We are curious to know what people think about Ehren Watada's stance. I imagine the veterans and others among our readers could have lively discussion on the subject. Feel free to post a comment. Patricia Kiyono

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Frank Sumida Interview in LA

A couple of weeks ago I was in LA and through an introduction from Barbara Takei of the Tule Lake Committee, did a fascinating interview with Frank Sumida. Frank shared glimpses of the Japanese gangster element that was present in LA's Little Tokyo before the war. He talked about how some of these gangsters noticed him as a teenage boy on the streets, and how he later met them in detention camps in Santa Anita and Santa Fe. These meetings eventually led Frank to help run gambling operations in both these camps. Tom Ikeda

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Freshly Minted Videos - Watch on YouTube

For our latest teacher resource CD (available on request) we produced short videos to illustrate key points of Japanese American history. Teachers have been asking us for a summary video for ages, so we're glad to finally comply (with the help of funding from the National Park Service and 4Culture).

We also posted the new videos to our YouTube channel, where you'll find excerpts of Densho's interviews with Nisei, who share their memories of working on family farms, discovering they were less American than they thought after Pearl Harbor, along with other up and down experiences during and after World War II.

The first of five videos is on prewar Japanese American communities. The photos and voices are all from our Digital Archive, which teachers and other researchers can use free of charge. We hope educators will let their fellow teachers know about Densho's online curricula and huge bank of primary resources.

Frances Tashiro Kaji Interview in LA

Last week I was in Los Angeles and had the opportunity to do a video recorded interview with Frances Tashiro Kaji. Writer Martha Nakagawa helped arrange the meeting and assisted during the life history interview. Having Martha's help was invaluable as her local knowledge of Los Angeles introduced us to great people and stories. Frances gave us vivid descriptions of prewar Gardena and a glimpse into her father's life as a prominent doctor in the community. Tom