Monday, June 28, 2010

Civil Liberties Notes: Art and Law

Over the weekend, a two-day symposium on civil liberties in Twin Falls, Idaho, was presented by the National Park Service, Friends of Minidoka, and College of Southern Idaho. The symposium is associated with the annual pilgrimage to the Minidoka National Historic Site, "home" to nearly 10,000 Japanese Americans during World War II. A Southern Idaho TV station did a story on the symposium, and Twin Falls newspaper interviewed a presenter. This year's symposium was about art as related to civil liberties in the camps (drawing by Jack Matsuoka).

In a separate press release we learned that four Asian American civil liberties groups are joining forces under a new name, Asian American Center for Advancing Justice. The four affiliating organizations--the Asian American Institute (AAI), Asian American Justice Center (AAJC), Asian Law Caucus (ALC) and Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC)--will maintain their regional offices but will unite in national initiatives. Karen K. Narasaki, president and executive director of AAJC, stated, "As independent organizations coordinating around a set of shared vision and values, we will work to promote a fair and equitable society for all; strengthen civil and human rights; and empower the Asian American, Pacific Islander and other marginalized communities."

Friday, June 18, 2010

C-SPAN American History Broadcasts Densho Interviews

This weekend C-SPAN 3 will broadcast Densho's interview with Medal of Honor veteran George "Joe" Sakato. The C-SPAN American History channel has broadcast a half dozen full-length video oral histories from our collection and will air additional Densho oral histories this year.

Joe Sakato served with the all-Nisei 442nd Regimental Combat team during World War II. On a French battlefield, his courageous charge up a hill into enemy fire earned him the Distinguished Service Cross, which was later upgraded to the Medal of Honor. In this oral history recorded for Densho, Sakato recalls his war experiences – including his vivid description of his actions on October 29, 1944, which led to recognition of his "extraordinary heroism" in the Battle of the Lost Battalion.

The Sakata interview will be broadcast in two parts: Part 1 on Saturday at 2:50pm (Eastern Time) and 8:50pm, and Sunday at 8:50am; Part 2 on Sunday at 2:10pm and 8:10pm, and Monday at 8:10am. The Densho interviews can also be viewed online at the C-SPAN website.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

International Internees: The Family Camp at Crystal City

"The bitterness of the incarceration was there, but they were able to circumvent it somehow and live a pretty decent community family life." -- Mako Nakagawa

Days after the Texas Board of Education voted to amend the state's social studies curriculum in order to correct a perceived liberal bias, a Texas chapter in Japanese American history comes to mind. According to press accounts, among the changes the school board made to the curriculum is "an amendment stressing that Germans and Italians as well as Japanese were interned in the United States during World War II, to counter the idea that the internment of Japanese was motivated by racism." An internment camp in the south Texas town of Crystal City did hold German and Japanese internees, as well as prisoners deported from Latin America and a half-dozen Italians. Other internment camps across the country held a mix of foreign nationals. But the fact that the U.S. government interned European immigrants in no way negates the racism that led to the mass incarceration of Japanese Americans.