A weekly magazine-style radio show featuring the voices and stories of Asians and Pacific Islanders from all corners of our community. The show is produced by a collective of media makers, deejays, and activists.
Powerleegirls Hosts Miko Lee & Jalena Keane-Lee present Holding Our History, a #NeverAgain series overview on the Japanese American incarceration during WW II. Featuring: Frank Abe, Sita Bhaumik, Lisa Doi, Satsuki Ina, Mike Ishii, Jeff Matsuoka, Assembly Member Al Muratsuchi, Flora Ninomiya, Bekki Shibayama, John Tateishi, Nina Wallace, and Libia Yamamoto.
Thank you to the California Civil Liberties Public Education Fund for supporting this program. Study guide and educator training coming soon. For more information email: [email protected]
Show Transcript for #NeverAgain Holding Our History
Opening: [00:00:00] Asian Pacific expression unity and cultural coverage, music and calendar revisions influences Asian Pacific Islander. It’s time to get on board. The Apex Express. Good evening. You’re tuned in to Apex Express.
Jalena Keane-Lee: [00:00:18] We’re bringing you an Asian American Pacific Islander view from the Bay and around the world. We are your hosts, Miko Lee and Jalena Keane-lee the powerleegirls, a mother daughter team.
Miko: [00:00:28] welcome to our series, Never Again, stories about the exclusion and detention of Japanese Americans during world war II. Shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, president Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed executive order 9066, which unjustly called Japanese Americans a threat. Over 120,000 Japanese Americans and Latin Americans were incarcerated for over three years. The majority of the Japanese American detainees were from the West coast where they had excelled and creating robust farmlands. Pressure from the white farm industry was a major factor in pushing forth the racist internment policy.
Jalena Keane-Lee: [00:01:06] We talked with surviving detainees about their experiences then, and now, as they continue to be active agents for change. We also highlighted the work of activists today many of whom carry their generational concentration camp experience into their advocacy for civil rights and civil liberties
Miko Lee: [00:01:23] when we first started working on this, we wanted to find out more about the impact of the Japanese American incarceration and the elders who have become these amazing resistance warriors in the fight against migrant children detention.
Jalena Keane-Lee: [00:01:41] We started out being interested in, Tsuru for solidarity. We were going to go with them and document their pilgrimage down to crystal city. Then COVID hit and we were really grateful to be able to explore these kinds of stories and talk about ancestor legends, many of whom are still living that experience, Japanese incarceration, and that have so much to teach us about this present moment. We got even more passionate as certain things were coming out about the migrant detention centers and the caging of children. We were thinking about the history of this country and that Japanese incarceration, both what happened and the aftermath all the work that was done to get reparations was a great thing that our community needed to know more about. We need to talk more about, because it’s so relevant to this time that we’re living in and it shows how intersectional all of our struggles are.
Miko Lee: [00:02:28] There’s so many different things that I learned from all of these conversations that we had. One of the biggest things I realized was the use of language and how important it is for the community, for all of us to reclaim the narrative through our own language. So one of the first things was about the difference of the terminology “internment” that’s used in history books versus “incarceration.” Which is what the community has claimed. It was actually an forced incarceration of Japanese American peoples.
Jalena Keane-Lee: [00:03:02] Honestly, growing up in the bay area, growing up in California, I don’t even remember really being taught that much about what was then called Japanese internment. I felt like we would have these different class assignments and I would do an assignment about it. I think in the racial reckoning that happened in the past year and a half, it’s been quite shocking how many people don’t even know that it ever happened.
Miko Lee: [00:03:25] Yeah. There’s so many hidden stories behind it, but in fact, people don’t even know the entire incarceration happened. So it’s quite shocking. The other language that we learned during the series was about the difference between “resister” versus “no-no boys.” “No-no boys” refers to signing ” no” on this loyalty questionnaire that came out during the time of the camps and the language was really confusing. There were people that signed, ” no.” And people, even from the same family, sometimes one signed yes and one signed. No. That distinction between no-no boys and resistors, I think became really apparent in our conversation with Frank Abe and Tamiko. That idea of resistors being people that thought, no, this is absolutely not okay and we need to fight this injustice is so much more embracing than this kind of old fashioned. “No, no boys.”
Jalena Keane-Lee: [00:04:20] Yeah. Sometimes when people are just beginning their activism journey or their political awakening, the language, and what to say, what not to say can be really difficult to navigate and that’s just something that I want to acknowledge that yeah. When it’s hard, when terms change and then things change, but we all, are learning and evolving as language learns and evolves. It’s really interesting, not only to hear what terminology people are embracing, but also the reasoning behind it and how it makes people feel and what the broader impacts of the word that we choose are..
Miko Lee: [00:04:52] For sure. I also think that the fact that no boys became the words that are used so frequently really came out of John Okada’s famous book, it shows also the power of art, the power of the storytelling to set the narrative. I really liked that so many members of the community are reclaiming that to say, no, it’s resistors. It’s broader than just saying no. No. And it’s broader than being about boys. It’s about resilience. Resisting this horrible atrocity that happened.
Jalena Keane-Lee: [00:05:22] It’s doing it in a way that’s still paying respect to “no-no boys” and to even, having a term for it. A big part of storytelling is that it’s not something that’s fixed. You’re doing it, but it can always be added upon or changed or altered and developed in the field.
Miko Lee: [00:05:35] Here’s author and activist. Frank Abe speaking out about no, no boys.
Frank Abe: [00:05:41] No-nos and no, no boys. The thing to understand is that those who answered no committed, no acts of disloyalty, what the government did was through this questionnaire. It created inadvertently an administrative class of people who are called “no-nos” because they didn’t answer yes to the loyalty question had to be logically in a binary way, classified as disloyal. No-no disloyal because they didn’t say yes at all too. Therefore they were disloyal. The stigma of dis loyalty was furthered by the segregation Tule Lake and by the government’s continued propaganda that these people were disloyal. And of course, JCL is embracing of that brand of destigmatizing and urging segregation as well to protect their own members who are getting beat up in camp. The segregees of Tule Lake committed no overt acts of disloyalty. They did nothing against the U S government against the war effort. They did nothing to aid Japan in this war effort. How could they’re inside a prison camp in California? These people were not disloyal. And yet even our own community all the scholars everyone keeps talking about know disloyal is that you’d be like our so-called disloyals at Tule Lake And as you can tell it really sets me off
Miko Lee: [00:07:00] The other thing that really stood out to me was the question of loyalty, which is actually a book and a movie, but this idea of what is loyalty and what is disloyalty. Here’s Satsuki Ina speaking out about Tule lake and the meaning of disloyal
Satsuki: [00:07:14] Many of the people who were sent to Tule Lake, for example, were labeled “disloyal” by the government, and also labeled disloyal by fellow Japanese Americans who answered “yes” to the loyalty questionnaire. Many of them that I spoke to internalize the fact that they were disloyal. When in fact there was no loyalty issue ever. There was never one single person ever convicted of sabotage or fifth column activities.
Miko Lee: [00:07:38] So many of our different guests talked about how this loyalty disloyalty was tied into the model minority myth.
Jalena Keane-Lee: [00:07:44] Here’s Satsuki Ina again.
Satsuki: [00:07:45] our parents would urge us to, study hard to, never misbehave, never be disrespectful. and, so it made us meet that, myth of the model minority, and from my perspective, the model minority behavior of, excelling and overachieving and forever endeavoring to be good enough, came out of the psychological consequences of years of incarceration without any Cause
Miko Lee: [00:08:15] The model minority trope was used as this tool. Just to be able to question one’s patriotism. And this idea about patriotism came up a lot in our interviews
Jalena Keane-Lee: [00:08:24] it’s interesting in the immigrant context, this idea of patriotism. When we think about intersectional struggles with indigenous people and with enslaved people in this country we can think about patriotism in a different way. Even if we’re sold this like American dream or golden mountain or whatever it is that, we believe in, or our ancestors believed in to come to this country. That dream doesn’t always apply to us..
Miko Lee: [00:08:46] Absolutely. Multiple guests talked about what it means to be patriotic is to speak out and to do an act of civil disobedience. Here’s Satsuki Ina
Satsuki: [00:08:57] To me an act of civil disobedience is of the trauma that people suffered. It’s like speaking out against, and really clarifying to yourself and to the world that what was done to you was unjust. That’s how we make change is to color outside of the lines to push back when there is oppression. Because that’s part of democracy, that’s part of being a patriot.
Miko Lee: [00:09:25] That’s what patriotism means. Not necessarily just, signing up to fight in world war II, which was used as a tool to get Japanese Americans that were incarcerated to, sign up to fight, to show that you’re American. We know the famous fighting troop that was gloried that Senator Daniel Inouye was part of that won all these awards because they were busy just trying to say, I’m American. At the same time their families were locked up. It’s a double-edged sword, right? Who really is American or not? The other language that we talked about was around the terminology of Japanese, Latin American. We did a whole episode about what happened to the Japanese Latin Americans that were kidnapped. Here’s Bekki Shibayama talking about her family’s experience when they were kidnapped from Lima, Peru.
Bekki Shibayama: [00:10:13] My father’s family had a successful life in Lima, Peru when the U S government collaborated with the Peruvian government to capture and kidnaps Japanese Peruvians, including my family for use in hostage exchange with Japan for our prisoners of war. Our U S government went into 13 Latin American countries and kidnapped people and brought them to the U S and put them in America’s concentration camps. My father and his family were captured and taken to a U.S. Army transport in Kao, which is the port city of Lima. They were shipped across international waters to the U. S. They arrived in new Orleans. Louisiana and on the way their passports and identification documents were seized and taken away from them so that when they arrived and were processed through U S immigration, they didn’t have any immigration documents. The U.S. Government used that as justification to arrest them and put them in concentration camps. My father and his family were put in the crystal city interment camp in Texas. They were imprisoned with other Japanese, Latin Americans. During their entire internment my grandfather had planned to return to Peru since he had obtained so much success there. But unfortunately Peru would not allow them to return. And since it was a war torn country, he decided he didn’t want to re turning to Japan. The only option left for them was to try to remain in the U S. They were really people without country to call their own.
Miko Lee: [00:12:22] Crystal city, Texas is the site where Becky Shibayama’s father was held and it’s also the site that was a part of this big pilgrimage caravan and protests that initially we were going to be a part of and that actually inspired this whole series. It was at that pilgrimage that the food artists Sita Bhumik attended here’s her telling about it.
Sita: [00:12:43] I first heard about the caravan through elders who participated in people’s kitchen collective event. We had in 2018 held a meal in remembrance of executive order, and 9066 and we really wanted to connect with Japanese American groups and elders in particular intergenerationally. That we’re using their experience to really address everything that was happening like right here, right now with incarceration, detention camps, a Muslim ban and registry. I just was so blown away by the activism of 80 and 90 year old, amazing, energetic elders that I met through the process, including the Nikkei resistors and I heard a lot of them talk about two things. One was the pilgrimage, but actually also this term, Japanese, Latin American, which I had really never heard before and I heard first from grace Shimizu and I was like wait what did you say? It was one of those things where I was shocked that I had never heard the term because I am Japanese Latin American I just didn’t know that there were more of us
Miko Lee: [00:13:46] so much of her storytelling of Sita’s work as an artist, as a food activist, as a community activist has wrapped around that idea of identity and storytelling. She, has done these great, beautiful events where she gets former incarcerated Japanese Americans to tell their stories and then have a big meal about it. A huge impact of this whole series is how storytelling can be used as a tool for social change.
Jalena Keane-Lee: [00:14:15] Yeah. I think even of course, that’s true and even going a little bit deeper, also exploring, how difficult that can be to have to tell those stories and have to relive those moments and think about that. As we said earlier, I learned so much through doing it. It’s really important for people to tell their stories and for people to listen to their stories. But also once you hear it once, you know, then what are you going to do about it?
Miko Lee: [00:14:38] One of our guests, Frank Abe was one of the creators of day of remembrance. It’s a community event to remember to storytell about what happened. Here’s Lisa doi from Chicago and Jeff Matsuoka from the bay area speaking about day of remembrance.
Lisa Doi: [00:14:53] Day of Remembrance is a commemoration event that happens across the country, different cities do different things. It’s been happening for a few decades in Chicago, and we always try to commemorate the signing of executive order 9066 on a Sunday, closest to February 19th.
Jeff Matsuoka: [00:15:12] The day of remembrance was really the first kind of formal recognition of the fact that, we had to remember what had happened to our parents and grandparents with the eye of making sure that, this type of thing would never happen again.
Miko Lee: [00:15:29] That’s an important annual event to just keep saying what happened to you and share it.
Jalena Keane-Lee: [00:15:34] It’s so good to share it though. I don’t think survivors should feel pressured. Like they have to, if it’s something that feels healing for you, then it’s great, but you don’t owe anyone your story.
Miko Lee: [00:15:44] Absolutely. Oh, the storytelling thing is so deep. So many things struck me around memory. I was just blown away by Libya Yamamoto . She was able to tell these stories as if they happened yesterday with such emotion and just even her story about her doll that she loves so much and how they were tossing it away while they were rummaging through the luggage that they were bringing with them. It was so vivid. How she told that story. It was quite heartbreaking. You and I had a conversation later about, are we retraumatizing folks? What does that mean for people to telling their stories? At what point is it healing? And at what point is it retraumatizing somebody to tell their story?
Jalena Keane-Lee: [00:16:32] It’s hard to know, but yeah,
Miko Lee: [00:16:37] it’s a tough one. I think this intergenerational trauma that has woven through this entire series has been so deep and profound. I keep looking at Satsuki Ina’s whose work as a psychotherapist and filmmaker has been focused around that. she did those series of gatherings where she pulled together. Issei and Sansei folks who were children in the camps and had these events where they would talk about it. It was absolutely a healing tool for them to talk about it because their parents didn’t talk about it.
Jalena Keane-Lee: [00:17:13] I think the storytelling it’s such an important part of healing to be able to share your story, to be heard. To be able to articulate things and memories and just feel your feelings. I’m glad that we were able to create a space for that and to talk to a lot of different people about their approaches to that while also holding that, no one should feel obligated to do that. It really is important that we did it in a medium that is recorded in that can be accessed by future generation.
Miko Lee: [00:17:39] In fact as John Tateishi pointed out those first person stories, the Issei stories were actually the impetus for redress. It was the way the community was able to get reparations was by hearing those first person stories by making it real so that it’s not something that’s in a textbook. This many people were locked up, but it’s actually what that experience was.
Jalena Keane-Lee: [00:18:04] I also think a lot left out. And our textbooks don’t teach about Japanese Latin-Americans. They don’t teach about Japanese incarceration. They teach about Japanese interment and maybe it’s a few pages.
Miko Lee: [00:18:17] And as we found out, there’s even for folks that are teaching about, and there’s all these missing stories that Nina Wallace has been uncovering with Densho all the stories about women and queer folks. We don’t hear any of those really.
Jalena Keane-Lee: [00:18:29] That was such a valuable and important perspective. I really liked talking with Nina. It’s just one of those things where it’s oh, of course this happened. And of course these intersections were present in the camps, but you just never hear about it. I just really, She had all of her research and everything that she was telling us about, and it struck me too, because the timing was right when that news had been released about the hysterectomies that were happening to migrant women at the border. And so for her to be able to link that to hysterectomy is happening. in Japanese Incarceration and just thinking in a very intersectional way, how controlling reproduction, and controlling women and femme bodies has been one of the main methods of control and colonialism
Miko Lee: [00:19:11] right everywhere in the world.
Jalena Keane-Lee: [00:19:13] Yes. Including here.
Miko Lee: [00:19:15] The other women’s story that I learned about for the first time was about Mitsui Endo. That was amazing to hear about this woman who won a court case and was actually shy and didn’t want to be in the limelight and is now, in Chicago working for racial justice. I love that.
Jalena Keane-Lee: [00:19:32] I love that too. I did not know about her either. We talk about this a lot, but I think it has to do with every part of the approach, in our histories, as Asian Americans, we usually have male historians. We usually have male record-keepers, that aren’t asking these questions that aren’t thinking about these other dynamics that are just going to like the easiest person or the one that’s most vocal or the one they relate to most. That’s why I feel like women like Mitsui endo are so important. It just reminds us that there always were women that were resistors that were dissenters and some of them even won. Here is Frank Abe. Talking about mitsui endo
Frank Abe: [00:20:08] The reason why know so little of Endo, besides the fact that she was shy, unassuming and refuse to talk to the press after the war was that she won her case. The only reason we know a lot about Korematsu, Hirabayashi and Yasui is because Peter Irons in San Diego, found the evidence to reopen their cases in 1985 and get them back in federal court. So we got a lot of publicity around the cora novis cases. They get medals of freedom and, books written about them, nothing about Endo, because her case could not be reopened because she won.
Jalena Keane-Lee: [00:20:41] I love that story. we need to share more widely stories of successes. That’s why I think it’s really important for our community too. Be really vocal about Japanese incarceration and reparations and people that, sued the government and won because there’s so much ways that can be helpful for other communities. One of my favorite moments from our series was Satsuki Ina talking about seeing her father’s picture in the Smithsonian museum. That story it stuck out so vividly to me.
Miko Lee: [00:21:09] That just blew me away. I could just perfectly imagine the shock that must have been. Let’s hear Satsuki tell it?
Satsuki: [00:21:16] The Smithsonian Institute had a exhibit about the Japanese American experience, it was a year that redress and reparations was happening for the Japanese American community where the government apologized and, offered a symbolic, monetary, amount of $20,000. I went to see that exhibit at the Smithsonian and, turned the corner and looked right into this large photograph of men standing inside of a jail cell at Tule Lake. I recognize my father, I’d never seen the photo before. I also never knew that when we were in Tule Lake, that there was a jail within a jail, and that my father was placed there.
Jalena Keane-Lee: [00:21:58] Yes. It was interesting in the context of the museum. it made me think a lot about record keeping and who gets to keep and hold history. But also that it must’ve been such an emotional and intense experience to recognize your own family and that setting.
Miko Lee: [00:22:11] So I was living in DC when that Smithsonian exhibit was up and I remember walking through there and being shocked to see so many Asian American people up on the walls. I remember the exhibit. I can picture the picture exactly. I remember there was a bunch of white folks behind me and they were saying, oh, this doesn’t look so bad. They were lucky. And being shocked by that. Yeah. That was the reaction because I was sucker punched. I felt one, a shock to see Asian-American folks on the walls two, a shock, to see the story being told in this way. And then 3 to hear there’s somebody right next to me had such a different reaction. I can’t even imagine seeing my father up there, what she must’ve gone through the different kinds of emotions. She’s ended up making films since that films about their experience going through the camps and dealing with that intergenerational trauma, she has found a way, Satsuki, to funnel that energy into making these incredibly powerful films and making great change in the therapy community around intergenerational healing. So I’m in awe of her.
Jalena Keane-Lee: [00:23:20] Gosh, what a story. Yeah. The lack of empathy and others can be pretty devastating. But I’m glad that some Asian curator pushed them to do that exhibit.
Miko Lee: [00:23:31] So many of the people we interviewed talked about the impact that art has made on their experience. Mike Ishi talking about seeing that play, breaking the silence up in Seattle, Here’s Mike Ishi From Tsuru for solidarity talking about seeing a theater performance about the incarceration
Mike Ishii: [00:23:47] Nikki’s staged a play called Breaking the Silence. It was a story about incarceration of the Japanese American community. It was 1981 and she staged a performance at the university of Washington in one of their large auditorium as a fundraiser for the coram nobis case and support that effort for Gordon Hirabayashi. I remember being a young teenager and attending with my family, because of course my sisters in the production. Sold out house. The entire Japanese community is there. It was a very healing event and very emotional. I’m there with my entire family. At the intermission I go into the bathroom and all of the Nisei men are in the bathroom and they’re crying. They’re weeping. I was just, I was shocked. I didn’t know what to make of it. I wasn’t old enough to understand it well enough, but I knew that they were survivors and I knew that they felt like they couldn’t show that kind of emotion publicly but they couldn’t help themselves. It was just one of those moments where the dams broke open. I remember coming back to my family who are sitting in their seats and telling my. My mother and my grandmother and they were just, their eyes were wide. They were just, very emotionally moved and shocked by the power of that moment.
Miko Lee: [00:25:15] That’s powerful and so important.
Jalena Keane-Lee: [00:25:19] That reflection and that being seen it’s something that, has really been a theme of the Asian American experience of wanting to be seen and wanting to be validated.
Miko Lee: [00:25:27] So many of our people use multiple sensory ways to get people involved in the experience. Sita was talking about the archives of dust installation that she did:
Sita: [00:25:37] I had been hearing these stories of the dust storms in camps. A lot of the people that we interviewed for the people’s kitchen collective meal had been at Tule Lake. I’d heard of these crazy dust storm and just like this sand and dust seeping through the cracks of the barracks and just being inescapable. And then these crazy stories of the farm labor that was made possible by just sheer human effort. I had been talking to artist, Mark Baugh-Sasaki. We ended up shipping his 300 pounds of dust from Tule Lake out to Georgia for this museum exhibition. The material almost looked like velvet. When you looked at it. It has this kind of rough and smooth texture at the same time and this kind of like powdery, beige color. I made a mess of that museum. I literally created my own dust storm of Tule Lake dust within a museum.
Jalena Keane-Lee: [00:26:37] I just love the idea of taking up space in a museum and also creating such an immersive sensory art experience. Another thing art illuminates this generational difference and how different generations explore things in different ways, react to things in different ways. As part of the theme of this show, we’re an intergenerational team, obviously mother daughter team. These connections are really natural to us. And we can just see these differences. it always comes up in our interviews and I thought that was such a beautiful theme of the show. Especially around these different generations, the elders and Issei, not wanting to talk, wanting to maybe save face, to keep things inside also for their own emotional safety and kind of put their heads down and work. Then the Nisei and especially the Sansei using talking as healing and really seeing storytelling as an important method of healing. Really bringing the older generations around to the importance of storytelling. As we heard reparations, the stories of the Issei were absolutely crucial to getting reparations, because those are the stories that were the most emotionally impactful and therefore also the most difficult to tell it. Here’s Satsuki Ina discussing trauma and healing and how those two things are interrelated and interconnected
Satsuki: [00:27:54] It’s such an important piece for the treatment and the healing of trauma. It’s a double bind because it’s painful to relive this story, but it’s also a healing to share it with others, outside of yourself, and be able to look at it from a different perspective because during the moment of the trauma and this was chronic trauma because my parents were incarcerated for four and a half years. The trauma itself requires, a way of thinking about it that is altered, because you’re in a survival mode. When you don’t retell the story or relive it in some way, share it with others, the thought that was attached to the moment stays rigid, fixed, and sometimes the thoughts are very self-blaming, irrational, negative self incriminating thoughts and, helplessness and powerlessness. When people share their stories and, others listened to it, witnesses to that story can often reframe for the person the way that they viewed themselves during that trauma.
Jalena Keane-Lee: [00:29:03] Another intergenerational point was, have different the entire experience of Japanese incarceration was depending on your age, when you were in the camps and the kids versus the parents. I was really interested in the parents wanting to, create a sense of normalcy for their kids and how difficult how emotional that must’ve been to be wanting your kids to succeed and thrive even when, so severely incarcerated. I’m thinking of John talking about the impact of being incarcerated as a child.
John Tateishi: [00:29:32] I was maybe five when I realized that everyone inside the camp was Japanese. Those who came in and left were always white that they could leave, but we were not allowed to leave. seeing these guards with rifles in these towers and the search lights at night, and the fact that we were not allowed to leave Made me understand that we were prisoners, that this was a prison we were in. Essentially this is where my consciousness began. I had no idea what was out there to me that was America outside the perimeter of the fence. And so for me, it was a very strong awareness that being Japanese meant we were there that we were somehow unable to leave and that there was a demarcation of good and bad, safe, and unsafe and the way, as a child, you was, you would establish this kind of right wrong. All of that in my mind, it was very clear that dichotomy existed between Japanese white being in prison and being out there, which I didn’t at that point equate as free. we talked to each other as children. So we had a kind of catharsis from the experience. We talk because I think we were trying to understand what it all meant and what happened to us. And we were able to resolve a lot of the psychological parts of that experience. Because among us, it was shared.
Jalena Keane-Lee: [00:31:20] Next up, we hear Summer of 42 by Kishi Bashi from the album ‘Omoiyari.’ Even though Kishi and his family immigrated to the U S post-World war two, he created this album to address the current political climate. He felt that the talk of walls and bans on immigrants was the same kind of talk that sparked the interment camps after pearl Harbor in 1941
That was Summer of 42 by Kishi Bashi.
Miko Lee: [00:33:10] Welcome back. You’re tuned into apex express on 94.1 KPFA and 89.3 K PFB in Berkeley and [email protected] Next up, you’re going to hear from another one of our amazing storytellers, Libya Yamamoto. When she first arrived in the U S after being taken from her Homeland in Peru.
Libia Yamamoto: [00:33:31] I arrived in Louisiana, in new Orleans when we got off there. They were inspecting all our thing belongings. I had to watch our personal belongings because my mother had to take my brother to the restroom. I watched the inspectors inspecting somebody else’s and they will throw away. they were throwing things that were Japanese because they did not want any influence of the Japanese in their lives. They were throwing things into the water and I would see them floating and in the little canal. I would want to be protective of my things. There was one little doll that my father had brought home from a business trip when I was in a hospital. I had to spend my fourth birthday in the hospital because I nearly died from typhoid fever and I was in the hospital for about four months and he had brought home a souvenir of a Cupid doll and that it was such a cute doll and it was so meaningful to me. When my mother said you could bring one thing I brought that so when the inspector came by, I was hoping that he wouldn’t touch that. And I was worried. The inspector just put two his fingers through everything and didn’t take anything out. I was so relieved.
Jalena Keane-Lee: [00:35:10] Libia was such a powerful storyteller. She really conveyed the emotions that she was feeling and how it felt to be so young and not know what was going on.
Miko Lee: [00:35:19] I loved hearing about John’s stories about the camps. I totally agree with you on that. And Satsuki even talked about that, how everybody had a little different piece of a story and they put them all together. The way that the young folks tried to understand what happened to them was by talking about it and the fact that the elders didn’t talk about it, because it was seen as this shameful thing, because suddenly they’re not American, that they don’t belong. So painful. The fact that they were able to use the congressional hearings as this moment where they could come together and talk about it instead of letting it fester instead of not talking and just having this pain, broil inside. They had so many people that signed up for those congressional hearings to share their stories. And that was the change-making factor. So clearly that shows how critical it is for us to talk about our experiences so that we can move forward.
Jalena Keane-Lee: [00:36:23] Next up. We hear John Tateishi talk about the importance of Nisei stories and storytelling in the case for reparations.
John Tateishi: [00:36:30] The critical factor for us in all of this was the biggest risk of this whole strategy, which was to have the Nisei testify. But once they saw that this was something more than just the grab for money and that this was not just about somehow revenge, but it had a larger purpose. They started to break down that resistance and and once the dates of the hearings were made public, they were clamoring to be on the witness list. It was a real risk because if the Nisei didn’t react and refuse to testify, There was no way we could win this fight. It needed the Nisei support. One is they were the voice of the experience because those of us who were, Sansei we were all kids, the oldest Sansei was maybe 10 years old at the time of the incarceration. most people would look at that and say, what’s a 10, 10 year old kid know. We needed the Nisei. Besides the fact that they experienced the incarceration in ways that we never did. They understood exactly what was happening. They went through the loyalty questionnaire. They went through volunteering and going off to fight the war or resisting and answering no to the questionnaire. It wasn’t until these public hearings that the Nisei spoke. They were the ones who ultimately convinced the American public that in fact, this was a gross injustice.
Miko Lee: [00:38:18] Separately from that. I did love John’s story about the fishing club, just because I thought that was quite delightful this idea of these young folks, how could you rebel when you’re incarcerated?
Jalena Keane-Lee: [00:38:34] Yeah. So live there was still joy.
Miko Lee: [00:38:37] Yeah. They find this moment to sneak out under the fence and go out and go fishing and they had a club. That is so human and so lovely that this moment of just trying to find a sense of solace, despite living in a desert, also the whole metaphor of going out to a fishing hole in a desert is remarkable.
Jalena Keane-Lee: [00:39:02] It reminds me of “Minari” in some ways of finding that water in a really dry place and finding that sense of home and belonging through that.
Miko Lee: [00:39:10] I feel honored that we got the chance to talk with these elder activists . They really inspired me because they’re out there doing the work and talking about it and making change. Flora Niyomina who’s out there knitting these resist hats talking about her family experience and going into the Richmond high school every year to talk about what she went through. So that those students will know, one of their alumni, what happened to them. it’s A direct link with their place-based history. I think that’s wonderful. And she was such a delight. Here’s Flora Niyomina.
Flora: [00:39:51] I was in my seventies when I first started speaking and now I can’t keep my mouth shut
Miko: [00:39:58] Was there a thing that happened that made you that pushed you to open up about this?
Flora: [00:40:04] When you were speaking in public and trying to tell of your experience, you could talk honestly, and talk about this experience, even though you did not want to speak about it before. It gives you lots of freedom to speak in front of audience and speak that way. Speak your mind.
Miko: [00:40:26] So fast forward 9/11 happened and you decided “I have to get out there and say something.” What was your first action? How did you do that?
Flora: [00:40:36] It’s only when I connected everything and realized how this unfairness happens over and over again to each new group that comes to the United States seeking a better living. When you start connecting what the experience of the first immigrants was. Then you see it happening to every new group that comes the Vietnamese, the Muslims, the Filipinos, any of the Southeast Asians, the people that come from Africa to seek a better life here in the United States, it happens over and over again.
Miko Lee: [00:41:23] I appreciate how so many of these elders have taken this trauma that has happened to them and are moving it toward the future. That’s what the hashtag never again is all about. We asked Satsuki Ina if it was difficult to get elders involved in the social justice movement around detained immigrant kids.
Satsuki: [00:41:44] was so reminiscent of their own experience. There’s a powerful healing in standing up for someone else you value enough that you would take your time and your body and your effort, to stand up in opposition on behalf of someone else. people were ready.
Miko Lee: [00:42:02] During the entire series. We talk about the JACL, which stands for the Japanese American citizens league, which is the oldest Asian American civil rights organization. Founded in 1929. I appreciate how the JACL, which during the incarceration, we’re complicit in a lot of ways, they helped to build the loyalty questionnaire that was so questionable. But they were very much behind the reparations movement and John Tateishi that we interviewed talks about that in detail. Now they are a civil rights organization that is advocating for solidarity. We’ve seen a lot of changes with them over the years. The community as a whole has moved both Tsuru for Solidarity and the JACL and the day of remembrance have all now been focused on solidarity and reparations.
Jalena Keane-Lee: [00:42:52] I think that was the really important overall takeaway for me how these elders, they have the lived experience and they’re doing the work. A lot of times, as young people, we feel like we have to reinvent the wheel or like, why has everything been done this way for so long, but It’s important to be humble and to look to the elders that are doing the work and have been doing it for a long time.
Flora: [00:43:10] We’re doing this to show that we are still fighting the inequality in the United States. We’re fighting for freedom. We’re fighting for peace at the same time.
Jalena Keane-Lee: [00:43:23] Fighting inequality and fighting for freedom and our collective liberation fighting for peace and believing and living in peace is something that we can all get behind. And that needs intergenerational knowledge and wisdom to be able to succeed and win in that battle to get to freedom and liberation for all of us. Next up, listen to Kenji by Fort minor, the band created by Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda. This is a song about Mike’s father and his family that was incarcerated at Manzanar.
That was Mike Shinoda’s Kenji based upon his family story every generation has a different and important perspective on solidarity and reparations and this movement and are also necessary. It’s beautiful to hear how they really speak to one another throughout this episode and throughout the series. Next up we’ll hear from Mike Ishii One of the leaders of Tsuru for solidarity and Lisa Doi from JACL. about what they’re doing to push our movement forward
Mike Ishii: [00:46:08] our communities are going to come together in opposition and resistance to detention. To the continual targeting and imprisonment and mass incarceration of black and Brown people in memory and holding space for the people of all our communities, including the Japanese-American community who have had people forcibly removed. Detained had their family separated faced deportations and mass incarceration. Tsuru for Solidarity has just finished a longterm planning phase. We’re going to be spending the next period, building out relationships with the organizations that have historically mostly in the black community, been leading this long struggle for redress and reparations and who have really opened the way for an idea that that embraces. Really a reframing, a revisioning and a repairing of the United States, a country built on enslavement and murder and kidnapping of people of African heritage and attempted genocide of indigenous people. We really have a sense that this is a really powerful sea change moment for the country. If there’s any way that we can use our historical narrative to support this work, we’re happy to do so.
Lisa Doi: [00:47:36] we’re tying Japanese American redress to African-American reparations today. This broader national move behind bills, like HR 40 to think about how the us locally and federally can repair the harms of slavery and, be intentional about teaching that history. Understanding that history and doing repairative work around that history. HR 40 is a piece of legislation that has been introduced to Congress several times over several decades, it’s very similar to the bill that created the Japanese-American commission. It’s calling for the creation of a commission to study the history of slavery in the U S and think about what reparations look like, think about what repair it looks like.
Miko Lee: [00:48:26] And Why do you think it’s important to link the two horrific events in American history in terms of redress?
Lisa Doi: [00:48:34] Japanese American incarceration is a very different history than the very long history of slavery and Jim Crow and ongoing structural racism that African-Americans have whipped with for centuries. those parallels can be drawn without direct comparisons being made. Japanese-American redress stands as the only example of federal legislation that attempts to redress a historical wrong. There could be and should be longer conversations about the limits of the redress movement and what repair for the Japanese-American community looks like. Inevitably a part of American history. If you have any history within the United States, this is part of your history and you need to be part of the conversations that are thinking about what to do with this history and how to repair this very long history of racial violence.
Miko Lee: [00:49:35] Here’s California assembly member, Al Muratsuchi talking about solidarity.
Rep Muratsuchi: [00:49:41] We need to connect the dots see the parallels between the experiences of Japanese Americans during world war II and of course the long and tragic history of the experience of indigenous peoples in state of California, as well as across the country. Now there’s a growing movement. Not just in the black communities across the country, but including growing number of Japanese Americans are supporting this national movement to establish a national commission to examine the impacts of the ongoing legacy of slavery in the African-American communities
Jalena Keane-Lee: [00:50:13] That was representative Al Muratsuchi on the legacy of slavery and Japanese incarceration. Next step we have Satsuki Ina talking about healing and how that’s necessary for solidarity
Satsuki: [00:50:23] we met with and, connected with these other social justice groups. It was the beginning of another element of our approach which is to have healing circles for change afterwards, where we sit together in a circle across community and listen to each other’s stories. We found that to be such a powerful healing and a building a community of solidarity across our different communities. As a result, when it looked like the children were actually going to be arriving, those organizations contacted us because they’re in Oklahoma and had word, immediately that those children were about to be brought there, contacted us and asked us if we would join them in another larger protest. At that protest, we had an amazing, experience of true solidarity with all of these, organizations and, several, Buddhist monks, also joined in that action. The healing circles have been a way in which we don’t just shout and part and go our separate ways, but afterwards we come together and, we’ve participated in a really important action where very high energy and feel very connected with each other. To sit, and, share stories with each other. Such a powerful way of connecting in ways that we really have been prevented from connecting with each other across communities.
Jalena Keane-Lee: [00:51:49] I really appreciate Satsuki’s insight throughout this episode and when we interviewed her about healing and the transformative nature of healing and storytelling, and I think something that’s really important in movement work is that each individual is committed to their own personal healing and development and healing of intergenerational trauma and their own personal wounds. That personal healing journey in addition to collective healing like of is talking about, is really crucial, for getting deliberation and getting to the places that we all want to be. doing that personal healing is what allows us to show up in different movements and, in solidarity for other people and for our own people..
Miko Lee: [00:52:32] I absolutely agree with that. All throughout the series, one of the things we kept hearing is the power of storytelling, even for us to get to that place where we could be healing, we need to be understanding and digging into our personal stories and then sharing them with others. We could see the various ways that all of our guests help to share those stories about the incarceration with communities beyond just the Japanese American or Asian American community. They’ve done it in so many different ways. What are some of the ways our guests have shared their stories that stood out to you?
Jalena Keane-Lee: [00:53:08] Some of the mediums specifically that stood out to me with the comic book, which was super cool are the graphic novel, which was super cool. It was just really affirming and exciting to these kinds of stories represented in that format.
Miko Lee: [00:53:23] Sita did this amazing art piece, the archive of dust with 300 pounds of dust.
Jalena Keane-Lee: [00:53:29] I think there was a theme of museums throughout the show from Satsuki, seeing her own family’s picture in the Smithsonian to Sita, to being able to transform this whole exhibit and really bring people into the experience. I think is really important about movement work is that it takes all people with all different skills and. So even if that’s, if you’re a sculptor and you want to make something about Japanese incarceration or, any interest in talents can all be used to help share about our history and make sure that it’s not forgotten.
Miko Lee: [00:54:02] There’s other museums like the Japanese American history museum in Los Angeles that offers these tours that you could go on and even online potentials that you can learn more about the incarceration. A few of our guests talked about plays that they either wrote or saw and the impact seeing theater had on them. And then of course, Satsuki made this amazing film that was about her Program where she got together Nisei and Sansei folks that are from generations of the incarcerations, where they got together and shared these stories and that films called children of the camps. So not only did she do this interactive retreats where they experienced their emotions, their stories they shared with each other. They also created works of art together, and then that made it into a film. So multiple mediums to be able to share that experience with a broader audience. And of course Nina’s work scene in archive with Densho. Trying to tell these stories that have not been heard the stories about women, the stories about queer folks, and I love this just continuing to uncover parts of our history.
Jalena Keane-Lee: [00:55:11] Since we’re on our last episode, I wonder if it’s a good time to discuss why the series is called never again and what that means and what that stands for. It’s in reference to never, again, incarcerating people like Japanese Americans were incarcerated, but in this time where we see children and other migrants caged at the border. We see the legacy of slavery. We see the way the indigenous people are continued care, continually treated in this country on reservations that don’t have clean running water. I’m curious what that never again tagline or phrase means to you.
Miko Lee: [00:55:49] Hashtag never again was created by the powerful folks at Tsuru for solidarity around, as you said, the children detention that’s happening along the border. It was these elders that inspired this whole series saying this can not happen to people. This is going on right now, children taken away from their parents. Nearly 2,500 immigrant children are still being detained and last weekend. Tsuru for solidarity got folks together they went down to the military base in fort bliss texas to protest and you can get involved because those kids are in horrible conditions without adequate medical care and so we’ll post a link about how you could get [email protected], apex express
Jalena Keane-Lee: [00:56:34] one thing about the hashtag, never again, that really stands out to me is the importance of cross community solidarity and saying this happened to us and we never want this to happen to anyone again and being really active and thinking of your citizenship and your sense of loyalty and patriotism to these broader ideals that may or may not have ever existed for your people in this country, but are still something to aspire to.
Miko Lee: [00:57:01] As Satsuki talked about to be patriotic is to stand up for civil liberties and to be a resistor. And that’s ultimately what never again is about standing up. Is truly about patriotism and loyalty and standing up for freedom.
Jalena Keane-Lee: [00:57:16] Thank you so much for joining us tonight. There were many complicated backstories that were woven into this interview. For more information, we’ve posted the transcripts from the interview along with a detailed linked glossary in our show notes and are currently working on a curriculum and educators guide, which will premiere this Fall..
Miko Lee: [00:57:34] Keep resisting, keep organizing, keep creating and sharing your visions with the world because your voices are important. Apex express is produced by Preeti Mangala-Shekar, Miko Lee, Jalena Keane-Lee, the Powerleegirls. Tonight’s show was produced by your hosts. the Powerleegirls Miko Lee and Jalena Keane-Lee thank you to kpfa staff for your support and have a great night.