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Show Transcript – Fences
Good evening, everyone. You’re listening to APEX express Thursday nights at 7:00 PM. My name is Swati Rayasam and I’m the special editor for this episode. Tonight, we continue to highlight our sister organization Densho and their podcast series Campu, which tells the story of the Japanese American incarceration, as you’ve never heard it before.
Follow along to the brother and sister team of Noah and Hannah Maruyama, as they weave together stories of the Japanese American incarceration. Tonight’s episode is called “Fences”, which highlights how the barbed wire fence around Japanese concentration camps was an everyday reminder of state violence, how some used it as a form of resistance, and the Japanese incarcerations place in the continuing legacy of American incarceration. Here’s Hannah.
Henry Nakano had written a song, give me land Midland under city sky’s above don’t fence me in. Let me be by myself in the city that I love don’t fence me in. Let me be by myself and my little room, listen to the Raider and Sinatra crew said me to the city about a bag of you who don’t fence me. Well, a parody.
Roy Rogers had a new record out and it was on a beat. That means pool in 1940 slang cold Porter had written don’t fence. In 1934, the top of the charts for eight weeks in 1944, after Rogers sang it in the movie Hollywood Kim team. And it was equally if not more popular with kids in the Japanese American concentration camps, riddled across the nation, the fence compounds.
So one of the things that I remember is hearing one of those songs.
don’t fence me in don’t the songs seem to speak directly to them downloads while we’re fast. So we can feel our senses used to be my theme song. And I tell people when I hear it sound, you know, it has different meaning the barbed wire fence isn’t necessarily the fence that comes to mind. When I think of American iconography, we picture the white picket fence that shelters white suburbia, and it’s.
Dreams, but beyond those fences are the barbed wire ones of a reality that goes against everything. America imagines itself to be in this episode of comfort, we’re going to talk about the barbed wire fence, what it meant to the people that imprisoned and those attempt out
from Densho I’m Hannah, Maria, and this is company.
Before we get started. I want to give you a heads up. This episode will contain some explicit language and discussions of state violence, murder, and suicide. From 1942 to 1946. Japanese Americans made lives for themselves behind barbed wire. Some were born, some died, some fell in love. Got married, divorced.
And the backdrop to all of this was the fence, the barbed wire fence, and the guard in the tower is still in my mind’s eye. After 50 years, it inspired great anger as seen in that damned fence. A poem passed around anonymously among the incarcerees. There’s been a lot of debate about the origins of the.
Over the years, it’s been attributed to several different people, including an individual who went by the name, the mad Mongolian, but when Holly Sui saw the poem in a museum, she knew she’d seen it before. I had seen the TypeScript in my dad’s papers in which he had put his name at the bottom of the poem.
Holly’s dad was menorah. Yes. You may recognize that name. He was in fact, the first person to violate a military order leading to the forced removal and imprisonment of Japanese American. And in March, 1943, general John Dewitt instituted a curfew for all persons of Japanese ancestry. So he violated that curfew on purpose in order to bring a test case to the courts.
You know, he took his case all the way to the Supreme court. During this time he was sent first a minute. Doka then to federal prison, then back two minutes. I remember him timey. He tried writing poetry when he was, he was in jail minora. Yes Yasui was a renowned or writer, activist and lawyer, but he only wrote poetry during his brief interlude in jail and all his papers, which ranged from the 1940s, all the way to his death.
In the 1980s, I found no other poetry and there are literally hundreds of thousands of things. Those are the only poems by his own admission poetry. Wasn’t exactly his genre, pretty bad. He himself called his poetry dog around. He didn’t publish the poem though. He did share it with his sister, nieces, nephews, maybe some buddies.
Holly says still the poem circulated at several camps. Minidoka of course, but also at postin and possibly Tuli lake it’s like means going, what do they call that? Just hit the point for a lot of young people. The reason Holly thinks her father wrote it aside from finding a typewritten version with his name on it.
Yeah. One of the versions of the poem in Densho is attributed to quote the mad Mongo. That is a pseudonym that Minya Sue used for his dog girl. The confusion behind its authorship shows how much the poem resonated. What it does indicate to me is that, you know, there was a lot of seeding, frustration and anger in the camps among all the niseis and they think that the poems spoke to that and it speaks to how the fence defined the incarceration experience.
It was just there in your face all the time. And the fence is what made you realize you’ve lost your. Here’s Holly, Sue reading an excerpt of the poem for us. Oh gosh. Can I take on the minion sweet persona? I don’t think I can. He was quite an order, quite an orator that them fence they’ve stuck in posts deep into the ground.
They strung out wire all the way round with machine gun nest, just over there and centuries and soldiers everywhere. We’re trapped like rats in a wire cage to fret and fuel with impotent rage, yonder, whispers the lure of the night, but that damn fence, a sales our site in prison in here for a long, long time.
We know we’re punished that we committed no crime. Our thoughts, our gloomy enthusiasm, damp to be locked up in a concentration camp ministry. It’s actually kind of hard. He didn’t have a very good sense of neater. That damned fence. It was the first thing that greeted incarcerees when they arrived at the assembly centers, the temporary detention facilities where Japanese Americans waited for more permanent relocation centers to be built as we entered.
I realized there were barbed wire fence is all around us. Four towers on the four corners where the soldiers. And they’re saying that these guards were to protect us, armed guards, military, please with rifles or it’s on the machine guns. They didn’t have the guns pointed away from the camp. They were looking into the camp.
So, um, we found out very quickly that this was not for our protection. And quite frankly, I just thought, what the hell is this? Then you knew you were prisoners. I always considered Barb. We have to keep the cattle out of the, you know, farm areas. So it was pretty interesting. And the assembly centers. The fence was often the only thing between the incarcerees and the city they used to live in.
They would stand outside the R bar fence and I would be inside and I’d be talking to them. And when they would try to go up to the barbed wire fence and try to shake hands, the guards will say, get away from. One of them brought a chocolate cake to us, but it had to go through the office. And when they brought it to us, they had several slash holes in it because they were afraid that they had put some contraband material inside the cage.
They were people outside looking in and the camp as if we were the zoo. And you know, it was so humid when they were transferred to the more permanent relocation centers for their inland. They sometimes got a little more free. At least initially our camp is, I remember didn’t have barbwire fences all around.
We could just go out. I mean, nobody stopped us because there was nowhere to go. You know, there’s really no need for offense. You could walk 20 miles to the sagebrush and not run into anything. And, uh, after the camp was pretty well settled, the army decided to put up a barbed wire fence around the camp and put up, watch out.
Some of the camps already had fences when the incarcerees arrived, but sometimes the fences were built weeks or even months after they got there at Minidoka some incarcerees saw the fence being built and humiliated and angry, tried to dismantle it. I heard rumors of first-generation cause they say some of them going out or in response, the contractor electrified the fence, the administration, eventually a policy.
But also made sure to condemn the destruction of government property at heart mountain. The fence was built in November three months after the first incarcerees arrived. Some of the camp leaders organized a petition signing campaign. As I recall, uh, petition went around calling the fence an insult to any free human being.
Within a week, 3000 incarcerees about half of heart Mountain’s adult population had signed it decision to build a fence was just the last straw. The war relocation, authority or WRA did not respond. When the army tried to recruit incarcerates to build this new fence. The majority of working age men went on strike.
Then on December 2nd, 1942, the military police arrested 32 children for sledding on a hill outside the fence. The children were eventually released to their parents. Learning the rules of living behind barbed wire was an adjustment frightened. Parents did their best to teach their kids to stay away from the fences.
But kids didn’t always understand, let alone follow these new rules. All the kids were told that we have to learn all the army words. We had to learn the word halt and halt mint stop and never go near the fences, barbed wire fences, and never go near the century towers. My parents and other people told us you can’t get close to the fence or they’re going to shoot you.
True. True. Their mother always told us never to cross the barbed wire fence. And she used to point to the guard up there and said, you know, he has a rifle when he’s going to shoot you. If you cross the barbed wire. She said, you know, there was a little old man who was collecting some rocks and he crossed the barbed wire and was shot and killed the story of the little old man who got shot and killed that really happened or ocean at one time.
And then Sam was filled with seashells and he saw a sea shell and he wanted to pick up the seat from our first episode. You’ll recall the collecting thing. Rock seashells wood was a popular pastime in camp, so he didn’t hear this card so he can get away and come back. You’re too close to the fence.
James had Saki what? Casa was 63 years old on April 11th, 1943. When he was killed by a single. Private first class, Gerald Phil pie was in one of the Topaz guard towers, some 250 yards away and later testified that he meant for the shot to be a warning. Philpot was charged with manslaughter and went before a court martial.
He was acquitted. Mr. LACASA was five feet within the fence. When he was killed an autopsy found he was facing the guard when he was shot, the man was possibly also harder hearing on also concentrating. And so the guard just shot him. At Manzanar protest ensued in early December, 1942, after the man’s and our WRA arrested three individuals suspected of beating a pro WRA incarcerated one had been vocally against mismanagement by the administration hundreds gathered to demand his release.
Military police threw tear and vomit gas grenades into the crowd. Leading to panic in the commotion. Some began to blindly run toward the police station and some of the soldiers without orders fired upon the protestors. Nine more wounded, two were killed. James ITTO was 17 years old. Cut. James Kanagawa was 21.
These events later became known as the mans in our uprising. I’ll be standing there. And then from they start shooting bullets. Jimmy Hito who was my classmate. He was studying well next to me and they should shut. It could have been me cause they were randomly shooting at Lordsburg Toshio. Kobata 58 suffered from difficulties breathing after contracting tuberculosis more than a decade earlier was it’s a guy named
I think it was Kobata but we used to call, um, on July 27th, 1942. He was in a group of incarcerees who had just gotten off the train and. New Mexico. The station was two miles from the U S army internment camp. Kobata quickly fell behind as did Hiroto ISA Mara 59. You so Mara had suffered a spinal column injury decades ago.
At some point, during this walk, they were killed by private Clarence. A Burleson Burleson later testified quote. These two men started running two disabled middle-aged men. The court martial acquitted Burleson on both counts to lake Shoichi. James Okamoto was 30 years old when he was shot and killed by a guard.
He was a truck driver working outside of the fence and he’s been going in and out and every day. So this garden you, and so he just waves him just one day. You guard there who was just came back from the Pacific more. He told him to Hawk. And so he’s all it. And you’re going to get out of the truck. So he got up and they start arguing all of a sudden shot him.
They said that they con medics and everything, but this guard kept everybody away with a gun. And so he bleed to death on the ground. The guard was fine. $1 for the quote, unauthorized use of government property, the bullet, he was acquitted of homicide. Connie Sabra Oshima was killed at Fort sill. 1942. Mr.
Oshima had been in debt before. He was forced to leave his large family back in Hawaii. He was sent first to sand island detention camp on Oahu. He was transferred to angel island, then Fort sill in Oklahoma, all the while becoming increasingly anxious about his family.
It’s an old man, went out of his mind and tried to climb up the fence. That happened right after I had finished breakfast, I found him trying to do. So ran toward him to stop you. I saw guards trying to shoot them out. So I screamed don’t shoot at him. Like he can’t cross over the fence. Anyway. I told them just to pull him down because he was out of his mind that they shot him down.
I felt so sorry for him. Persons like him who went out of their minds were hospitalized from the time that. I’m being killed, but he
depression and anxiety were common among the. I remember my brother graduated from high school and thinking he would like to become a doctor, but here we are, we don’t know what’s going to happen. And I mean, remember he, he was very depressed and, uh, he said it wasn’t part of the camp in front of the fence.
And we, we were afraid that he was going to try to climb over it or do something make the guide today. A friend of ours, Joe, we talked him out of that coming away, coming home. The fence could all too easily mean life or death, but it was also just a fixture of daily life. Half of the incarcerees were children.
School and camp like schools around the country began with one thing. We were in a concentration camp, but every morning we had to say the pledge of allegiance to the flag behind the bar. There was a patriotic fervor about the whole thing. We didn’t know what the hell we were saying. We just said what they told us to say.
Of course did the pledge of allegiance, but I remember learning all three verses and all the words to the star Spangled banner and thinking I would memorize that to show my patriotism to the United States. And that was how naive I was. Even the most patriotic felt the strain between honoring the America.
They loved and resenting their circumstances min Yasui and that damned fence for one, it’s really interesting combination of both being angry and frustrated at the situation, but also affirming this what I would call almost fanatical patriotism. Definitely had, he was super, super patriotic. Here’s men tonight, a veteran today be the star Spangled banner.
I stand up and I sing it pledged your lesions. I sat it camp erotic for some, the rift between them and America would never be repaired since I left camp. I cannot make myself see those words. It just can’t come out. You know, I’ve never, never saw that. One nation indivisible with Liberty and justice for all.
What a bunch of bullshit. Some had never realized that they were any different from other Americans. Dennis bombar grew up in an orphanage until he was eight. His mother was Japanese American and his father was white in 1942. He was removed to the man’s in our children’s village. Anyone with more than one 16th, Japanese ancestry was subject to the removal at this point.
None whatsoever. I didn’t learn that until later when we were taught the pledge of allegiance. And then it was about that time that I realized that I was there because I was part Japanese. I was not the only one who came to this painful realization in camp. After two weeks I came running home and I said, Everyone in this camp is Japanese.
Did you know that? And I thought I have made the most fantastic discovery and everybody would just be so astounded to hear this news. And then she said, well, she’s, this is, she said, you know, we’re all Japanese Americans here. And we were put here for this reason. She said that they think we’re the Japs, but we’re really Americans.
And I don’t want you to forget that. And the whole things are came together and I thought, oh my God, you know, I’m a chap, I’m a chat.
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Draft age men had received this message loud and clear after Pearl Harbor being a very naive and dumb kid. I thought, well, I’m no different than those guys. And I expect to be drafted. And so I went up to the graph board and I said, well, here I am the awards on, and they’re calling everybody and they said, you are not.
Reclass by your four sheet, the classification for enemy aliens. Even now I’m mortified by this just being classified as an enemy alien. As we discussed in episode two, the federal government began to recruit Nisei volunteers for the army in January, 1943. What we didn’t get to in that episode was that a year later in January, 1944, the Nisei draft classification changed to one a, which meant that eligible Nisei men could be drafted.
They could now be compelled to serve in a segregated combat unit for the us armed forces while the same armed forces, aimed guns at their families back home. Um, my father volunteered for the service right after Pearl Harbor and he was classified as an enemy alien. They wouldn’t take him. And so then when he was put in the camps, they came around and tried to draft him and I was already born and he was very bitter.
He said, when I volunteered, you didn’t want me. Now I have a family behind barbed wire and you were asking me to go. Most Nisei complied with the draft, but some nearly 300 felt that they could not fight for this country while it continued to incarcerate their families. Here’s Mitsubishi Obama, a draft resister from heart mountain Hawkins.
I, as a Japanese-American citizen, we put into camp denied my constitutional rights, denied my day in court to prove that I’m innocent. And yet I’m supposed to go out and volunteer or be drafted into a segregated army. To fight for the very democratic principles that are denied me. I said, why should I go fight for the very people that are oppressing me?
Heart mountain had the largest organized draft resistance movement of any of the camps. They demanded that the federal government, at least Japanese Americans, before they would comply with the draft and brought a test case before the courts, for that case, they needed to prove that they could not leave.
Here’s an interview with Frank Amy, one of the organizers, we, I wanted to make sure that we established the fact that we were not free. And that’s the reason we tried to walk out and the MP stopped us and said, if we’d kept walking, he would shoot us for many years. They were dismissed as cowards by their own community, but they felt they had to take a stand.
Somebody has. We saw this as an opportunity to raise the issue, not to just get out of the draft, just to save our own neck. Frank Yamazaki was one of the draft resisters at Minidoka. He’d had to procure losis before the war. If he’d shown up for induction, he wouldn’t have passed the physical for him. It was never about evading the draft.
He wanted to make a point, my anger buildup and it says, no, this is wrong. We don’t have to prove where America. A few of the resistors did end up serving, just not in world war II. Tuck Hoshizaki was just 18. When he was drafted one of the few resistors young enough to still be eligible for the draft.
During the Korean war, there were six of us in the group of the 63, who then served during the Korean conflict. They were drafting people into the army. And I got my second draft notice. And then I went into the army. Like he had promised he fought when he and his family had been released. But these personal ethics didn’t matter.
Back in 1944 in 1945, by the time the trial began in June of 44, 63 had been arrested. There were so many heart mountain resisters that there wasn’t room for them in the local jails, they were moved all across the state. Hoshizaki was sent to the jail in Cheyenne, Wyoming. It was probably never really cleaned.
And so when all of us were then stuck there before the trial volunteered to clean up, so they told the guards to give us a bunch of rags and then we scrubbed the whole place clean. So for the rest of the time, we had a halfway decent place there sleep. In fact, some of us were sleeping on the floor because we were just jammed in.
The heart mountain resisters trial remains to this day, the largest mass trial in the state of Wyoming. The presiding judge was T Blake Kennedy. And let’s just say he was not impressed by the resistance. The first day we went to trial, the judge called us Jack. Not too inspiring for that. Doesn’t look good for us.
Things. Don’t look too good. Kennedy sentenced them to three years in prison. Eventually 85 were charged with and found guilty of traffic resistance at heart mountain seven liters were also found guilty of counseling draft evasion, and sentenced to two to four years in prison. Five of their convictions were overturned on appeal in 1945.
Two were not released until 1947. The heart mountain resisters were sent to McNeil island and Lebanon worth federal penitentiaries Hoshizaki was sent to the former. We aren’t hardened criminals. We were then sent out the minimum security area, which is the farm there. We lived in dormitories, no bot wire.
Doors were open. And so the conditions were much, much better than the county’s jails and much better than what we call the main house. To me, penitentiary resistors from Minidoka were also sending to McNeil instead of. Trial Minidoka resistors have their own separate trials. And because they couldn’t afford counsel were assigned Boise lawyers to represent them.
Here’s the assistance. Gina lawyer gave him. The first thing he said was you’re a damn fool and I’ll be darned. If I’m going to help you at all. You’re up on your own. Another lawyer told the judge that he didn’t want to sit at the same table as his client, who he saw as quote a traitor to his country.
The judge, former Idaho governor chase a Clark believed the solution to the so-called Jap problem was to quote, send them all back to Japan. Then sink the islands. We got a rough deal. Rotten deal.
resistors at a couple of the camps. Got more sympathetic judges. Judge Lewis E Goodman dismissed the charges against the Tooley lake resistors on the grounds that being subjected to the draft while confined behind barbed wire was in his words, shocking to the conscience in 1946, the judge sentencing the post and resistors found them guilty and find them a penny as punishment.
In some ways the federal penitentiaries were very different from the camps. The resistors were separated from their families during this time and when their families were released and struggled to rebuild their lives outside of. The resistors couldn’t be there for them, but in other ways, they just traded one prison for another.
And that says a lot about this country’s relationship with prison. Remember what Dr. Eric Halley said in the first episode about the management of bodies under capitalism with slavery and settler colonialism, it’s about the management of certain populations towards the service or in the service of a white settler nation.
So we know that the slave codes and the forced exile of native American. Is part of this management to control where people go, what rights they have and, uh, to keep certain opportunities, the best opportunities for white settlers. It has become one of the main ways the state manages bodies and that’s clear in Japanese American incarceration.
To concentration camps were built on American Indian reservations and the reservations themselves have been created to confine these native nations. And the first one was that reservation. She had to have permission to get off. And if you went off without permission, you were G or that was Agnes Savella.
And we’ll have a member of the Colorado river Indian community. And in 1978 oral history. She worked for the tribal council in March, 1942 and was present when the Indian affairs superintendent informed the council, they intended to incarcerate Japanese Americans on their lands. The army had already started construction, Tim.
They couldn’t believe it. And then that was the first thing they said really was, well, government’s doing it again. The council called a recess and went down to visit the site. It’s like the whole thing was just being timed, a piece of stuff. The tribal council empathized with the Japanese American incarcerees white man is treating them just like he treated us.
I, they were sore, not at the Japanese, but at the authorities for getting them in. Yeah. The creation of these camps blocked off their access to the lands. They had left. We lost the use of that blend while they were in here. And I have an old auntie living at the end of the restoration. She lived over there by herself and we couldn’t go through without a pass.
It also undermined their sovereignty, their rights as indigenous nations to make decisions concerning their people and their. A month later, the federal government did exactly the same thing at healer river. The healer river Indian community council held out for six months before signing the lease agreement with the WRA in October, 1942.
But the first Japanese Americans had arrived at Hilo river in July. The council only signed because the federal government was now threatening not to pay them any rental money for the land on top of using it without their permission. The WRA created prison after present and its management of confined Japanese American populations in 1943, the WRA started to experiment with separating out so-called troublemakers.
Tooley lake was just another of the 10 WRA camps. When the administration first jailed people who refuse to answer the loyalty questionnaire, then Tully lake itself was converted into a segregation center to separate out those deemed disloyal from all the camps. And then the administration built stockade to partition off those that considered most troublesome.
Next morning, MP came through Sarver one ended. I can’t pick it up. Everybody that’s when I was picked up and thrown into stockade, even locked up kids 16, 15 years old buddies of mine, some ask the Colonel in charge, why they had been selected for this treatment. His response was essentially you’re here because you’re here.
His records were a little more forthright. General troublemaker, two well-educated for his own good leader of the wrong kind. These were just a few of the reasons these people couldn’t see their families and friends for nine months. I used to work with and I was trying to talk to them. He said, no, I can, we can’t talk too much because there’s a guard up there looking down on.
Even when they didn’t want to talk to us because their migration, I remember my mother coming to the end of the prison area, where we were and waving, and then they put a plywood so we can see each other conditions and Tuli lake were bad, but the stockade was even worse. Having midnight raids in the Barrack was nothing unusual.
So they line up, right? I guess the Derrick, there was about 220 people wholly present. Eight months. Without a trial without a hearing, without charges. The FBI and dyes committee showed up randomly 24 hours a day and took anyone kept in the stockade to another place for individual interrogation. I think that was about the only time in my life.
I was physically scared as a Jeep with a gun pointed at us machine gun pointing at us. And then another one seemed like along was a tank told to get out in the open area of their clothes. Socks. And one of those times, the whole area was already surrounded by soldiers in full uniform with their rifles.
And then by the gate, there was a truck with a machine gun aimed at us, the guy sitting by the machine gun, the whole group there, that Thompson machine gun was in that, my belly. So I thought, what the hell they do? The stockade was so bad that the incarcerees went on hunger strikes to protest it’s conditions.
if we hadn’t done anything, we would have been locked up there for one full year. We didn’t know if or how long we would continue to be kept in the stockade. After the one year milestone, we decided to go on a hunger strike when unconditional. Two weeks, two weeks of not aging, some of the more worrisome troublemakers were sent to Moab, Utah, a former civilian conservation Corps site, and then loop a former American Indian boarding school on land belonging to the Navajo nation.
When Harry UNO was initially transported from Moab to loop, he and his group spent the whole ride in a box on the back of a truck. It was five by six around that side, that box about four feet high. At Petlock on Nevada, they opened and he picked the five people that go in there. And the only small breeds in the whole of that, they were in there for the whole of the 10 plus hour journey.
Instead of taking them to loop the truck, took them to a jail in nearby Winslow, Arizona, but you know, cost money to kept us in, uh, outside jail. So they took them back to the root Indian school there, and they have a jail in downtown. And as in the, used to put the Indian kid into the jail. Yeah. You know, why would they need a jail and a school?
Well, these boarding schools, weren’t so much schools as they were institutions designed to take children from their families and forced them to forget their cultures, not so different from a prison. So when the school was converted into a prison a year after. The jail and the basement was already there waiting for them.
Uh, I was in with the other people in that jail for 10 days. And the finery I’ve been lately is from there from reservations to plantations, to boarding schools, prisons, jails, concentration camps, detention centers, confinement has a long and distinguished history in the land of the. Today, the U S imprisons prisons, more people per capita than any other country in a system that disproportionately impacts black brown and indigenous people.
In the last few years, the image of the barbed wire fence has come to be associated with migrant detention to two for solidarity, a Japanese American activist organization leads protests against these current day concentration. Mikey. She is one of the organization’s co-founders the earliest roots of Sudu for solidarity are really at the 2018 to the lake pilgrimage.
And if you remember at that time, they were actually stripping children out of the arms of their parents at the border and incarcerating children. So during the pilgrimage, we actually stage a protest right in front of the Tuli lake jail, where all of the survivors. We’re present. There were people who were 96 years old, under blistering sun, the two lake community where the people who actually stood up and resisted in that moment.
And they were severely targeted for that seventy-five years later, these same incarcerees and their families are again leading Japanese American resistance. This time against migrant detention, the historical roots of resistance in our community. Continue to guide us to this. But as we’ve discussed in episode one, speaking about their experiences, isn’t something that comes easily to many incarcerees even though, okay.
Kiyoshi ina, he’ll probably kill me that I’m talking about him, but he’s one of the most humble people I’ve ever met. And I know that it’s not easy for him to speak publicly. He prefers not to, but he does it because he knows that it makes a difference for someone else. If he’s speaking. Many Nisei were told not to make waves, to keep their heads down a common saying in the Japanese-American community at that time was she cut the gun?
- It cannot be helped at Fort sill. You see cheesy Moray who is 90, 91. Now I think speaking out and standing up to that military guard and this whole line of survivors, just standing there refusing to be. These Nisei have joined with new generations of activists inspired by their family’s experiences.
Becca Saki, another organizer in Sudu spoke at the Berks detention site. When we went there several weeks ago to protest, to release Haitian families. She said, I’m standing here in front of this fence. And I can’t imagine what it would have been like for my family. If people had come to their fence to demand that they be released.
Japanese American elders, often children themselves in the camps. No. How this experience can affect children for the rest. Most of their lives, my nephew said that he was doing something and something fell over on the other side of the fence. And my nephew went through his offense to go get it and essentially came down and took his band.
It hooked him up by the suspenders and put them back over the fence. And my nephew says that was something he didn’t have. To scare the daylights out of a little kid must have been bought seven, being incarcerated, shaped their worldview from a very young age, in big ways. And small, she was oh seven when she went in 10, when she got out.
And the first time we got off the bus. She looked around and she said, this town doesn’t have a barbwire fence around it. Those are things that just stuck in my sister’s mind. And she just thought that’s the way the world was other needs. I say have experienced firsthand the trauma of being separated from a parent due to their arrests.
They took away our, our elders and put them in department of justice. Sort of similar to how ice is rounding up people out of communities. It’s so resonant of those rates that the FBI did on our community right after Pearl Harbor, Mako NACA was father was arrested by the FBI. After Pearl Harbor. We went down to the immigration office a couple of times to see him.
And so the story goes that one of the friendly guards teased me and slammed the Bard gauge closed and says, now you’re a captive. You have to stay here and, you know, kind of threatening me, just being. And apparently I ran to my father, jumped in his lap, his old good. I get to stay with Papa. And that’s where mama Cyrus kind of crying
on the day. Her father was being transferred to Missoula, Montana. Nakagawa recalls going with her mother and siblings to see him off my phone. Oh, there says he comes out and he sees us and doesn’t ask permission to come to the fence to talk about. And all the, while he’s walking there, he’s kind of expecting that someone’s going to stop him.
And then he looks and sees his wife and his kids. And he doesn’t know what to say because he was concentrating completely just being stopped. And so when he gets to the fancy looks and then he’s really at a loss for words, and he turns on and starts walking back to the train to get on. And then he says he hears a kids calling him pop up.
They’re yelling to him. And 40 years later, my father is so deaf that he can’t hear Japanese music anymore. He’s telling me that, or I could hear my kids calling me like knock, go on. Her father, children are being separated from their undocumented parents every day in this country. Sometimes on the same sites where Japanese Americans were incarcerated.
To do for solidarity has organized protests at crystal city and Dilley, Texas, and Fort sill, both of which were used as sites of detention for people of Japanese ancestry during world war II, Lauren Sumida, who is another Sue organizer from New York. She had been doing some research. And what she found out was that after they closed crystal city down after world war II, they dug up that fence and they took it to Calexico, which is the U S Mexico border in California.
And they repurposed. To build the wall of the border. The parallels with Japanese American incarceration are reason enough for outrage. The differences are horrifying in 2018. The Trump administration instituted a zero tolerance policy, which not only separated asylum seeking parents and children, but also in prison, the children and overcrowded under-resourced facilities to be cared for by armed guards.
Japanese American actor and activist. George Takei wrote in an op-ed, at least during the internment. When I was just five years old, I was not taken from my parents as Mako Nakagawa story shows it wasn’t an uncommon experience for children to be separated from at least one parent and some Japanese American children were separated from both parents.
These children were sent to the mans in our children’s village or shuffled around among foster parents and family friends. But these cases were. Highlighting these differences. It’s important says issue this moment now. No, one’s going to come knocking on our doors. They’re not going to do FEI rates on our community.
They did that to us and we carried the trauma of it, but we are not being targeted like that. And now in the midst of an international epidemic, these groups imprisoned in close quarters without access to proper hygiene or at even greater risk. We’re going to talk more about the health issues presented in concentration camps in a future app.
For now, let’s just say, there’s a reason why the fence keeps popping up. Why it keeps being used against certain populations. It was just surreal to me to think about how across time and generation, this idea of the fence keeps being repurposed to separate people and repurposed on communities of color to deny us resource or equity.
That’s why the image of the crane that suitor is so powerful says. To do for solidarity collects origami cranes folded around the country. They actually contain the energy of care and protection that our community folded into them. And so I think as you’re hanging those cranes, every time we go there, we transform the internal image of a barrier that separates people in our own minds and hearts
underneath the city sky. Um, my hop up, let me travel over grappled there. Let’s see the buildings rise or that you ride to the west house. It was commences gay is the bed, the grand hotel that lose my senses. Send me to the city, but a bag of you please. Don’t fence them in
compost produced by Hannah and Noah Maruyama. The series is brought to you by Densho. Their mission is to preserve and share the history of the world war II, incarceration of Japanese America. Mo equity and justice today. Follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at Densho project support for comp food comes from the auto Hico, a nine a Goodwin and tattoo chief foundation.
Special. Thanks to Natasha Varner. Brian, Nia, Andrea Simon’s dad. Now Cortana bay. My issue. Sui for their assistance. With this episode, the interview with Agnes Savilla was used courtesy of the Lawrence de Graff center for oral and public history, California state university Fullerton. This episode included excerpts from nearly 50 done show oral histories, as well as interviews conducted by Frank abbaye for his film of conscience and the constitution
The names of the incarcerees featured in this episode are Henry Nakano to go. Ike Ikeda, bowtie, Saka, Gucci Sadako Numora Kashi may case a Saki grace, Kubota Barra, Akiko kudos, may Y number Seiji Haya Shida, Ben Takeshita masala, Watanabe, Nobu, Suzuki. She had told me hero, Jean. She Gekko eight UNO Chico Aomori bill Hosokawa Katsumi Okamoto.
She’s a code Judy Sugita D kiddos, Yoshiko, Kanazawa, Kenji swim Matsu. June could Amada gray. She NoDa Nakamura. Wakako Yamaguchi, Kenji Kobayashi to Hiko H Shimizu K Ono. Koneko John NACADA, Toshi co I bushy Toto. Paul Takagi Minto NAI, Dennis. Bombar Fred Shiozaki. Paul Banai. George Cutta. Gary Brandy send Zaki myths, cushy Emma Frank, Amy Yosh, crew Mia, Frank Yamazaki, Takashi Hoshizaki, Harry winnow, Fred Tadashi Shingo.
Tom Akashi came. Morgan Yamanaka, Tokyo Yamani Kasi. Good. And Mako Nakagawa.
Swati here from APEX Express. That was an incredible and heartbreaking episode from our friends at Densho.
And it was particularly interesting how they highlighted the persona and weight that materials and the built environment have, and how materials that were used to oppress one group are quite literally reused and recycled to oppress another.
In this case, those very barbed wire fences that were used to cage Japanese Americans on indigenous territory being reused to prevent migrants and asylum seekers at the US-Mexico border. It also serves as a good reminder to all of us that as long as these systems of oppression have been around so has the people’s resistance to them. And in that spirit up next is the song “Comrades and Friends” by the band From Monuments to Masses,
That was the song comrades and friends by the band from monuments to masses. And now. I’ll kick it to Miko to read you a letter from the book “Dear Ms. Breed”
[00:53:19] Miko Lee: This is Miko Lee and I am reading from this book called Dear Ms. Breed, True Stories of the Japanese American Incarceration During WW II and a Librarian Who Made a Difference. By Joanne Oppenheim. So this is a white woman librarian that was in San Diego. She was a librarian of San Diego library. Many of the people that came to her library were Japanese Americans. And when they were rounded up to be incarcerated she showed up at the train station and gave each of them a book with a stamped postcard and asked them to write to her.
Here are some of the letters that she received.
November 11th, 1942. Dear Ms. Breed, Saturday, November 7th, they experienced something, which I shall never forget. I went cotton picking with my fellow schoolmates to raise funds. So the school will be able to have a school paper. We left home at eight 30 on a cattle truck. We were going bumpity bumped down the narrow dirt road. When all of a sudden we came to a halt. We quickly jumped to our feet and saw a little house with a military police sitting in it.
Then we were counted like cattle, and again, we’re on our way. We went winding through the Mesquite trees until finally we were surrounded by cotton plants. Everyone cried out. Well, here we go. Let’s get busy. After piling out of the truck like ants, we are given a large sack in which to put the cotton.
The SAC was a very, very long. It weighed two pounds and often gotten our way. We flung the bag over our left shoulder and began picking the cotton. I often crawled on the ground to pick fallen cotton. It certainly was a good thing that I wore slacks and a long sleeve blouse because you get scratched all over.
We stopped work at 4:30 PM and we’re taken to the trading post, which is about eight miles on this side of Parker. The trading post was one of these country stores where they sold shoes and food. There were many Indians there. That is where they do their shopping. It was like being in the middle of a desert. When we arrived at the trading post, we ran in the store expecting to buy a soda, but to our disappointment, no cold drinks were sold.
Even though I had no water and came home exhausted. I enjoyed every minute of it. And certainly felt good to get home. My I’m practically writing a book. And I do want to hear about you. I imagine the library work keeps you busy as usual. I heard San Diego is a BoomTown too overcrowded. For words, I probably wrote recognize San Diego now.
Do right during your leisure hours. I just love to hear from you. Hoping to hear from you soon, Louise Ogawa. PS. I enclosed a piece of cotton. I picked it has the seed in it. I wanted to send you a few branches, but I was told it was not last. So I changed my mind.
[00:56:14] Miko Lee: thank you so much for joining us. Please check out our website, kpfa.org backslash program, backslash apex express to find out more about the show tonight and to find out how you can take direct action. We thank all of you listeners out there. Keep resisting, keep organizing, keep creating and sharing your visions with the world. Your voices are important. Apex express is produced by Miko Lee Jalena Keane-Lee and Paige Chung and special editing by Swati Rayasam. Thank you so much to the KPFA staff for their support have a great night.