March 8, 2014
In an effort to continue to provide an experience of social justice in action, and to create diverse input, participation and energy, the Minidoka Pilgrimage Committee is proud to offer unique scholarship opportunities to students.
Student scholarship recipients are asked to assist with work activities before, and during, the 2014 Pilgrimage. All scholarship recipients are encouraged to be involved in the planning of subsequent Pilgrimages. The pilgrimage will be taking place this year from June 19- June 22.
Find the Scholarship form here: http://www.minidokapilgrimage.org/scholarships.html
Application deadline: Monday, April 14, 2014
The Scholarship Recipient will receive:
•Complimentary attendance to the 2014 Minidoka Pilgrimage. This includes transportation to and from Idaho from Seattle, registration costs, lodging, and all meals while attending the pilgrimage.
•The opportunity to serve on the Minidoka Pilgrimage Planning Committee and to assist with the planning for future pilgrimages.
Eligibility and Expectations:
•Must be a student at least 18 years of age or graduated from college in the past one or two years. Undergraduate and graduate students can apply.
•Is able to participate for the entire pilgrimage trip from Thursday, June 19 – Sunday, June 22, 2014.
•Will assist the Minidoka Planning Committee with duties while attending the pilgrimage
•Is able to attend the Minidoka Pilgrimage Planning Committee meetings prior to the pilgrimage
•Will create a project of your interest relating to the Minidoka Pilgrimage. This project can either be educational, a way to document the pilgrimage, or a way to help the Pilgrimage Committee. Past projects include: video of the pilgrimage, picture show, and creating a Pilgrimage evaluation survey.
2013 Minidoka Pilgrimage Youth Scholarship winners
Photo by: Ryan Kozu
March 4, 2014
Manzanar Committee Denounces Inyo County Planning Commission Decision That Could Threaten Manzanar
February 28, 2014 by Manzanar Committee PR
Looking east from the visitor’s center at Manzanar National Historic Site. The floor of the Owens Valley, along with the Inyo Mountains in the background, are visible. But this view could be destroyed by large-scale renewable energy generating facilties if the County of Inyo opens the door to that kind of development in the Owens Valley.
Photo courtesy National Park Service
LOS ANGELES — The Manzanar Committee denounces the decision by the County of Inyo Planning Commission to approve the 2013 Renewable Energy General Planning Amendment (REGPA) to the County’s General Plan, which would open the door to the construction of large-scale, industrial-grade renewable energy facilities in the County, including an area within the viewshed of the Manzanar National Historic Site.
The 2013 REGPA, which now goes to the County’s Board of Supervisors for final approval, defines Renewable Energy Development Areas (REDA) where large-scale renewable energy generating facilities could be built in Inyo County.
The Manzanar Committee opposes the 2013 REGPA because it would allow the construction of such facilities throughout a huge swath of the Owens Valley, a large portion of which would be visible from the Manzanar NHS. Such facilities within Manzanar’s viewshed would destroy the ability to teach current and future generations about how the desolation of the area was a key factor in the decision to build one of the ten American concentration camps at Manzanar during World War II, not to mention how the desolation of the area was used to control the behavior of the 11,070 Japanese Americans who were unjustly incarcerated there, instilling in them a sense of despair and hopelessness.
The Manzanar Committee also opposes the 2013 REGPA because allowing large-scale renewable energy facilities to be built in the Owens Valley, forever marring its beauty, makes no sense, given that Inyo County’s economy is based on tourism. Furthermore, such facilities would not contribute positively to the local economy because they do not create a significant number of permanent jobs—the economic benefit for the County would be inconsequential.
The 2013 REGPA does not affect large-scale renewable energy development on land owned by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP), as the County has no authority over them in such matters. As such, it has no impact on LADWP’s Southern Owens Valley Solar Ranch, a proposed 1,200-acre solar energy generating facility that would be built on LADWP-owned land, adjacent to the Manzanar NHS. However, by including such a large portion of the Owens Valley as a REDA, the 2013 REGPA would open other lands in the area to such development as well, posing an even greater threat to Manzanar.
At their February 26 meeting, attended by an overflow crowd at the County’s Board of Supervisors meeting room in Independence, California, more than thirty people addressed the Planning Commission, with just one supporting the 2013 REGPA. But after more than three hours of public comment, with virtually no deliberation, the Commission voted 4-1, with Commissioner Bill Stoll the lone dissenter.
Along with former incarcerees Kanji Sahara and Hank Umemoto, Gann Matsuda represented the Manzanar Committee at the meeting.
“We are absolutely outraged, not only by the Inyo County Planning Commission’s apparent total lack of understanding of the issue before them, but also by their rubber stamping of this horribly flawed amendment,” said Matsuda. “They were clearly in over their heads. Based on the questions the Commissioners asked, and the comments they made, it was blatantly obvious that they were utterly confused and totally unprepared to consider this matter. They clearly did not understand the amendment at all, yet they ignored overwhelming opposition and approved it.”
“The Planning Commission disregarded and disrespected their constituents, as well as those of us who made the long drive from Southern California to explain how the amendment green lights large-scale renewable energy development that would intrude on the viewshed of the Manzanar National Historic Site, on top of what the LADWP has proposed,” added Matsuda. “Their actions were a gross display of negligence, arrogance, unprofessionalism, and perhaps incompetence,” added Matsuda.
The Manzanar Committee also supports organizations and residents in the Owens Valley who contend that the 2013 REGPA does not reflect earlier community input which heavily opposed the amendment.
“The will of the people of Inyo County is being ignored by their County government,” Matsuda noted. “One Inyo County resident after another who attended the earlier public meetings where input into the amendment was received told the Planning Commission that the 2013 REGPA does not, in any way, reflect the overwhelming opposition that was expressed at those meetings.”
“We stand with the Big Pine Paiute Tribe, the Lone Pine Paiute-Shoshone Tribe, the Owens Valley Committee, and others in Inyo County in their demand that the Inyo County Board of Supervisors truly represent their constituents when they consider the 2013 REGPA, and that includes protecting the Manzanar National Historic Site from intrusions into its viewshed,” Matsuda added.
The Inyo County Board of Supervisors is expected to consider the 2013 REGPA on March 18.
“The Inyo County Board of Supervisors must recognize that the 2013 REGPA is horribly flawed,” said Matsuda. “We call on them to protect the County’s economy, its residents, and the Manzanar National Historic Site, by preventing large-scale renewable energy development in the Owens Valley.”
For further details, please refer to our comments to the Inyo County Planning Commission regarding the 2013 REGPA: Manzanar Committee Calls On Inyo County To Shut Door On Large-Scale Renewable Energy Facilities In Owens Valley.
The Manzanar Committee is dedicated to educating and raising public awareness about the incarceration and violation of civil rights of persons of Japanese ancestry during World War II and to the continuing struggle of all peoples when Constitutional rights are in danger. A non-profit organization that has sponsored the annual Manzanar Pilgrimage since 1969, along with other educational programs, the Manzanar Committee has also played a key role in the establishment and continued development of the Manzanar National Historic Site. You can also follow the Manzanar Commitee on Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Pinterest and YouTube.
February 25, 2014
Thank you to everyone who came out and supported this year’s Day of Remembrance Taiko Festival at Seattle University. The Minidoka Pilgrimage Planning Committee wants to especially thank: UW Taiko Kai, Ringtaro and the School of Taiko, Okinawa Kenjin-Kai, Seattle Matsuri Taiko, Kaze Daiko and Seattle Kokon Taiko for participating in this year’s festival.
January 28, 2014
Buy your tickets here at Brown Paper Tickets:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Minidoka Pilgrimage 2014 Taiko Fundraiser
Seattle, WA – December 18, 2013 – In recognition of Japanese American Day of Remembrance and the 72nd anniversary of the signing of Executive Order 9066, the Minidoka Pilgrimage Planning Committee and Seattle University are proud to present the Day of Remembrance 2014 Taiko Fundraiser on Sunday, February 23, 2014. The event will open at Noon and the concert featuring taiko groups from throughout the Seattle area will begin at 1:00 p.m. Sunday, February 23rd in the Pigott Building on the campus of Seattle University, 901 12th Avenue in Seattle, WA. Tickets are $20 general, $10 for students with ID and can be purchased through Brown Paper Tickets, http://dayofremembrancetaiko.bpt.me. Parking is provided at the Broadway Garage of Seattle University. If attendees purchase tickets through Will Call, no actual tickets will be given, so please make sure to bring identification. For those unable to purchase tickets on-line, they will be available at the International Student Center of Seattle University in the James C. Pigott Pavilion for Leadership.
A free exhibit in the Paccar Atrium directly outside the auditorium will open at Noon and will feature displays from the Law Library of Seattle University, National Park Service and the Minidoka National Historic Site, and the Seattle Nisei Veterans and Nisei Veterans Foundation. Also featured will be original photographs in a collection called “My Minidoka” by Johnny Valdez y Uno. Raffle ticket sales and a general store will also be in the atrium to help support the work of the Minidoka Pilgrimage Planning Committee.
The concert benefits the annual Minidoka Pilgrimage to Twin Falls, Idaho. This will be the 12th year of the Pilgrimage. As one of the ten original War Relocation Authority (WRA) camps, the Minidoka National Historic Site is currently a part of the National Park Service and continues to be developed as an educational site. Currently there is an original Mess Hall and Barrack at the site of Block 22, as well as an original Fire Station, Warehouse and Root Cellar. Recent improvements include the Honor Roll, dedicated in 2011, which lists the names of approximately 1,000 individuals that enlisted from Minidoka and served in the army and 2014 will include the dedication of a restored guard tower at the entrance area.
The Day of Remembrance recognizes the date, February 19, 1942, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which forced 120,000 Japanese American citizens and legal residents into concentration camps during World War II solely based upon their Japanese descent.
Sponsors of this event include: The International Student Center, the Korematsu Center for Law and Equality, Seattle University and the Minidoka Pilgrimage Planning Committee.
Dale H. Watanabe
Minidoka Pilgrimage Committee/Seattle University
November 6, 2013
Book Review: Sad pieces of Idaho’s past
Published: November 2, 2013
By Janice Hildreth — Book Addicts
Synopses: In “Minidoka: An American Concentration Camp,” Teresa Tamura documents one of 10 such camps — the Minidoka War Relocation Center in Jerome County.
Her documentation includes artifacts made in the camp as well as the story of its survivors, uprooted from their homes in Alaska, Washington, Oregon and California. The essays are supplemented by 180 black-and-white photographs and interviews that fuse present and past.
Ultimately, her book reminds us of what happens when fear, hysteria and racial prejudice subvert human rights and shatter human lives.
The 1942 wartime incarceration of Japanese Americans forced 120,000 people to abandon their property and homes. Most were American citizens.
“ ‘Surviving Minidoka’ is a history book about the present as much as the past,” said series editor Melissa Lavitt, dean of the College of Social Sciences and Public Affairs at Boise State University.
“This is not a book about camp life,” said co-editor Todd Shallot. “It is an art book and a tribute. It is a book about how an event shaped race relations more than a story about the event itself.”
My take: I chose to highlight both of these books because they document a part of Idaho history that many would like to ignore or forget and are written from two unique viewpoints.
While both books tell stories of the people who lived at Minidoka, in “Minidoka: an American Concentration Camp” you get a historical perspective of the people incarcerated there.
Their narratives, accompanied by photos, both old and current, relay their personal viewpoints, then continue with a recounting of the paths their lives took after they left. These recitations, culled from newspaper accounts and personal interviews, are brief and compelling.
In “Surviving Minidoka,” the creators grasped what Aristotle meant by “the aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance,” and concentrated on the effect Minidoka had on individuals as shown through personal photos, art and poetry.
The stories are in-depth, giving a perspective of the fire Minidoka set that fueled its residents’ later accomplishments.
Despite the beautiful photography, this book, with its wealth of data and documentation, reads more like a report, and was saved only by the personal stories that put heart in the book.
My rating: Both are beautiful books, well worth owning, if for no other reason than to remind ourselves that what happened once could happen again if we don’t learn from the past.
August 30, 2013
Rupert Japanese internment camp
Posted: Thursday, August 29, 2013 11:18 am
Rupert Japanese internment camp
In an effort to appease the public, photos taken at Japanese internment camps showed happy detainees as, in this photo of a children’s performance. An exhibit of such photos will be presented at the Minidoka County Museum in 2015. Prior to the government detaining Japanese-Americans at the Minidoka “Hunt” Camp, officials set up a temporary camp in Rupert on North F Street in 1942.
By Lisa Dayley | 0 comments
RUPERT – At one time the government set up a temporary Japanese Internment Camp on South F Street.
Minidoka Museum official Ginger Cooper recently came across the information and announced the discovery on Friday. According to Cooper, the government created the camp in 1942, just months following the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. At the camp, Japanese-Americans, forced from their homes along the west coast, stayed for about a month until contractors finished the Minidoka (Hunt) Camp in Jerome.
Nobody knew anything about this camp until Oregon researcher Morgan Young came across a one paragraph newspaper report from the “Minidoka County News” from 1942 placed online, Cooper said.
After reading the newspaper report, Young assumed that the main Minidoka Camp had been built in Rupert. Many people – and especially Japanese-American descendents of those camps – believe the government built the main camp in Minidoka County. The government transported the internees through Minidoka City via train before taking them to Jerome.
“We get people calling and stopping here looking for the Minidoka Camp. We always have a good supply of maps here to help them,” Cooper said.
Young contacted Cooper about the camp, and, after doing some research, the women realized the report Young came across was that of a temporary camp on F Street.
“None of us knew that it was here,” Cooper said.
The government housed Japanese there in a makeshift tent city for about 30 days prior to moving them to Minidoka Camp.
While there are no pictures available of the temporary camp, researchers have gathered pictures of Japanese internees from throughout the west that will be part of an exhibit to be displayed in Idaho from January to May 2015. For part of that time, it will be kept at the Minidoka County Museum. Officials also plan to display the photos in Jerome and Twin Falls where there were also internment camps.
Researchers have spent years tracking down pictures and identifying those Japanese-Americans photographed. A National Geographic photographer shot the photos that show pictures of smiling Japanese – living behind barbed wire.
“The pictures were all staged. It’s so the people who were buying National Geographic wouldn’t feel bad about what we did,” Cooper said.
The photographer took pictures of Japanese internees working in the fields, folding American flags, swimming and going to school.
“He literally took millions of pictures,” Cooper said.
The museum is open from 1 to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday and is located at 99 East Baseline Road. In October it will be open from 1 to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Admittance is free. For more information call the museum call 436-0336.
August 2, 2013
Originally published Saturday, July 27, 2013 at 2:24 PM
Researchers uncover little-known Idaho internment camp
A team of researchers from the University of Idaho wants to make sure the Kooskia Internment Camp isn’t forgotten to history.
The Associated Press
Deep in the mountains of northern Idaho, miles from the nearest town, lays evidence of a little-known portion of a shameful chapter of American history.
There are no buildings, signs or markers to indicate what happened at the site 70 years ago, but researchers sifting through the dirt have found broken porcelain, old medicine bottles and lost artwork identifying the location of the first internment camp where the U.S. government used people of Japanese ancestry as a workforce during World War II.
Today, a team of researchers from the University of Idaho wants to make sure the Kooskia Internment Camp isn’t forgotten to history.
“We want people to know what happened, and make sure we don’t repeat the past,” said anthropology professor Stacey Camp, who is leading the research.
It’s an important mission, said Charlene Mano-Shen of the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience in Seattle.
Mano-Shen said her grandfather was forced into a camp near Missoula, Mont., during World War II, and some of the nation’s responses to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, evoked memories of the Japanese internments. Muslims, she said Thursday, “have been put on FBI lists and detained in the same way my grandfather was.”
After the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor plunged the nation into the Second World War, about 120,000 people of Japanese heritage who lived on the West Coast were sent to internment camps. Nearly two-thirds were American citizens, and many were children. In many cases, people lost everything they had worked for in the U.S. and were sent to prison camps in remote locations with harsh climates.
Research such as the archaeological work under way at Kooskia (KOO’-ski) is vital to remembering what happened, said Janis Wong, director of communications for the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles.
People need to be able “to physically see and visit the actual camp locations,” Wong said.
Giant sites where thousands of people were held — such as Manzanar in California, Heart Mountain in Wyoming and Minidoka in Idaho — are well-known. But Camp said even many local residents knew little about the tiny Kooskia camp, which operated from 1943 to the end of the war and held more than 250 detainees about 30 miles east of its namesake small town, and about 150 miles southeast of Spokane.
The camp was the first place where the government used detainees as a labor crew, putting them into service doing road work on U.S. Highway 12, through the area’s rugged mountains.
“They built that highway,” Camp said of the road that links Lewiston, Idaho, and Missoula.
Men from other camps volunteered to come to Kooskia because they wanted to stay busy and make a little money by working on the highway, Camp said. As a result, the population was all male, and mostly made up of more recent immigrants from Japan who were not U.S. citizens, she said.
Workers could earn about $50 to $60 a month for their labor, said Priscilla Wegars of Moscow, Idaho, who has written books about the Kooskia camp.
Kooskia was one of several camps operated by the Immigration and Naturalization Service that also received people of Japanese ancestry rounded up from Latin American countries, mostly Peru, Camp said. But it was so small and so remote that it never achieved the notoriety of the massive camps that held about 10,000 people each.
“I’m aware of it, but I don’t know that much about it,” said Frank Kitamoto, president of the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Memorial Committee, which works to maintain awareness of the camps.
After the war the camp was dismantled and largely forgotten. Using money from a series of grants, Camp in 2010 started the first archaeological work at the site. Some artifacts, such as broken china and buttons, were scattered on top of the ground, she said.
“To find stuff on the surface that has not been looted is rare,” she said.
Camp figures her work at the site could last another decade. Her team wants to create an accurate picture of the life of a detainee. She also wants to put signs up to show people where the internment camp was located.
Artifacts found so far include Japanese porcelain trinkets, dental tools and gambling pieces, she said. They have also found works of art created by internees.
“While it was a horrible experience, the people who lived in these camps resisted in interesting ways,” she said. “People in the camps figured out creative ways to get through this period of time.”
“They tried to make this place home,” she said.
August 1, 2013
The words below are Johnny Valdez’s story. He shared his powerful story with all of the attendees at the 2013 Minidoka Pilgrimage.
June 22, 2013
- Twin Falls, ID – My name is Johnny Valdez. I am a Seattle based photographer, and I currently have a running photo exhibition entitled, “My Minidoka”. I am the son of a Sansei mother, and a Latino American Father, Grandson of two Nisei who were once incarcerated here at Minidoka along with their families. As everyone has a story, this one is mine, and it is an extension of theirs’ as well.
I photograph what I love, and what draws me in. My Grandparents are no longer living, so it is with immense compassion and sensitivity that I go about photographing our surviving Nisei. This is because when I take that picture of what I am seeing, I am essential taking a picture of my own Grandparents, and that is what I love.
In camp, my Grandmother’s name was Porky Noritake. She went to Hunt High School, and was in a band called the Minidoka Matinee. She sang songs on the radio like “Shina No Yoru” and “Don’t Fence Me In”. Her older brother Yosh, was in the 442nd’s 100th Battalion, and was killed in action in Bruyeres, France during the rescue of the lost Texas Battalion.
My Grandfather’s name was Johnny Uno. He was four years older than Porky and graduated from Hunt High School in 1943. He went into the Army, and after training at Camp Shelby was assigned to the 442nd. He served in Italy, Switzerland, and Germany. After the war he went to school on the G.I. Bill, and later became a podiatrist.
My work entitled “My Minidoka” is dedicated to my grandparents, Johnny and Porky Uno.
“My Minidoka” is a personal project and an expression that I have been incubating for several years. It is my take on the Minidoka experience through my eyes and its impact on my own life. It comes from my heart. And it is an ongoing lifelong study of ideas and emotion that continues to evolve and manifest, as I often come to revisit it. It has had a profound effect on who I am as a person.
I was not there at Minidoka during the Second World War, but I have a deep emotional connection to it, as it has greatly affected my life. Like many defining moments in the lives of people, this for me was an impacting awakening of sorrow and tragedy. I first learned of the wrongful injustices and incarceration of a people, my people, when I was 8 years old. It was the 28th of May, 1990 – Memorial Day. This day would forever change the course of my life, and this would be the day when I would come to know Minidoka.
My father woke me up in tears repeating my name, “Johnny, Johnny, Johnny…” Soon after, he told me that there had been a car accident. “Grandpa died,” he said, “Auntie Mickey died and Uncle Toshi too,” he continued. I was breathless and in unimagined disbelief. It was awful. In tears I asked, “What about Grandma?” “Grandma is alright,” he said. And although I was experiencing a pain that I had never felt before, I was greatly relieved that I still had my grandmother.
The four of them were on their return journey home to Seattle from a pilgrimage to Minidoka when this fateful tragedy occurred. My father further explained to me the circumstances, significance and purpose of my grandparents’ and their siblings’ journey to this place in Idaho.
I was extremely close to my grandparents, and learning about mortality and impermanence in this traumatic way, I remember thinking that I never wanted to leave my grandmother’s side. During those days I even used to sleep on the floor next to her bed. I found myself extremely curious and inquisitive about these unique lives and the history of my grandparents, and my grandmother was my key to the past.
For years she and I shared in great conversations, and I was full of questions. She spoke of the shame, struggle and trauma of her people that once was, and which now transcends into great pride. Our people lost everything. We have shed our own blood to prove our loyalty and allegiance to the only country that we have ever called home.
Now as I take on this journey with this project, I navigate my way through the past. This work is a homage to my people. It is with immense compassion that I capture these moments, expressions and feelings. My images tend to carry more of a heavier tone and feeling, but in them there is love, and that comes from my heart. This is why I take these pictures. In the words of my Grandmother, “Shoganai! Gaman!”
July 14, 2013
Minidoka Pilgrimage 2013 Generations on Common Ground
From June 20th to June 23rd, about 200 former Japanese American incarcerees, their family members and friends gathered for the 11th Annual Minidoka Pilgrimage just outside Twin Falls, Idaho. More than 71 years have past since 13,000 Japanese Americans residing in the Pacific Northwest were removed from their homes and sent to a stark Minidoka Relocation Center in Idaho. Pilgrimage participants — many of whom had spent years at the camp as young children — dedicated much of their time touring and reflecting on incarceration grounds, now the Minidoka National Historic Site.
They connected their experiences to advocacy at a civil liberties symposium on the campus of the College of Southern Idaho, helping to ensure all the stories and history of the Minidoka experience are passed on and that no group of people is ever targeted and incarcerated without due process again.
One of its young attendees Johnny Valdez is a vessel of that history, and inheritor of those stories. A Seattle-based photographer, and the son of a Sansei mother and Latino-American father, Valdez is the grandson of two Nisei who were incarcerated at Minidoka with their families.
“In camp, my grandmother’s name was Porky Noritake,” he says. “She went to Hunt High School and was in a band called the Minidoka Matinee. She sang songs on the radio like ‘Shina No Yoru’ and ‘Don’t Fence Me In.’ ”
Valdez incorporates his Japanese heritage and grandparents’ identities into his artist name, “Johnny Valdez y Uno.”
“My Grandfather’s name was Johnny Uno,” he says. “He was four years older than Porky and graduated from Hunt High School in 1943. He went into the Army, and after training at Camp Shelby was assigned to the 442nd. He served in Italy, Switzerland and Germany. After the war, he went to school on the GI Bill, and later became a podiatrist.”
Valdez’s photo essay honors his grandparents and all Nisei survivors.
“I photograph what I love and what draws me in,” he says. “My grandparents are no longer living, so it is with immense compassion and sensitivity that I go about photographing our surviving Nisei, because, essentially what it is that I am seeing as well as what I am taking a picture of, are my own grandparents. And that is what I love.”
Valdez captures the experience of his first Minidoka pilgrimage in 2012 in the exhibit, “My Minidoka,” which is on display at the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Washington on 1414 South Weller Street in Seattle through Wednesday, July 17th. For more information about the exhibit, please contact email@example.com.
Children of the Issei by Dana Mar
Upon a dream
In a ship set on the path of the rising sun
I sailed under the billowing black of a Japanese steam ship
The sea roared her protest and the ship creaked fear into our sleep
We, the voyagers of the Japanese, traversed the ocean over time and uncertain promises
We brought our bags, our skills, our culture, our dreams, and our legacy to the
Land of the Free
They discovered the red and the white of our nations
Were separated by the blue of the ocean, in which our stars fell one by one
Shot down by fighter pilots and blown to bits in Pearl Harbor
In a ship set on the path to the golden waves of grain
I ceased being Japanese and became the enemy
In the nightmare of war
I was the first-born in the United States
Just a Nisei in Issei arms
How could they, those Americans just like us, say
These nurturing arms are the arms of the enemy?
As if my parents had never braved the blue waves to live under the stars and stripes
As if my loving mother could kill as well as she breathed life in a family
Put into “camps” so desolate and so removed from our homes that someone once said
Will they let us die here or kill us first?
Two bags and our own arms to hold the past and future of every family
We were given mere days to leave home behind
All she could carry were her children and her American dream
Shattered by Japanese bombs
Those days were framed in barbed wire and dust
They spit Jap in my eyes and blinded me to hope
We were all faithful to the red, white, and blue
So I swore on my mother’s fear
My children would not be Japanese
Because I was equal in the eyes of God
Equal in my Asian eyes
The eyes that stood witness to the red of the rising sun
The red of the blood shed for atomic bombs that blew up the whites of our eyes
I became Sansei
I grew up knowing little of what that meant
I grew up as an American
Not quite knowing why other kids asked how I spoke such good English
The war had not ended with a mushroom cloud
I fought the shrapnel that threatened to cut my feet as I walked
Down a dusty road
And back to a place where barbed wire pierced my eyes
Pierced my heart
And told me that I had to say something
I woke up and I was Yonsei
Fourth generation in the United States
1942 became a paragraph briefly mentioned in a small classroom
I lived in an alien nation
As my peers were deceived by Asian stereotypes
I was a type of person
But somehow not quite a person
My mother’s words echoed on the cases of three men
Korematsu, Hirabayashi, Yasui
In three generations of Japanese Americans
I found a suffering and a sadness that embraced my heart, seventy years later, in tears
But in that ship set on the path of the rising sun
I rose the sails of my voice and became more than my face and my meager height
The words of those who lost themselves in a concentration camp
Resonated stronger than the shockwaves of Nagasaki and Hiroshima
Japanese American became a badge of pride
It was silly when friends became honorary Asians
But from a people feared and hated so strongly once before
I became the dream
Once upon a dream
In a ship set on the path of the rising sun
Over an ocean of every color in one
I dreamt of being an immigrant
I opened my eyes to see the sun rise
And woke together with purpose in my voice
And determination in my eyes
We were all American
All proud children of the Issei