Speaking Up! Democracy, Justice, Dignity

For the 25th anniversary of the Japanese American Redress legislation, the Japanese American National Museum presented its fourth national conference “Speaking Up! Democracy, Justice, Dignity” in Seattle, Washington from July 4 to 7, 2013.  This conference brought fresh insights, scholarly analysis, and community perspectives to bear on the issues of democracy, justice, and dignity. 

These articles stem from the conference and detail the Japanese American experiences from different perspectives.

Visit the conference website for program details >>

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Lessons From the Japanese Canadian Experience - Part 3 of 3

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LESSONS FROM THE JAPANESE CANADIAN EXPERIENCE 

Amateur volunteers working on a shoestring, we Japanese Canadian activists were armed with resolve and blessed with lucky timing. Post redress, other communities and struggles have examined the Japanese Canadian Redress victory to learn from our mistakes and successes. Of course, our experience is not necessarily transferable to other issues or locales.1


1. Determination

Famed 16th century Japanese samurai Miyamoto Musashi wrote, “Combat makes apparent something that already exists. A battle is always won before it begins, since it is won in the mind.”2 Having decided …

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Lessons From the Japanese Canadian Experience - Part 2 of 3

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The Redress Campaign 

In 1980, the community’s long-time political voice, the National Association of Japanese Canadians (NAJC) decided to investigate redress possibilities. By 1984, the campaign began in earnest. The issue became national front page news, when then leader of the opposition, the Progressive Conservative leader Brian Mulroney challenged the Liberal Party leader, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, to do the right thing by Japanese Canadians.

Initially within the Japanese Canadian community there were factions who needed to be won over [a topic that I go into in my book]1 outside our community, …

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Lessons From the Japanese Canadian Experience - Part 1 of 3

I will begin with a story. Over a century ago, Japanese immigrants landed on North America’s shores brought by the warm waters of the “Kuroshio,” or Black Current, which travels a perpetual circle from Japan south to the Pacific Islands and then up along North America’s west coast and back again. Transplanted adventurous peasants from a feudal island, we helped to clear the forests, to harvest the seas, and to develop a virgin country.

In those days, Japanese fishermen attached clear glass balls the shape of grapefruits or small watermelons to their fishing nets to keep them afloat. Thousands of …

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Radio Station KOBY in Medford, Oregon

Daytime we could get only two radio stations—small town stations in Medford and Klamath Falls, Oregon that played incessantly.

the women dug the lakebed
and turned up seashells
long dormant in the sand
sorted and cleaned
painted and shellacked
they became ornamental things
trinkets and necklaces
made in captivity
   this is Radio Station KOBY in Medford, Oregon

we took pieces of 2 x 4
whittled and carved them
mine were unremarkable
but old Yoshimoto-san
always did women
a shelf lined with them
severe and woodbound
more Egyptian than Japanese
all frontal and nude
   this is Radio Station KOBY …

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The Block Manager’s Canary

I knew three block managers in camp—actually, four, as I was one myself. Though I don’t consider myself a regular block manager, since I served only a few months toward the end of camp when there was little administrative work. But recently a former resident of my block unnerved me by announcing to one and all, “He was our Block Manager!”

I didn’t know how to take that. A block manager was indeed an important functionary in the block. He was the administrative head of 250 to 300 persons; he was responsible for the smooth operation of the block; he …

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9/11 assimilation birds block manager camps Canada concentration camp discrimination incarceration japanese american Japanese Canadian literature Maryka Omatsu migration NAJC No-No Boys oregon poem poetry postwar racism radio redress resettlement tule lake