April 23, 2018 marks what would have been Gordon Hirabayashi’s 100th birthday. As a young man, Gordon learned the hard way that without a vigilant and engaged citizenry, our Constitution is little more than a scrap of paper. He took a stand and became one of the best known resisters to World War II incarceration–and we have much to learn from his example today.
First of all, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule of being triggered by other people’s gender pronouns, asking women what they were wearing, and trying to debunk “white privilege” with anecdotes about your blue collar background. We know you have many choices when you engage in online trolling, and we thank you for flying Densho.
In recent months, an outpouring of stories of sexual harassment, abuse, and assault has sparked long overdue conversations around the prevalence of sexual violence and the policies, attitudes, and silences that uphold it. As descendants of Japanese Americans criminalized during WWII who often use our own families’ stories to warn against the repetition of history, we know well that to understand our present we must reckon with our past. But for too long, the stories we tell have erased the victims and survivors of sexual violence in our own community. It is time we broke that silence.
In honor of National Women’s History Month we are excited to introduce the Guyo Tajiri Collection, new to the Densho Digital Repository. Guyo Tajiri was a journalist and writer at a time when opportunities were limited for women. Her tireless work and unique voice helped establish the Pacific Citizen as one of the major Japanese American publications. And as if being a successful journalist wasn’t enough, she went back to school when she was in her fifties and became a beloved teacher to special needs students in Oakland.
Michael Ishii is a New York based activist and organizer whose deep ties to interracial solidarity began decades before he was even born. In remarks made to a crowd gathered for New York City’s 2018 Day of Remembrance, Ishii introduced the Dunns, an Irish American couple who took in a young Japanese immigrant in the 1920s, raised him and his offspring, then came to the aid of their Japanese American family members and neighbors during World War II. That young immigrant was Ishii’s grandfather and the Dunns’ acts of kindness are now a fundamental part of his family story. Here, Ishii reflects not just on on what the Dunns gave, but also on what they gained.
Seventy-five years ago this week, Japanese Americans in War Relocation Authority (WRA) concentration camps were being asked to fill out the notorious “loyalty questionnaire.” After throwing them into these camps nearly a year before, with no attempt to determine individual “loyalty,” the WRA was now attempting to do just that. But the hastily designed questionnaire and its heavy-handed administration led to many unintended consequences, most of them bad for both Japanese Americans and their jailers.
Most of the discriminatory laws passed during the early 20th century to discourage Japanese immigrants from settling permanently in the United States have been repealed—but did you know that there is still one state that has an alien land law on its books? That state is Florida, and Asian American community leaders there are trying to get it removed.
January 30th is Fred Korematsu Day! Here in California, we’ve been celebrating it since 2011, and now it has been adopted in several other states (shout-out to New York where they’ll be celebrating their first Fred Korematsu Day this year). A Nisei man who defied the exclusion order in 1942, Korematsu’s case went to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ultimately upheld the legality of the forced removal of Japanese Americans. Later in life, Korematsu became a civil right activist who was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1998.
Join us this February 19th for a Day of Remembrance event to honor Japanese Americans of World War II and stand in solidarity with American Muslims today. During World War II,120,000 Japanese Americans were forcibly incarcerated against their will for the sole “crime” of their Japanese ancestry. Today, American Muslims are being similarly targeted because of their faith. We’ve been here before, and it is our responsibility to ensure that we do not continue down a path that values prejudice and a false sense of security over liberty and justice.
Mary Mon Toy (1916-2009) was many things. Singer, showgirl, Broadway performer, activist, thespian. The New York City based actress is best remembered for her break-out role as Minnie Ho in The World of Suzie Wong. She was also one of several Nisei entertainers to adopt “Chinese” names in the years just before and/or after World War II. But while Mon Toy was not alone in hiding her ethnicity to avoid anti-Japanese discrimination, she was notable for perhaps carrying the ruse further than any of her peers.
- book review
- camp life
- current events
- Densho statement
- film review
- hidden histories
- In memoriam
- open letter
- oral history
- Pacific Northwest
- photo essay
- popular culture