The Amache concentration camp in southeastern Colorado was, in many ways, similar to other War Relocation Authority camps where Japanese Americans were incarcerated during World War II: rural and rugged, hastily constructed against the wishes of the surrounding community, prone to dust storms and harsh weather. But one thing that was unique to Amache was its successful silk screen shop, run almost entirely by Japanese American incarcerees.
Tule Lake began as one of ten concentration camps that held Japanese Americans forcibly removed from the West Coast in 1942. Early experiences there were, in many ways, much like that at other camps. But in July 1943, Tule Lake became a “segregation center” for Japanese Americans who had refused to give unqualified “yes” responses to the infamous loyalty questionnaire. Overcrowding, labor disputes, increased militarization, and other conditions led to unrest, and eventually over 5,000 Tule Lake inmates renounced their U.S. citizenship.
In this guest post, scholar and Soto Zen Buddhist priest Duncan Ryūken Williams reflects on celebrating his first 4th of July as an American citizen in the midst of a global pandemic and uprisings against anti-Black police brutality. He illustrates how the concept of interconnectedness can illuminate our understandings of history and various forms of oppression, but also guide our collective work towards liberation.
Guest post by Sara Onitsuka
The last few weeks of protest, sparked by the murder of George Floyd and rising out of 400+ years of slavery, genocide, and other white supremacist and anti-Black violence, have shattered previous ideas of what we thought was possible. More than a dozen cities across the country have proposed to cut some funding from police, and Minneapolis, where the protests began and continue with strength, has taken it a step further by voting to disband the police department. This is a time where we have been called to urgently continue learning and expanding our own political understanding and practices.
As we uplift the achievements and ongoing struggles of LGBTQ communities this Pride season—which, friendly reminder, exists because Black trans women rioted against police violence—we want to highlight the stories of the queer ancestors within our own Japanese American community. Despite the often deliberate erasure of their contributions to our history, and the underrepresentation of queer and trans voices in archives (including our own), we know that LGBTQ history is Japanese American history.
We may not be able to come together in person anytime soon, but you can rest assured that we’re working hard to expand our digital offerings and create virtual gathering spaces to stay connected to you, our Densho community. Here’s a list of upcoming and ongoing digital events offered by Densho and other community partners. We’ll continue to update this calendar as we add new programming, so make sure to come back to check out the latest!
At this moment, we are all trying to comprehend the gravity of recent tragic events and the constantly changing COVID-19 situation. Many of us are processing feelings of frustration, anger, fear, confusion, heartbreak, and anxiety as we navigate these historical and political contexts, and the deep social inequities rising to the surface. To meet this moment, we believe that learning, reflection, and action requires space for brave and supportive processing of these events within our community.
We’re holding a lot of grief and anger over the Black lives stolen by white supremacy in recent weeks. For George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Nina Pop, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many others whose names never made national headlines, we demand justice and mourn their loss. But we also recognize that this is not enough. In this moment—especially with the knowledge that it was an Asian American cop who stood by and did nothing as his partner literally crushed the life out of George Floyd—it is urgent that we as Nikkei and Asian Americans recommit to the hard and messy work of uprooting the anti-Blackness from within our communities.
On the afternoon of April 15th, detainees at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington filled the narrow triangle that serves as the facility’s recreation area. In a carefully choreographed movement, they marched into formation to the universal signal of distress. This act of creative resistance coincided with a hunger strike organized by detainees at the privately-run detention facility.
*Update: registration for this teach-in is now closed. If you would like to be notified about future teach-in dates, sign up for Densho’s eNews.
Join us for a virtual teach-in that will deepen your understanding of American xenophobia and racism, using Japanese American WWII incarceration and the current crisis of immigrant detention as case studies. This interactive learning experience is designed for teachers, high school or college students, community leaders, and individuals simply looking to expand their knowledge and deepen their commitment to action.
- after camp
- book review
- camp life
- current events
- Densho statement
- film review
- guest post
- hidden histories
- In memoriam
- open letter
- oral history
- Pacific Northwest
- photo essay
- popular culture