March 28, 2022
In this final piece from our 2022 Women’s History Month writing challenge, gosei poet Lane Tomosumi Shigihara shares a haiku inspired by his grandmother’s courage in standing up for her family’s rights while they were incarcerated at the Jerome, Arkansas concentration camp during World War II.
Vocal Young Woman
vocal young woman:
standing up with cap and gown
standing up for rights
My Sansei grandmother’s education at President William McKinley High School in Honolulu, HI was cut short due to the signing of Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942.
When she was 17 years old, Sarah Yomogi Okada and her family of six were ordered from Honolulu to the Jerome Concentration Camp in Arkansas. She graduated from the camp’s Denson High School in 1943.
Sarah instructed her father to copy her written replies instead of answering “Yes” or “No” for two of the questions on the U.S. government loyalty questionnaire:
For Question 27—Are you willing to serve in the armed forces of the United States on combat duty, wherever ordered?
They requested, “Give me a reason for our internment.”
For Question 28—Will you swear unqualified allegiance to the United States of American and faithfully defend the United States from any or all attack by foreign or domestic forces, and forswear any form of allegiance or obedience to the Japanese emperor, or any other foreign government, power, or organization?
They submitted, “I will answer 28 after getting an answer for 27.”
Even though their answers were not “No” and “No”, Sarah’s family was then incarcerated at the Tule Lake Concentration Camp in California.
In 2015, Sarah became the first former internee to receive an honorary high school Kupono (honest, upright, decent, and reliable) Diploma from the State of Hawaii Department of Education.
My grandmother’s advocacy for civil rights, openly sharing of her oral history, and love for her ohana embolden me to share her stories for today and for future generations.
Lane Tomosumi Shigihara is a Gosei poet and advocate of digital transformation and inspiring intentional introspection through the arts. Find more of his work at www.tomosumi.com.
Read the rest of this series: