We will be having a sales booth as in previous years and will have a special origami instruction area this year too. This is our biggest fundraiser of the year and we appreciate all of your help. We are looking for volunteers for the following jobs and times:
Coordinate a truck and driver to pick up inventory from a garage in Minneapolis and deliver it to the booth at the
Festival. Setup the cords and lights on the booth.
Unpack and setup the booth displays.
Add up purchased items, take cash and make change without a cash register, and restock display tables. Items for
sale include decorations, toys, crafts, kitchen items, and other trinkets.
Teach kids and adults how to make a simple origami dog or cat, or a medium frog or crane. Instructions and materials for these projects will be provided. This is a great opportunity for younger members to learn teaching and communication skills.
Pack up remaining inventory. Coordinate a truck and driver to bring inventory back to the garage.
Tuesday, April 29
Afternoon: 1 Delivery
Wednesday, April 30
Evening: 5 Setup
Thursday, May 1
8:00-12:00: 5 Sales people, 4 Instructors
12:00-3:00: 4 Sales people, 3 Instructors
Friday, May 2
9:30-2:00: 5 Sales people, 4 Instructors
2:00-6:00: 4 Sales people, 3 Instructors
6:00-10:00: 4 Sales people, 3 Instructors
Saturday, May 3
10:00-2:00: 4 Sales people, 3 Instructors
2:00-6:00: 4 Sales people, 3 Instructors
6:00-10:00: 4 Sales people, 3 Instructors
Sunday, May 4
10:00-2:00: 3 Sales people, 3 Instructors
2:00-6:00: 4 Sales people, 3 Instructors
6:00-8:00: 4 Takedown
All volunteers will be given an admission ticket good for the whole day and a parking pass.
If you are interested in volunteering, please let Jenny Olsen know which day, timeslot, and job you’re interested in.
Leaders from the National JACL have selected the Twin Cities as one of five locations to present a teacher training workshop, “Constitutional Vigilance in Times of Crisis.” Several times in our nation’s history, political leaders have been faced with balancing constitutional rights with issues of national security. This workshop, planned for spring of 2015, will cover the historical background of the Japanese American incarceration during WWII and connect it to current events with the ongoing lessons of civil liberties, discrimination, and justice. The project is sponsored by the National JACL with funding from the Department of the Interior and the National Park Service Japanese American Confinement Sites Grant Program. The TC JACL Education Committee is looking for volunteers to help with the planning and implementation of this project. If you are interested in volunteering to help, please contact Carolyn Nayematsu, firstname.lastname@example.org or (651) 699-7407.
Other recent activities of the Education Committee include participation in the Minnesota Council for the Social Studies and Great Lakes Area 2014 Annual Conference, and fulfilling speaking requests.
On March 2, Sally Sudo and Lucy Kirihara set up a display table at the Sheraton Hotel in Bloomington, and Sally spent the next day with educators providing information and distributing complimentary resource materials, including the Twin Cities JACL curriculum guide on the MIS Language School at Camp Savage and Fort Snelling (CD-ROM), the Densho Civil Liberties Curriculum (CD-ROM), and the National JACL Education curriculum guide on “A Lesson in American History: Japanese American Experience.” A grant from the JACL Legacy Fund supported the chapter’s participation in the conference. Three teachers requested a speaker on the Japanese American World War II Experience. Participation in the conference was made possible through a grant from the JACL Legacy Fund.
For the first school speaking engagement, Sally gave a 40-minute presentation on March 11 to 10th grade history students at Christ’s Household of Faith School in St. Paul. Afterwards, Sally was interviewed by three of those students for their National History Day project. This year’s theme is “Rights and Responsibilities in History,” and in addition to the interview, the students also used materials from the Twin Cities JACL educational resources collection for their project.On March 20, Sally participated in the My Mankato “One Book, One Community” program. The book selected this year was “When the Emperor was Divine” by Julie Otsuka, and organizers gave out 500 free copies. Sally’s presentation on the Japanese American Experience During World War II was the first of three accompanying events organized by Delta Kappa Gamma, a group of women educators in Mankato.
Over 50 people attended the program, and one participant commented on Facebook: “Outstanding Community Read Program last night! Sally Sudo from the Japanese American Citizens League (and an internee at a camp as a child) gave the audience a vivid picture of life as a Japanese American in the internment camps during WWII.”The two other events in conjunction with the program are: screening of “A Time of Fear,” a documentary about the two camps in Arkansas on March 27, 6:30-8 p.m., and a discussion of Otsuka’s book, led by retired English teacher, Beth Christensen, on April 3, 7-8 p.m., both to be held at the North Mankato Police Annex Meeting Room at 1001 Belgrade Avenue, North Mankato.
We are in the planning process of bringing to Minnesota an exhibit titled, “Go For Broke: Japanese American Soldiers Fighting on Two Fronts,” curated by Eric Saul, retired from the Military Museum at the Presidio in San Francisco. The photographic exhibition chronicles the history of Japanese American Nisei soldiers from the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, and the Military Intelligence Service (MIS) who served during World War II to prove their loyalty to the country of their citizenship, the United States. This exhibit was presented at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, and opened at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii in Honolulu in March 2014.
The Education Committee has done preliminary work, including meeting Eric Saul at Sally Sudo’s home in December 2013, and meeting with representatives from the Minnesota Historical Society in March to discuss possible venues for the exhibition, including Fort Snelling Visitors Center and the Minnesota History Center.
Lastly, the Twin Cities Education Committee is accepting nominations for its inaugural “Power of Truth” Teacher Award, which will recognize a Minnesota educator in grades K-12 (not limited to a classroom teacher) who goes beyond the required Minnesota curriculum standards in teaching about the Japanese American World War II experience. The educator who is selected will be honored with a monetary award and recognition at our chapter’s annual banquet in Fall 2014. The deadline is June 15, 2014. Download the nomination form or apply online.
Please feel free to contact the Education Committee with questions about any of our projects or programs. Current members are: Sally Sudo (chair), Carolyn Nayematsu (co-chair), Janet Maeda Carlson, Lucy Kirihara, Lil Grothe, Sylvia Farrells, Gloria Kumagai, Matthew Walters, and Cheryl Hirata-Dulas.
My greatest fear in life is small talk. Laughing at the right times, maintaining proper eye contact, sipping a beverage, and staying aware of what is happening elsewhere in the room are just a few of the many activities I find nightmarish to juggle.
Thankfully, two hours of intense juggling at the Saturday evening welcome reception paid off, and I became acquainted with a few other summit participants, including Steve (a hapa from LA), Robert (a shin-nisei with a PhD from MIT), my roommate Leonard (a Chinese American from Honolulu). It was my honor to attend this year’s DC Leadership Summit, co-organized by JACL and OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates and held March 8–11, 2014 in Washington DC.
Stuart Ishimaru, recently appointed head of the Office of Minority and Women Inclusion, spoke at the reception. He commented most memorably about how much DC has changed since he first came for law school many years ago. For example, the only place to get Asian food in DC those days was a tiny Chinese restaurant that greeted you with a bread basket and marinara sauce. Ishimaru reflected thoughtfully on his long career and the importance of increasing Asian American representation in politics.
Later that evening, I also had the pleasure of meeting two Hmong Americans from Minnesota, Kham and Liz. Coincidentally, Liz and I actually met last year. She was working in Senator Amy Klobuchar’s office when I visited with a group advocating for immigration reform during the JACL National Convention.
The next morning, we were up bright and early for breakfast at the National Education Association, where most of the workshops would be held over the next few of days. The first activity was led by Tom Hayashi, executive director of OCA, and proved to be the most astounding society simulation activity I have ever taken part in. Without going into too much detail, I would describe it as a carefully designed game that, despite everyone’s individual efforts, gradually separates participants into classes. For all but the highest class, winning becomes more or less impossible as the rounds progress, creating disappointment and even desperation in lower class participants.
The post-reflection activity focused on the futile aspects of class and mobility. I also took away some of my own points as well that I would add if I ever decided to facilitate a similar activity myself. In particular, many individuals were forced to make difficult decisions that pitted their own advancement against the advancement of others in their class. I would have liked to see a greater discussion about this phenomenon and its significance to civil rights movements, as I think being prepared to recognize and weigh individual and group interests is a critical skill of leaders.
That afternoon, Bree Romero from the Leadership Conference Education Fund and Terry Ao Minnis from Asian Americans Advancing Justice prepared us to advocate for immigration reform and the Voting Rights Amendment Act during our Tuesday visits to congresspeople. The Voting Rights Amendment Act (VRAA) is designed to replace the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that was struck down by the Supreme Court last year. The purpose of both acts is to require certain districts with a history of racial discrimination to clear any voting procedure changes with the federal government prior to implementation. It was struck down because the formula used to determine which districts were subjected to this preclearance requirement was considered deprecated.
One of the major dangers of failing to pass the VRAA is vote dilution. This happens when a district composed of blocks, in which one representative is elected per block, changes to an “at-large” district, in which the same number of representatives are elected by the entire district. This effectively allows 50 percent of the district to control all of the elected representatives. The problem comes in when some of the blocks tend to vote differently from the rest. For example, a predominantly Latino block in an otherwise white district can no longer elect a Latino representative because their vote has been diluted by transition to the at-large system.
Later that afternoon, we attended a social media training workshop led by Vincent Paolo Villano from the National Center for Transgender Equality. He is also co-founder of The Brain Trust, a digital strategy start-up. This was an exceptionally engaging and informative presentation from someone who is both an expert on social media campaigns and an outstanding presenter. Vincent’s talent lies in his ability to simplify the sometimes bewildering online world using common sense procedures and guidelines. His presentation was so inspiring, I have kept all of my notes in hopes of launching an online TCJACL campaign to reach younger audiences.
After this, we formed advocacy groups to plan out our conversations for Tuesday morning congressional visits. Our all-hapa group included Steve (from LA) and Emi (a shin-nisei from DC). We planned to use a recent case of a Los Angeles court that applied the VRA to challenge at-large voting policies of a district. Nearly half of the constituents in this particular district were Latino, but the at-large structure diluted their vote, resulting in just a single Latino council member being elected in the past 50 years.
Finally, it was time to relax at karaoke in Chinatown. I decided not to subject colleagues to the terror of my own singing, but really enjoyed listening to so many fantastic voices. In particular, Ken, a lawyer from San Francisco, and I connected over our 90s musical tastes. Nia, a Samoan American and charter school co-founder, left everyone speechless with her rendition of Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You.”
The next morning, we attended a briefing by the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI). Speakers discussed immigration reform, the Affordable Care Act, and Asian American Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institutions (AANAPISI, “ann-ah-pea-see”). The last was of particular interest to me given my work in education. It is a new designation that allows institutions of higher education providing inclusive programming to access federal funds, not to mention one of the longest acronyms I have ever encountered. During the breakout session, I asked the AANAPISI speaker how institutions receiving federal monies were to be evaluated on their use of the grants. The program is just starting up, so he could not offer a clear answer. Given my familiarity with the politics of higher education at the University of Minnesota, these kinds of grants often fall into the hands of administrators unqualified to leverage the funds appropriately, so it will be interesting to see how WHIAAPI intends to ensure these federal monies result in effective interventions.
That afternoon, we attended a variety of workshops and panel discussions on advocacy and immigration reform. These discussions provided additional insights into the lives of immigration lawyers, policy advocates, and administrative aides.
Among these workshops was a presentation from State Farm, a major sponsor of the Leadership Summit and of JACL for many years. I never imagined I would be impressed by an insurance company, but they have a long history of admirable measures to improve the health of communities. Evannah Johnson, an eloquent speaker, shared information about several substantial grant programs targeting youth and non-profit organizations.
Before dinner, we visited the National Memorial to Japanese American Patriotism. I wrote about visiting this memorial during the National Convention last year in a previous issue of Rice paper. It combines historical elements of the Internment/Incarceration, 442nd Infantry Regiment, and Redress, and is centered around a beautiful sculpture depicting two cranes entangled in barbed wire. Unfortunately, I was disappointed in the docents, who seemed a bit unprepared for our visit. Having knowledgeable docents is important not only for the younger generations of Japanese Americans in attendance at the summit, but the diverse AAPI group from OCA, many of whom come with limited knowledge of the Internment.
That evening, we were honored by the presence of Chris Lu, deputy secretary of Labor. He is among the highest ranking AAPIs in the country and former classmate of President Obama at Harvard Law School. A surprisingly personable and engaging speaker, he stressed the significance of having chosen public service over private practice. He also spoke highly of the President as a classmate, reminiscing that even back then Obama commanded an awe-inspiring respect when he spoke up in class.
The next morning, Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa and Congressman Mark Tanano spoke to our group at the Cannon House Office Building. Both were unsurprisingly excellent speakers. Takano’s told a particularly impactful story about visiting Seattle years ago to find the location of the property his issei grandparents purchased with their life savings (and then placed in the name of their nisei children because isseis could not own land). The internment began, and they subsequently lost the land because they were unable to make the required payments while incarcerated. After reviewing historical maps and other information, Takano was shocked to realize that the property was directly adjacent to the ritzy hotel he was staying at in downtown Seattle. His story left us in awe at the sheer quantity of wealth taken from his family as a result of the internment.
We then proceeded to get into our advocacy groups and visit our assigned congressperson. We were sent to meet with the legislative aide of Karen Bass (Los Angeles, D-37). I was not particularly happy with the way the meeting went. I was shocked when, instead of inviting us into an office (as did the two aides we met with during the National Convention), she pulled a chair right up to our couch in the waiting room. This not only resulted in her towering intimidatingly over us, but also in relaying the message that this was to be a quick and unimportant meeting. Steve did his best as a constituent to convey our message that passing the VRAA will require a bipartisan effort, but she did not seem to understand this and appeared to perceive our visit as more of an annoyance to her office than anything else. One explanation is that Bass seems recently to be putting more of her energy toward her role on the foreign affairs committee than her role on the judiciary committee (where the VRAA is currently being pushed).
After our Hill visits, we returned to the National Education Administration and wrapped up the summit. We were each asked to reflect briefly on our time in DC. I said that the summit really made me feel that JACL and OCA complemented each other in many ways and that I would like to see greater collaboration between the two organizations. There was not quite enough time elaboration, but I had two major reasons for thinking this.
The first reason concerns the membership body. JACL has a strong civil rights legacy due in part to the lasting impression of the internment, but is suffering organizationally from an aging and declining membership. While OCA is also suffering from membership aging and decline, it a relatively newer organization with a more inclusive Asian American focus. (For example, although OCA originally stood for Organization of Chinese Americans, it recently rebranded itself as OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates.) Moreover, OCA membership is largely Chinese American, which is a growing demographic in the United States, thanks to an influx of Chinese students seeking education and employment in the US. This dynamic membership body is furthermore better supported by substantially larger portions of membership dues going directly to the individual chapters. This is in sharp contrast to the vast financial disparities created by JACL National membership policies.
On the other hand, I also believe there is a lot OCA can learn from the civil rights legacy of JACL. For example, I was disappointed by a recent press release from OCA National regarding California Senate Constitutional Amendment No. 5. OCA avoided taking a position on this amendment that would permit the reintroduction of affirmative action into California public schools and universities, and instead attacked the bill’s introducer, Senator Edward Hernandez, on the grounds that Asian American communities were not sufficiently consulted. Although JACL has unfortunately failed (as of March 22, 2014) to take a position on this particular issue as well, the National organization has in the past taken bold positions on controversial issues, sometimes to the disappointment of its own membership. For example, pursuing redress itself was a highly controversial decision. I feel the National leadership bodies of both organizations need to remain committed to taking bold, ethical stances on issues, even if such stances may warrant careful explanations to apprehensive membership bodies.
Being selected for the JACL/OCA DC Leadership Summit was truly an honor. Despite the frequent necessity of small talk, I found the summit a rich and valuable experience. I highly recommend it to others on account of the wonderful people who attend, exposure to the dynamic activities of social justice organizations in DC, and thought-provoking workshops. I would like to sincerely thank JACL and OCA for giving me this opportunity.
The Education Committee’s primary focus this year was spreading the word about the role that Japanese American soldiers who trained in Minnesota played during World War II. In 2007, our committee published the first version of its Military Intelligence Service Language School (MISLS) Teachers Curriculum and Resource Guide. This guide helped those who teach Minnesota and World War II History understand the part that our state played in instructing nearly 6,000 Japanese American soldiers in the Japanese military language at Camp Savage and Ft. Snelling. These men and women then went on to participate in every major campaign in the Pacific Theater and are credited with shortening the war by two years. This year, new academic standards for teaching Social Studies were adopted by the Minnesota Department of Education, thereby necessitating the updating and revising of the curriculum guide. We would like to give a special thanks to Matt Walters, who spearheaded this work, committee members who helped with this project, and funding from the JACL Legacy Grant. This guide can be downloaded from our chapter’s website www.twincitiesjacl.org.
One of the highlights of our year was being able to spend a day with former MIS Master Sergeant Roy Matsumoto. Roy, who celebrated his 100th birthday this year, traveled to the Twin Cities with his daughter, Karen, for the reunion of Merrill’s Marauders from his home in San Juan Island, WA. Carolyn Nayematsu conducted an oral history interview of Roy, which was filmed by Bill Kubota and Steve Ozone. Roy’s heroic actions while serving in the Burma jungle not only saved many lives, but led to victory over the enemy. Roy trained at Camp Savage and was anxious to see what was left of the site. We were graciously escorted by Janet and Will Williams of the Dan Patch Historical Society and Savage Community Library on a tour of Savage and posed for pictures by the plaque dedicated to the Japanese American soldiers at Camp Savage.
Another major project was putting on a Teachers Workshop at the Education Minnesota Professional Conference on October 17 at the River Centre in St. Paul. This is the largest educational conference in the state and is attended by some 10,000 educators. The title of our workshop was “Minnesota’s Yankee Samurai: America’s Secret Weapon in World War II.” Carolyn Nayematsu served as the moderator. Edwin (Bud) Nakasone gave an overall history of the MIS. Then Ed, along with Al Yamamoto, and Sally Sudo participated on a panel, each giving their experiences of how their lives were affected by World War II. Teachers were introduced to the use of our new MISLS Curriculum and Resource Guide. It was interesting to note that of the 31 educators attending our session, none of them had any knowledge that the MISLS was located here at Camp Savage and Ft. Snelling, and they knew very little about the role of the MIS during WWII. In addition to the workshop, Lucy Kirihara and Sylvia Farrells staffed an exhibit booth, and Jan Kirihara Monson helped with setup. Our participation in this conference was made possible through a grant from the JACL Legacy Fund.
In the September 20-October 3, 2013 issue of the Pacific Citizen, an article was published about the “Power of Truth” Teacher Award, which our committee is introducing for the first time this year. Any parent, student, or colleague (or the teachers themselves) can nominate a Minnesota educator in grades K-12 (not limited to a classroom teacher) whom they feel goes beyond the required Minnesota curriculum standards in teaching about the Japanese American experience during WWII. The winner will be honored with a monetary award and recognition at our chapter’s Fall Banquet in 2014. We hope to make this an annual award. For more information, contact Sally Sudo email@example.com or (952) 835-7374.
We filled requests for speakers for the following schools and community groups:
Edina South View Middle School
“One Book, One Community” event at Lakeville, MN
Lakeville North High School
Eagan High School
Control Data Ceridian Retirement Group at Creekside Community Center Bloomington, MN
SALT (Senior Adults Learning Together) in Burnsville, MN
Lakeville Senior Heritage Center
As for future projects – the Minnesota History Center has expressed an interest in bringing the “Go for Broke: Japanese American Soldiers Fighting on Two Fronts” exhibit to the Twin Cities. The national JACL Education Committee will be sponsoring one of their Teacher Workshops in our area in the spring of 2015. Both of these events will require a lot of man power and we will be looking for volunteers to help with these projects.
We would like to thank Mary Yoshida, Seiki Oshiro, and Sylvia Farrells for their contribution of resource materials for our library of World War II related materials. Donations to the Education Committee enable us to carry on with our work and are always appreciated. Monetary donations are 100% tax deductible, and can be made to “Twin Cities JACL Education Fund,” and sent to TC JACL treasurer Karen Lucas, 8625 Hunter Way, Apple Valley, MN 55124. For a complete list of available resources, check our website at www.twincitiesjacl.org.
Those serving on the Education Committee are: Janet Maeda Carlson, Sylvia Farrells, Lillian Grothe, Cheryl Hirata-Dulas, Lucy Kirihara, Gloria Kumagai, Carolyn Nayematsu, Sally Sudo, and Matt Walters. A special thanks to Ed Nakasone and Al Yamamoto for their advice and help with MIS-related projects. For any questions about our work, feel free to contact any committee member.
With some of our membership getting on in years, retired curator Eric Saul, formerly with the Military Museum at the Presidio in San Francisco, suggested that the Twin Cities JACL help gather and preserve photographs, documents, newspaper articles, letters, printed program brochures, drawings, artwork, diaries, personal memorabilia, and other items related to the Japanese American experience before, during, and following World War II.
At a recent meeting with the Twin Cities JACL Education Committee to discuss bringing the “Go For Broke” exhibit to the Twin Cities that he curated at Ellis Island, Saul talked about the fact that with Nisei now in the process of downsizing, or having passed away, their children and grandchildren are faced with what to do with their belongings, many of them saved from the World War II era. He then mentioned that he has facilitated the donation of such artifacts from members of other Japanese American organizations to the Library of Congress, and said that he would be willing to help our chapter with this important process.
“These items are extremely valuable, and we need to ensure that they are preserved now before they are lost, damaged, or inadvertently thrown out,” advised Saul. “People previously did not know what to do with these documents and memorabilia, and now that there is a permanent place for them, they will continue to tell the story of the Japanese American World War II experience.”
Saul has investigated other possible options, and concluded that the Library of Congress is one of the best repositories for such artifacts. Unlike many other museums or libraries, the items are made available to the public at no cost, without copyright, which gives them the ability to be widely disseminated. Furthermore, there is a department set up specifically to preserve memories of WWI and WWII veterans, and appropriate items would become part of that special collection. Lastly, the artifacts are preserved in perpetuity in our nation’s library, so permanent access to all is assured.
Before the artifacts are donated to the Library of Congress, Saul said that he scans the items, then gives a copy to the family and to the organization. Artifacts can then be mailed or hand-delivered to the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. Once the items are received, a letter of acknowledgment is given to the donor.
Tentatively scheduled this April, Saul will be traveling to our nation’s Capitol to donate his extensive collection of photographs and archival materials. The items will be presented to the head of the Library of Congress and head of the Military Special Collections Department. Saul has invited members of our chapter who would also like to donate items to coordinate their visits with his, so that their artifacts can be presented at the same time. Alternatively, Saul offered to help organize a Twin Cities JACL group presentation in the future. If donors are not able to present their donations in person, Saul is also willing to hand-deliver them on their behalf.
In addition to passing the artifacts down and making them available to the families and Japanese American community, these items are important to the broader community for future education and research to learn about the Japanese American experience during World War II. Because the Japanese American community in Minnesota is unique, with Camp Savage and Fort Snelling being an influence on drawing Issei and Nisei to this area during and following World War II, artifacts from the Twin Cities JACL members would greatly enrich the collection in the Library of Congress.
“We encourage our members to look through basements, attics, closets, shelves, files, drawers, boxes, and other belongings for any items from pre-World War II, incarceration, and resettlement, such as photos, albums, newspaper clippings, letters, diaries, drawings, sketches, cartoons, and even clothing, handmade articles, and art pieces,” stated Sally Sudo, TC JACL Education Committee chair. “Even if you think the item isn’t important or worth saving, please check with us first before giving it away or tossing it out.”
Contact Sally Sudo at 952-835-7374 for more information about making donations to the Library of Congress.
The 2013 National JACL Convention was held in Washington, D.C., July 24-27. The theme was “Justice for All,” as this year marks the 25-year anniversary of the passing of the 1988 Civil Liberties Act (H.R. 442). This legislation secured an apology and reparations for victims of the World War II incarceration of Japanese Americans, as well as the establishment of an education fund. I was honored to attend this event as a delegate for the Twin Cities chapter, and wanted to share my experiences.
Arrival and Orientations After five hours of buses, trains, and planes, I finally arrived at the hotel in Washington DC’s Chinatown around noon on the 24th. After checking into my room and registering for the convention, the first agenda item was the delegates’ orientation. At this session, we learned about voting, raising amendments, seconding motions, and other procedures that would be of importance during the plenary sessions.
The delegates’ orientation was followed by a legislative visit briefing that prepared us to meet with our respective members of Congress the following day. We broke into small groups based on our districts. Three other Minnesotans and I discussed what we would say during our visits to Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Rep. Keith Ellison, and Rep. Erik Paulsen. Our task was to assist the JACL in its mission to support three major policy reforms: (1) streamlining procedures that allow legal residents to be reunited with their families in a timely manner; (2) ensuring a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million illegal immigrants currently living and working in the U.S.; and (3) the DREAM act, which would make college-bound individuals brought illegally to the U.S. as minors eligible for permanent residency under certain conditions.
As I reviewed the materials provided and discussed with fellow Minnesotans, I began to feel increasingly nervous about these visits. We were told that although Sen. Klobuchar has a history of supporting immigration reform, Rep. Paulsen was only a “persuadable” candidate at best. The importance of these reforms to millions of individuals, coupled with my own political inexperience, created a lump in my throat that would continue well into the following day. Incidentally, it was during these group meetings that Thomas Kurihara stopped by to say hello. I was surprised to learn that he was a member of our chapter, although he has not lived in the Twin Cities for many decades.
Opening Reception Dinner It was already time for the opening reception dinner, and I found myself seated at a table with other delegates from the Midwest District Council. The JACL President’s Award went to Wade Henderson (CEO of The Leadership Conference) and members of Congress instrumental in the passing of the 1988 Civil Liberties Act: Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, Sen. M. Matsunaga, Rep. Robert T. Matsui, and Sec. Normal Y. Mineta. Both Henderson and Mineta attended and gave speeches so inspiring I could feel chills run down my spine. Henderson reminded us of the oft-quoted (but always relevant) truth that “eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” Mineta stressed that as we climb the ladder of success, we must always be sure to reach behind and help someone up with us.
Following the reception, I attended a late evening screening of a new short film called “Lil Tokyo Reporter,” set in 1930s Los Angeles and based on the life of issei journalist Sei Fujii. While the plot was not as engaging as I had anticipated, the cinematography was impressive. It was something of a film noir, but featured mostly Japanese and Asian American actors. I found this an exciting development and hope to see more Asian American historical dramas about this time period in the near future.
Thursday Plenary Session The following morning, I attended the opening reception, which included a speech by Japanese Ambassador Kenichiro Sasae. Ambassador Sasae discussed the Kakehashi (“Bridge”) Project, a large-scale youth exchange program between the U.S. and Japan. In efforts to strengthen ties with the JACL, 100 seats will be reserved for youth of Japanese ancestry. This was great news to me, as it acknowledges the many Japanese Americans like myself who are both involved in JACL and interested in Japan.
Following this, Professor Carol Izumi moderated a panel with Norman Mineta, Wade Henderson, and John Tateishi. They discussed a number of issues surrounding redress, including JACL’s unpopular 1970 resolution to publicly seek reparations, formation of the commission, debate over whether the redress strategy should be judicial or legislative, and the challenge of convincing other congresspeople to support the movement.
Visits to Congress and the National Archives After the plenary session, it was off to the capitol for legislative visits. The visit with Senator Klobuchar’s aide went well as expected. She listened to what we had to say and assured us that Klobuchar had similar feelings about immigration reform. However, the conversation with Rep. Paulson’s aide was less productive. He lectured us endlessly about how complex immigration issues are, which felt condescending and somewhat distracting from the purpose of our visit. It became clear that unless we interrupted him, our opinions as district constituents would not be heard. As time drew short, we interjected and argued that accommodating both timely family reunification and college-bound DREAMers would complement Paulson’s efforts to strengthen the Minnesota state economy by attracting and retaining educated foreigners.
That evening we visited the National Archives, where both Executive Order 9066 and the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 were on display. Remarks were made by JACL Executive Director Priscilla Ouchida, Rep. Mike Honda, Richard Foltin (AJC), and United States Archivist David S. Ferriero. I was impressed to learn that the AJC, premier Jewish advocacy group and honored guest that night, was the first non-Japanese group to come out in support of redress in the 1980s.
Friday Morning Session The next morning was spent in the second plenary session. At this session, we listened to Floyd Mori moderate a panel of Stuart Ishimaru (former Acting Chairman of the Equal Opportunity Commission), Hillary Shelton (NAACP Washington Bureau Director), and Mee Moua (executive director of AAJC and former congresswoman in the Minnesota state legislature). I felt Mori did an outstanding job as moderator, and a fascinating discussion ensued. The aspect of this panel I most remember was the inspirational Mee Moua. An eloquent and engaging speaker, she relayed a story that particularly impacted me. She said that when she was serving in the Minnesota State House of Representatives, a Hmong man shot and killed six people during a hunting trip in Wisconsin. Although the crime was not committed in Minnesota and the man did not even reside in her district, her phone immediately began ringing off the hook because she was Hmong. The first person Moua called was Floyd Mori, then executive director of the JACL. Mori advised her that the number one priority was to prevent hate crimes against the Hmong community. This story really drove home to me the importance of the JACL and the respect its legacy commands.
I was also intrigued by Shelton’s response to Mori’s question about what the next major civil rights issue might be. Shelton observed that increasingly clever tactics to control voting rights are emerging as a new tool of suppression. Surely, the recent attack by the Supreme Court on the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is clear evidence of this emerging theme. At one point, Mori thoughtfully asked panelists what JACL, as an organization, should remember moving forward. Moua’s response that JACL’s “strength is embedded in [its] membership” resounded most with me. But it also raises questions: What does a refocus on our membership look like from a policy perspective? How specifically can National leverage the strength of the chapters more effectively?
Next, we reviewed and commented on JACL’s strategic plan for the next few years. While I was admittedly bewildered by the complexity of editing a document together with over 100 other delegates, I did stand up to propose one additional education objective. I argued that all of the education objectives concerned the role of JACL in educating the outside community. However, with an increasing number of yonsei (like myself) and gosei represented in the membership, the importance of intergenerational education within the organization cannot be overlooked and should be considered an important objective moving forward. We then recessed for the legacy luncheon, during which it was my honor to accept a 2013 Legacy Fund Grant on behalf of the amazing work of the Twin Cities Chapter Education Committee. The Committee will be using this money to promote a curriculum about the Military Intelligence Service Language Schools at Camp Savage and Fort Snelling at conferences such as the Education Minnesota Professional Conference this October. I was seated with other recipients and had the chance to hear about many interesting projects, such as a public Japanese garden and a youth scholarship to tour internment sites. Doua Thor, former executive director of the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center, gave an inspiring speech during the lunch. I recall in particular how she stressed that to inspire a younger generation, there needs to be real opportunities for youth to engage at all levels of the organization.
The remainder of the day was spent in session. Much of our discussion was minor, regarding wording changes in bylaws and resolutions. We later voted to resolve three major issues: (1) a proposed reduction in membership fees (to $25) for the Japan chapter; (2) whether the JACL should issue a statement about the growing problem of discrimination against AAPI’s with chronic hepatitis B; and (3) whether JACL should issue a resolution written by the Seattle chapter to support further investigation of racial profiling in the Trayvon Martin case. Unfortunately, I received little information beforehand and did not feel sufficiently informed to weigh in on these issues. Formal discussion rules also made any deep analysis of the facts a slow process.
All three resolutions passed, although I did not support all of them. First, I voted in favor of the chronic hepatitis B statement, as I felt it was important that the high prevalence in our community is not used to legitimize discriminatory practices. Second, while I felt the Trayvon Martin resolution was poorly written, I favored the underlying request for continued investigation as to whether racial profiling played a role in the shooting. Regardless of what we as individuals believe about these cases, JACL, I reasoned, must continue to raise flags when questionable issues like this arise. Third, I voted against the reduction of membership fees for the Japan chapter.
My opposition to the reduced membership fees for the Japan chapter was not on account of the principle of lower membership dues, but rather on the justification put forth. The Japan chapter stated that they were unique in that they did not face the kind of racial discrimination AAPIs face in the US, were ineligible for some benefits provided through JACL partners, such as AARP, and that many were not US citizens and therefore not benefiting from civil rights lobbying at the national level. While I sympathized with their plight, I opposed the resolution because I felt much of this rationale actually opposes the foundational social justice principles of the JACL and set what I felt to be a worrisome precedent.
Reception at Japanese Ambassador’s Residence That evening, we attended a reception at the Japanese Ambassador’s residence. This was an incredible honor. In fact, I was so inspired that I updated my Facebook for the first time in two years! It was at this reception that the JACL presented the Governor Ralph L. Carr Award for Courage to three individuals. The first went to the late President Ronald Reagan, for signing H.R. 422. According to the speaker, after signing the resolution, Reagan said that “no payment can make up for those lost years. So, what is most important in this bill has less to do with property than with honor. For here we admit a wrong; here we affirm our commitment as a nation to equal justice under the law.” The second award went to Speaker Jim Wright, who, as Majority Leader, introduced H.R. 442 in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1985. The third went to Glenn Roberts, who, early in his career, was asked by Secretary Mineta to draft the bill that became H.R. 442. He is credited with framing the bill as correcting a Constitutional infringement, which made the legislation significantly stronger.
Remembrance Ceremony The final activity of the conference for me before my flight home on Saturday afternoon was the remembrance ceremony at the Japanese American Memorial to Patriotism. I was surprised by how beautiful the bronze monument was, depicting two cranes entangled in barbed wire. The size of the sculpture was ideal, neither large and overbearing nor small and insignificant. Surrounding the monument were large stone tiles with quotes and other information about the internment, including the number of individuals incarcerated in each camp. During our ceremony, a tourist bus stopped quietly for a few minutes to observe the memorial. I overheard someone comment that buses did not used to stop at the monument. Incidentally, I also caught up with Thomas Kurihara again. We ended up chatting long after the ceremony ended about everything from the Twin Cities to the meaning of the JACL.
It was truly an honor to attend the convention on behalf of the Twin Cities JACL, and I wish to thank the chapter for giving me this opportunity. Next year’s convention is in San Jose. It has been scheduled to end right before their Obon festival, which is well-known for being a spectacular production. Based on my wonderful experience this year, I highly advise everyone to consider attending the conference next year. Meeting other Japanese Americans, learning new ideas from inspiring speakers, and weighing in on important JACL issues are all meaningful experiences I hope others will also have the opportunity to experience.
As I think back on the 2013 National Convention in Washington, D.C., commemorating the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, also known as Redress, what I remember the most are the legislative visits. This memory truly stands out as a unique experience for a young professional such as myself, but was only one of the many opportunities offered at this year’s convention.
The legislative visits were an amazing experience. For someone who is not well experienced with direct advocacy, I found the whole experience extremely educational. A lot of preparation went into the event: briefing the delegates on the issue of Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) during an hour long workshop; researching our Representatives and Senators’ stance on CIR; thinking of personal stories and tailoring them to support arguments in favor of CIR; conducting a mock dialogue with other members from our district to practice our visit agenda; and not to mention all of the staff and volunteer time to schedule, coordinate, and execute 64 legislative office visits on one day.
Once the big event arrived, the whole process was smooth and efficient. After being adequately briefed, all teams of convention delegates marched to Capital Hill to meet with their members of Congress. The team from Minnesota included all young professionals: Jim Kirihara, Matt Walters, and Cece Campanella. We were guided by an advocacy volunteer who aided in directing us to the proper offices and gave us pointers to make our time with the Congressional staffers the most effective. That day, we met with Senator Amy Klobuchar and Representative Erik Paulsen’s staffers. Considering the Senate passed a version of CIR prior to convention, which then passed the bill to the House, and that Rep. Paulsen was a “persuadable” GOP target, we knew meeting at Paulsen’s office was going to be our biggest challenge. And by the end of the day, it was. But, despite us not convincing Rep. Paulsen’s staffer to support CIR, I came away with a strong sense of why JACL is still relevant today.
JACL is relevant today because we have a strong presence in Washington and in most state capitals around the nation, an ability to organize and advocate for inequality on behalf of other communities who struggle to stand up for themselves. JACL is relevant today, because it exposes and instills in community members the importance of advocating for injustice. Each and every day we are able to represent the underserved. During the Convention, we celebrated how far the JA community has come since its inception, 84 years ago. It is essential we ensure JACL remains relevant in the future.
Photo: Lil Grothe (left) and Lucy Kirihara displaying the Twin Cities JACL’s new MIS Curriculum Guide at the 2007 Great Lakes Regional social studies conference. (Photo by Cheryl Hirata-Dulas)
The Twin Cities Japanese American Citizens League(JACL) Education Committee unveiled its newly published curriculum guide on the Military Intelligence Service (MIS) at Great Lakes Conference ’07, a seven-state regional meeting of social studies teachers, hosted by the Minnesota Council on the Social Studies at Mystic Lake on March 8-9, 2007.
Included in the materials are biographies of local Japanese American World War II MIS veterans. Harry Umeda was in the first MIS class at Camp Savage in May 1942, and recalled the sparse quarters and initially having to study on the floor. After training, he was assigned to the Central Japanese Prisoner of War (POW) Compound in New Guinea, where he interrogated Japanese POWs for combat and strategic intelligence.
Toshio William Abe was also in the first graduating class at Camp Savage, and was sent to the China-Burma-India theater as a replacement for Merrill’s Marauders, where he served in continuous combat for eight months. He was on the front lines fighting as an infantryman, and translated captured documents and interrogated Japanese POWs there.
The other local MIS veterans highlighted are George Suzuki, Edwin (Bud) Nakasone and Bill Doi.
The project was prompted because the Minnesota Department of Education’s Academic Standards in History and Social Studies, approved in 2004, includes “Fort Snelling language school” as one of the examples to be taught under Minnesota and World War II History in grades 4-8.
The U.S. Army’s Military Intelligence Service (MIS) program was established in November 1941, a few weeks before Pearl Harbor, at the Presidio of San Francisco. In 1942, the order to exclude Japanese Americans from the west coast necessitated a move inland. While most governors were against having the MIS program moved to their states, Gov. Harold Stassen felt that the people of Minnesota could provide a friendly and accepting atmosphere to the Japanese American soldiers. The MIS program was moved to Camp Savage in May 1942, and later to larger facilities at Fort Snelling from August 1944 to June 1946.
The highly classified MIS program has been called “America’s secret weapon in the war against Japan.” Six thousand soldiers, mostly second-generation Americans of Japanese ancestry (Nisei), were given intense and accelerated training in the Japanese language.
Shipped overseas in small teams, the MIS soldiers accompanied American and Allied combat troops in every major landing in the Pacific. Their Japanese language skills enabled them to provide the American and Allied forces with critical information about the Japanese military tactical and strategic plans. After the war, MIS soldiers acted as interpreters at the war crimes trials, and served under General Douglas MacArthur’s occupation force in Japan.
According to General Charles Willoughby, Chief of Staff for Military Intelligence for General MacArthur, “the Nisei shortened the Pacific war by two years, and saved probably a million American lives and saved probably billions of dollars.”
A historical marker placed in 1995 by the Savage Chamber of Commerce at Highway 13 near Xenwood Avenue in Savage, identifies the site of Camp Savage and describes the role of the MIS during World War II.
The MIS soldiers played such an instrumental role during World War II, however, it is only fairly recently that their efforts have come to public attention.
“We are happy that government documents have been declassified and that the experiences of the MIS soldiers are being recognized and taught to students,” stated Sally Sudo, chair of the Twin Cities JACL Education Committee.
The MIS curriculum guide is available to educators for no charge through generous support from the family of the late Toshio William Abe and from George Suzuki. Lesson plans and learning activities are included that incorporate important aspects of the MIS, such as training at Camp Savage and Fort Snelling, interrogating Japanese prisoners of war, and translating the Japanese language.