Resisters and redress at the Japanese American National Museum annual conference

Japanese American National Museum conference logoJapanese America comes to Seattle this weekend for the JA National Museum annual conference at the Seattle Sheraton, commemorating the 25th anniversary of winning redress for the camps.

Heart Mountain resister Tak Hoshizaki speaks Saturday at 2:00 pm on a panel called “Standing on Principle.” I’ll be there Friday sharing the Conscience DVD at a Marketplace exhibit table. I’m also speaking on a panel called the  “Tangled Routes to Japanese American Redress” — a title you’ll hear me dispute — and looking forward to reuniting with Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston for a Friday evening screening of Farewell to Manzanar, which the Museum recently freed from the clutches of Universal Studios for a long-overdue release on DVD. More on that in our next post.

newspaper article: "An Appeal for Action"
“An Appeal for Action” was the original manifesto of the Seattle Evacuation Redress Committee. Written by Issei intellectual Shosuke Sasaki, it was mailed along with an audiocassette of Shosuke reading it to every chapter of the JACL in the mid-1970s, before we got it published as an op-ed in the Sunday Seattle Times as an advancer to the very first Day of Remembrance.

For the redress panel Friday we will welcome conferees to the region that, in our humble opinion, saved the redress campaign before it ever got off the ground. I will share the story of how the Seattle Evacuation Redress Committee, with the advice and experience of writer Frank Chin, delivered the key strategy for reframing the issue after an AP story quoted California Senator S.I. Hayakawa calling the JACL’s resolution for redress “ridiculous,” and saying “The relocation was perfectly understandable … even the JACL supported it at the time.”The Wall Street Journal backed him up with an editorial titled, “Guilt Mongering.”

You could feel the air leading out of the redress balloon, until Seattle created and staged the first “Day of Remembrance” on Nov. 25, 1978, as a means of leveraging the media to tell our story and encouraging the local community to “remember the camps/stand for redress with your family.” At Friday’s panel we’ll talk about the turnout of 2,000 people — the largest single gathering of Japanese Americans since, well, World War II — that made national news and rallied our community behind our shared experience of incarceration and injustice.

photo of crowd
Despite the misleading caption, the first-ever Day of Remembrance was a joyous reunion and a taking-back of our shared history, with the not-too-subtle subtext of showing people like S.I. Hayakawa that Japanese Americans rejected any notion that “relocation was perfectly understandable.” Seattle Times photo by Pete LIddell.

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