Conscience and the Constitution

Remarks for Kiyoshi Okamoto

by Earnest Masumoto
Kiyoshi Okamoto's grand-nephew
December 10, 2010

delivered at the paupers' section of Evergreen Cemetery, Los Angeles

I am Earnest Masumoto. My mother's maiden name was Teruko Okamoto. Her father's brother was Kiyoshi Okamoto. I met Kiyoshi when I was a child, but I don't remember what was said between Kiyoshi and my parent (for they probably spoke to each other in Japanese. This was what parents did when they were talking about matters that didn't involve the kids).

I first met Frank Emi in 1999 at the recognition ceremony for the draft resistors and the Fair Play Committee (FPC) that was held by the National Coalition for Reparation and Redress’s (NCRR) Day of Remembrance (DOR) and the now enlightened and sympathetic Japanese American Community League (JACL).

My first exposure to their story of their persecution for standing on the principles of the US Constitution and Bill of Rights and rejecting the drafting of JAs from the Internment Camps while their families were imprisoned there was when I followed Marie’s lead and joined the NCRR.

I was not aware of their plight for there wasn’t any information proffered by the schools or my parents who were imprisoned at the Topaz Concentration Camp where I was born. They were silent about their camp experience so as not to raise my awareness and possible anger that would impede my assimilation into the predominantly White Society that still embraced racial discrimination back then.

The last time that I saw Frank was last year at a memorial for my Grand Uncle, Kiyoshi Okamoto where he graciously eulogized Kiyoshi. Here in part is what he wrote in tribute to Kiyoshi:

Friday, August 21, 2009
“I first met Kiyoshi Okamoto at Heart Mountain concentration camp in 1943 during the time when the controversial question “27”, 28” so called loyalty questionnaire was forced on the inmates of the camps.

"Because this order stirred so much controversy, the camp director held a public meeting. The speaker was Shig Kawai, former head of the Pasadena JACL. The gist of his speech was urging everyone to answer “yes” to both controversial questions to show our loyalty.

"After his speech various questions were raised from the audience. When Mr. Okamoto stood up, he had some very hard, down to earth question an his statements based on the United States Constitution and the bill of Rights and in pretty salty language

"Well, about 4 or 5 of us young men, who were very concerned about this callous action by our Government, held a long talk with Okamoto and after a couple of more meetings with him, the Heart Mt. Fair Play Committee (FPC) was born as an organization with Mr. Okamoto as chairman, Up to this time he had referred to himself as “Fair Play Committee of One” and would give talks like a sidewalk preacher whenever he could gather a few people would listen to him. He might have been an ACLU member. I remember he had some copies of their publication, “The Open Forum”.

"Kiyoshi Okamoto’s writings were powerful and brilliant. We incorporated much of his writings in what was to become FPC’s manifesto in our constitutional challenge against the Federal Government’s invoking the military draft to the men within the camps.

"I brought some copies of the FPC’s manifesto to the military which in turn resulted in being charged with “conspiracy” and after a trial the seven most active leaders of the FPC were convicted and we ended up with a 4 year sentence in Leavenworth Penitentiary.”


Updated: January 5, 2011