Gil Asakawa's Nikkei View | internment
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The Principled Politician: The Ralph Carr Story," is a biography of Colorado governor Ralph CarrErin and I are trying something different from our visualizAsian.com interviews with Asian Americans, and hosting a conversation with our friend Adam Schrager, the author of "The Principled Politician: The Ralph Carr Story." The interview is scheduled for Wednesday, February 24 at 6 pm PT (7 pm MT, 9 pm ET), and like our other talks, it's a free call held over a conference line and webcast, so you can listen via phone (long distance charges may apply) or online (free). Just register for the call, and you can also submit questions both before and during the interview on the webcast page, and we'll pass them along to Adam. This is a good time to revisit Adam's excellent biography of Ralph Carr, which was published in 2008. The paperback edition has just been released, and Day of Remembrance is coming up on February 19. OK, you say, what's Day of Remembrance, and who's Ralph Carr, anyway?

Photograph of Yoshiaki Noguchi when he was on the Polytechnic High School 1940 track team, courtesy of the Noguchi family.This past summer, the University of California announced it would award diplomas to Japanese Americans who had been students at one of the school's four campuses at the time, but had their education disrupted by World War II and the internment of Japanese Americans on the West Coast. About 700 students of Japanese ancestry were enrolled at the University of California at the time of internment, when they and their families were uprooted and sent to concentration camps scattered within barren parts of the American interior. Some graduated that year, in 1942, with the aid of sympathetic faculty and administrators. Some returned to graduate after the War. And some eventually obtained degrees at other universities. But many never completed their educations. So the Cal system did the right thing and decided to award these students honorary diplomas. Out of the 700, about 400 are set to receive honorary degrees this winter and next spring. The Associated Press sent out a perfunctory, four-paragraph news article about the diplomas over its wire service, which no doubt many news outlets picked up and published. But the real story that needs to be shared is the human one, and some news outlets have been tracking down former students and capturing their quotes. I was particularly moved by one story where the student is no longer able to give a quote. At UC-Berkeley last weekend, 42 former students received their degrees, and the event was captured in an eloquent and moving article, "Emotional day as UC-Berkeley awards honorary degrees to former internees," written by Sharon Noguchi, a reporter at the San Jose Mercury News. Her story does what few newspaper journalists can accomplish: It balances accurate, unbiased reporting with a poignant personal narrative. It turns out that her father, Yoshiaki Noguchi (photo at top as a track athlete at Polytechnic High School in 1940, courtesy of the Noguchi family), was one of those students who never got to graduate from UC-Berkeley. His degree was accepted by her mother, because he passed away more than 20 years ago, without even hearing the U.S. government's official apology for internment which was passed by Congress in 1988.

Attorney Dale MinamiThe next interview scheduled for Erin and my visualizAsian.com project is one close to our hearts. The free, live interview on Tuesday, August 25 at 6 PM PT (9 PM ET) will be with with Japanese American attorney Dale Minami. Dale is a rock star within the AAPI community -- in fact, the entire U.S. legal community -- as the lead attorney in Korematsu v United States, the landmark case that cleared the name of Fred Korematsu, a Japanese American who resisted being sent to internment camps during WWII and was sent to prison. A 1944 U.S. Supreme Court's decision established the constitutionality of the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. But Dale and a team of young pro-bono lawyers took on the case and in 1983, got Korematsu's conviction overturned. He's most famous for the Korematsu case, which he won on a writ of coram nobis, a legal tactic that forced the court to admit that an error of "fundamental character" had been made in Korematsu's conviction.
Here's a must-see video about Dale made for an award ceremony when he received the UC-Berkeley law school's highest honor:
But Dale has been fighting for the AAPI community all his career. He filed the first class-action lawsuit over employment by AAPIs on behalf of AAPIs with United Pilipinos for Affirmative Action v. California Blue Shield, and he helped the Spokane chapter of the JACL take on Washington State University with a class action suit to establish an Asian American Studies program. He also led a fight against UCLA over tenure that was denied an Asian American professor that revealed the layers of discrimination in the academic community.

The JANM conference that starts today in Denver has a whole bunch of interesting and important panels, workshops and discussions. I'm moderating one on Saturday, about Hapas -- mixed-race Asian Americans. But some of the most powerful parts of the conference will be the ones that bring people together with their past. Today and Sunday, caravans of buses will be taking conference attendees to southeast Colorado, to the Amache concentration camp near the town of Granada (the official name of the camp was Granada Relocation Center) where more than 7,000 Japanese Americans were imprisoned during World War II. Erin and I will be hosting one of the buses on Sunday. The day will begin at 6am and we'll return in the evening -- the drive to the camp takes about 3 1/2 hours through desolate eastern plains terrain. I'll blog about the trip afterwards, but I wanted to share a couple of links about Amache:

The Japanese American National Museum is sponsoring a conference in Denver over the Fourth of July weekend, called "Whose America? Who's American? Diversity, Civil Liberties, and Social Justice." Erin and I are helping out the conference, and one of Erin's main projects has been contacting and inviting Colorado Japanese American veterans to the conference's Welcome Ceremony on July 4, during which the vets will be honored for their service. Many of them are elderly veterans of the 100th Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team, who fought in Europe during WWII even though many of them had family members living behind barbed wire in U.S. concentration camps. These men, as well as their lesser-known Pacific campaign counterparts, the Military Intelligence Service (MIS) who fought in the Pacific, for the country that imprisoned them at the start of the war just to prove their patriotism, remain today the most highly-decorated combat unit for its size and length of service in U.S. military history. In one celebrated battle, the men of the 442nd, whose motto was "Go for Broke!," suffered over 800 casualties to save 211 men of a Texas "Lost Battalion" in the Vosges mountains of France towards the end of the war. It should be a moving tribute to these men, and the veterans will include both Hawai'i Sen. Daniel Inouye, who lost an arm as a member of the 442nd, and former Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta, who served in the Army during the 1950s. They'll join over two dozen Colorado veterans as well as JA veterans from all over the country who are attending the conference.

Erin and I attended a talk and book signing with 9News Political reporter Adam Schrager last night, and introduced him to her folks. It was the second time we've seen Adam speak since the publication of "The Principled Politician." This talk was held at Simpson United Methodist Church, which serves the Japanese American community, and it was sponsored by various area Japanese and Japanese American organizations, including the Denver Buddhist Temple, Japanese Association and the JACL's Mile-Hi chapter. This was the first time Schrager spoke to a hometown crowd of JAs. Back on Feb. 19 -- the Day of Remembrance, a date Schrager purposefully sought out for his first book signing at the Tattered Cover bookstore -- the crowd was mostly non-Japanese, with a definite emphasis on Denver media and politicos (Mayor Hickenlooper made it). Since then, Schrager has spoken at the Japanese American National Museum in LA, but here in Denver, his appearances have been on the bookstore circuit. So he admitted during the Q&A when Erin asked him, that talking about his book to an almost all-JA crowd was "intimidating." He didn't act it. Looking his usual boyish self, and speaking with an impassioned conviction, the tall, lanky Schrager reminded me of the young Jimmy Stewart in the 1939 Frank Capra film, "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington." By the time he finished and everyone convened downstairs for surprisingly good food from Japon and a long line of people buying his book and getting personalized autographs, Schrager had been accepted as an honorary Japanese American.


Members of the Grateful Crane Ensemble's "Moonlight Serenaders" in "The Camp Dance: The Music & The Memories," include (front row) Keiko Kawashima and Jason Fong; (back row) Kurt Kuniyoshi, Darrell Kunitomi and Haruye Ioka. (Photo by Phil Nee)
You wouldn't think that the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II would make for great source material for a stage musical. But it does, and in a way, makes a much more effective vehicle to tell people about that time, and what happened to JA families, than heavier, dramatic works such as the novel and movie, "Snow Falling on Cedars." "The Camp Dance: The Music & the Memories" is proof that internment can be explained in an entertaining way through a musical. Written and produced by Soji Kashiwagi, a sansei, and performed by his Grateful Crane Ensemble of actors, the play combines narration (the actors announcing what's going on on the stage), acting (there's plenty of terrific, believable and historically accurate dialogue), music and dance to entertain and educate audiences about the internment experience.

Bill Hosokawa in 2005, sitting next to a caricature at the Denver Press Club
Bill Hosokawa died of natural causes at age 92 in Sequim, Washington, where he lived with his daughter. He was a pioneering Japanese American journalist, author and diplomat who lived in Denver for 60 years. Those are the facts of Bill's life and death. But there's lots more to Bill than just the facts. I wrote an obituary for Bill that will run in the Pacific Citizen, the newspaper of the Japanese American Citizens League, the APA civil rights organization. Bill was a leader within the JACL, and a columnist for the PC for decades. I'm the editorial board chair for the newspaper, and a national board member of JACL, and I knew Bill because we'd run into each other at many events in Denver. So it made sense for me to write the obit for the PC. But I also owed it to Bill to write about him because he was a role model for me as a writer -- we both wrote columns for Denver's Japanese community newspaper (he kept his up long after I ran out of juice and got too busy). I wrote about Bill's influence on my career years ago, in one of my columns.