July 17, 2008
It's been a couple of weeks since the Japanese American National Museum's national conference was held in Denver. Sorting through the many bits of video I took over the conference, which ran July 3-6, my favorite parts were the tribute to JA veterans on the Fourth of July, and the July 6 bus tour to Amache, the internment camp in southeast Colorado. The conference brought a bevy of famous and not-so famous speakers and panelists (I moderated a panel on Hapas, mixed-race Americans who are the future of the JA community) to Denver's nice new Hyatt right by the nice new Convention Center. The famous included the likes of actor George Takei, a superstar in the JA pantheon; Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawai'i), a Medal of Honor World War II veteran of the all-JA 100th Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team; Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.), who as a baby was interned at Amache with his family; former Congressman and U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norm Mineta; JA leaders and activists such as John Tateishi and Dale Minami; authors including mystery novelist Naomi Hirahara; Cynthia Kadohata, who writes books for pre-teens; and Uma Krishnaswami, who writes multicultural children's books from a South Asian perspective. The conference, which had the awkward and ungainly title but righteous theme of "Whose America? Who's American?," also brought more than 800 attendees and volunteers for the four-day span, meeting and greeting and learning about the history, present and future of not only Japanese Americans but also of Americans in general. One of the noteworthy speakers was Anan Ameri, the director of the Arab American National Museum, who spoke at a Plenary Session alongside JA scholars about internment, civil rights and the question of American identity posed in the conference title.