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San Jose Day of Remembrance marks 40th anniversary with large turnout

By Masao Suzuki |
February 20, 2020
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San Jose Day of Remembrance.
San Jose Day of Remembrance. (Fight Back! News/Staff)

San José, CA - On February 16, the San Jose Day of Remembrance held its 40th annual event with the second-highest attendance ever - more than 550 people. The event started in 1981 as part of the nationwide movement of Japanese Americans demanded redress (an official apology) and reparations (monetary compensation) for their incarceration during World War II.

The San Jose Day of Remembrance is held on the Sunday of Presidents Day weekend, which is near the date of February 19, 1942 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which laid the legal basis for the incarceration of more than 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War II. Organized by the San Jose Nihonmachi Outreach Committee (NOC), the Day of Remembrance events have grown under the Trump administration as the community protests the incarceration and separation of families at the U.S. border with Mexico.

The theme of the 2020 event was “No Camps, No Cages,” linking the World War II concentration camps to the detention centers holding Central American refugees today. Amy Iwasaki Mass was the event’s Remembrance speaker. She told her story of how her family lived in fear that the FBI would take her father away from them as they did to thousands of Japanese immigrants in the days following the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Empire of Japan. Mass ended her talk by denouncing the “shocking treatment of immigrants by the government” and condemning the “administration’s policy of separating families.” She called on the community to join the Tsuru for Solidarity protest in Washington, D.C June 5 - 7, saying “No camps no cages!” “Tsuru” is Japanese for “crane,” a traditional sign of peace, compassion, hope and healing.

The youth speaker, Joseph Tsuboi of the Japanese Community Youth Council (JCYC) of San Francisco, also told his family’s story of the concentration camps and the importance of speaking out for other communities today. He demanded the government “End the ICE raids and close the detention camps” on the U.S. border with Mexico. The intergenerational representation at the event was also seen in the co-emcees, Melanie Shojinaga and Madison Yamaichi, who helped to organize the first Bay Area pilgrimage to the site of Manzanar concentration camp near Los Angeles.

The evening’s guest speaker was the Honorable Norman Mineta, former congressperson from San Jose. Mineta was one of the Japanese American congresspeople who supported the movement for redress and reparations and co-sponsor of HR440, which later became law. Besides recounting his own family’s experiences with the World War II concentration camps, he spoke of the congressional effort to pass the redress and reparations bill, and how the original bill for a commission to study the issue was based on an early bill to set up a commission to study Native Hawai’ian land claims.

Among the night’s speakers was Bekki Shibayama of the Nihonmachi Outreach Committee and the Campaign For Justice. She gave an update on the struggle of Japanese Latin Americans who were kidnapped from their homes in Peru and other countries to be held as hostages by the U.S. government to be used to exchange for American soldiers held as prisoners of war during World War II. They have been denied equal redress and reparations with other Japanese American on the grounds that they did not enter the country legally.

Leading off the night’s event was San Jose Taiko, which performed a short version of their 1940s-themed “Swingposium” show. Their performance was a fusion of the big band swing music popular during the 1940s in the Japanese American concentration camps and the taiko drumming from Japan. Also performing during the event was an interfaith choir which sang Love is Breaking Down the Wall.

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