of Remembrance: Let Us Pledge That the Laws Do Not Fall Silent Again
• After posting of colors by Chicago Nisei Post 1183, MCs Rebecca Ozaki and Anna Takada spoke about the background of Day of Remembrance. Ryan Sasaki read a removal poster issued by the Western Defense Command and Fourth Army Wartime Civil Control Administration. It said, “Pursuant to the provisions of Civilian Exclusion Order No. 34, this Headquarter, dated May 3, 1942, all persons of Japanese ancestry, both alien and no-alien, will be evacuated by 12 o’clock noon, O.W.T., Sunday May 9, 1942.”
• Mona Noriego, Commissioner of the Chicago Commission on Human Rights read a Mayoral Proclamation, followed by a teaser trailer screening of “Right of Passage” by Janice Tanaka.
• Special guest was Mitchell T. Maki,
Vice Provost of Student Academic Success at California State University
and the lead author of “Achieving the Impossible Dream: How Japanese Americans
Obtained Redress.” He spoke about a detailed case study of the passage
of the 1988 Civil Liberties Act that realized a formal apology from the
U.S. President, payments of $20,000 as redress for individual survivors
of incarcerated JAs, and a $15 million fund for the JA community.
• He named some people who made it possible
to pass the Civil Liberties Act.
• A 10-year-old boy, who was denied bringing his baseball bat to ride on a train, was Norman Mineta. The train took him and his family to an unknown place, and they were put behind barbed wire in Heart Mountain, Wyoming. He was elected to the House of Representatives in 1974 and took a leading role for the redress movement in the House.
• A six-year-old African American boy, who saw a huge truck taking his JA friend away from his home, was Ron Dellums. He was elected to the House of Representatives from Oakland, California and said that he never forgot the vision of fear. He gave a compassionate plea on the House floor on September 17, 1988 when the Liberties Act was being debated.
• A young white man who returned home from Air Force service in the South Pacific was Jim Wright. He read an article of Korematsu’s case and learned what happened to JAs during WWII. He said, “This is wrong. This is not what I was fighting for.” He was the House Speaker from 1987 to 1989 and was a leading advocate for passing the Civil Liberty Act.
• The 442nd veteran Spark Matsunaga was elected as a U.S. Senator from Hawaii in 1976. Bob Matsui was elected to the House of Representatives in 1978 from the Sacramento area. Matsui was a six-month-old when his family was sent to a concentration camp in Tule Lake.
• The concentration camps were closed between 1945 and 1947. Each JA was given $25 and one-way-train-ticket to go somewhere to reestablish their lives. There was prevailing feeling of shame among JAs, so they didn’t share the wartime experiences with their children.
• In the 1970s, there were basically
three different ideas to deal with the JA experiences.
• JAs took the third option and went
forward. A commission was created with nine commissioners across the U.S.
All 750 witnesses told their stories at hearings. Kiyoshi Tsunoda was
a dentist and received medical training. He was put in charge of taking
care of patients in his camp. His first patient was a young dehydrated
infant. Without adequate medical supplies, all he could do was hold the
infant in his hands until the baby died. Tsunoda unusually cried at the
hearing, and his testimony gave courage to other JAs to speak out.
• The commission issued findings in 1983
saying that the camps were wrong, and that the internment was results
of wartime hysteria, prejudice, and failure of political leadership.
• Another group activity occurred. The National Council for Japanese American Redress was formed mainly by the people in Seattle. The group filed a lawsuit about 22 violations of constitutional legal rights that JAs have been subjected to. Maki said that the lawsuit clearly articulated the wrongs done to the JA community.
• On the House floor, the Civil Liberties
Act was passed on September 17, 1987 and brought to the Senate. The Act
was passed the Senate on April 20, 1988.
• Mitchell Maki said, “The story of redress
reflects the strength of our nation, the ability for our nation to look
back at violations in a measured way.”
• At the end of the speech, Maki
said, “As we come together here today, let us pledge not only to remember
what happened to our community, but pledge that the laws do not fall silent.”
The audience gathered at the Chicago History Museum where 2016 Day of Remembrance took place
Speaker Mitchell T. Maki
A voting scene of the 1988 Civil Liberties Act