70th Anniversary of Detention Order Marks New Challenges
By Andy Noguchi—SACRAMENTO – “Authorizing the indefinite military detention of American citizens and aliens without trial by the new federal National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)- as the government once incarcerated 120,000 innocent Japanese Americans - is a frightening flashback to World War II’s mistakes,” stated a Northern California Time of Remembrance (NCTOR) spokesperson.
To address this challenge, the NCTOR on Feb. 18 shared vital civil rights lessons from the past with an audience of 200 people and over two dozen partners, organizations, and representatives in Sacramento. Florin, Lodi, Placer County, and Sacramento JACL Chapters organized the program.
The California premiere of “Prisoners and Patriots,” a ground-breaking 90-minute documentary on the Santa Fe, New Mexico and other Department of Justice (DOJ) camps presented by filmmaker Neil Simon, highlighted the event. Unlike the later War Relocation Authority concentration camps, the DOJ camps at first imprisoned the 17,000 community leaders rounded up in the days and weeks following December 7, 1941.
Many people had never heard of the massive FBI raids based on President Roosevelt’s 1935 order to spy on the Japanese American community. Additionally, the film touched on the complex story of camp dissenters, including the Tule Lake “No- No Boys”, repatriates to Japan, and Nisei Draft Resisters who justly protested the mistreatment of wartime Japanese Americans.
Key Museum and Elk Grove School Partners
The California State Museum of History, Women and the Arts figured prominently in the program as a 10 year key partner in the Time of Remembrance. Each year the Museum shares an award-winning exhibit titled “Uprooted” – the Japanese American Experience. January through March tours led by volunteer docents, many of whom are former WWII detainees, draw 4,000 to 5,000 Northern California school students.
Seen as a model for civil rights education, the Elk Grove Unified School District has served as a Time of Remembrance partner for an amazing 30 years! Through the original work of the late Mary Tsukamoto, Elk Grove began its annual education project for 5th grade students based on the Japanese American experience.
Students learn of the wartime incarceration and take away invaluable lessons of Americanism for today. The school district also provides field trips for over a thousand students to the California State Museum exhibit.
Two outstanding individuals at the program received the Mary Tsukamoto Daruma Award for their perseverance and achievement in community education. The audience richly applauded Georgiana White, former CSU-Sacramento archivist for special collections, and Kelly Bitz, the California State Museum community relations manager. They were instrumental in developing the CSUS Japanese American collection and bringing it to the museum for the expanded student education program.
Unity Candle Lighting Ceremony
A moving Unity Candle Lighting Ceremony featured inspiring stories from behind barbed wire, the rising community awareness about the past, and those guarding our precious civil rights today. The audience observed a moment of silence for the late World War II resister Gordon Hirabayashi.
A wide range of 14 representatives included Santa Fe detainee families, Buddhist priests, Nisei soldiers, No-No Boys, Nisei Draft Resisters, as well as the Friends or Quakers who were among the very few courageous enough to stand up for Japanese Americans during the war. Present-day civil rights guardians from the Muslim, Jewish, and LGBT communities joined in.
Many Partners, Sponsors, Representatives, and Supporters
ACCT - CGNIE -Advocacy & Cultural Coalition Taskforce and Court of the Great Northern Imperial Empire (Keith Johnson); Arbor Press (Robert Mori); California State Museum of History, Women, and the Arts (Dori Moorehead, executive director); Council on American Islamic Relations - Sacramento Valley (Basim El-Karra, executive director); CSU- Sacramento Library Japanese American Archival Collection; Delegata (Kais Menoufy), Major corporate sponsor; Elk Grove Unified School District (Chet Madison, Sr., President); Jewish Voice for Peace – Sacramento (David Mandel); Charles & Doris Kobayashi, Sacramento Superior Court Judge, Retired; Florin JACL; Lodi JACL; Lodi Muslim Community (Taj Khan); Nisei World War II Veterans (Shig Yokote, 442nd RCT); “No-No Boys” (Jim Tanimoto); Nisei Draft Resisters (Susumu Yenokida); Palestinian American Congress - Sacramento (Saber Shehadeh); Physicians for Social Responsibility - Sacramento (Dr. Harry Wang, president); Placer County JACL; Sacramento Mayor Anne Rudin, retired; Sacramento JACL; Sacramento Buddhist Church (Rinban Bob Oshita); Sacramento County Board of Supervisors (Illa Collin, retired); Sacramento Friends Meeting/Quakers (James Sakauye); Santa Fe Detainee Families (Masako Tomono); Genevieve Shiroma, Sacramento Municipal Utilities District Board; Mariko Yamada, Assembly Member, 8th District.
NCTOR Planning Committee
Christine Umeda ably serves as NCTOR coordinator with Marielle Tsukamoto as student education project facilitator. Professor Wayne Maeda was master of ceremonies for the event. Fumie Shimada and Andy Noguchi coordinated the candle light ceremony. Other NCTOR Committee reps included Miko Sawamura (Sacramento JACL), Nancy Whiteside (Placer County JACL), Arlene Mataga (Lodi JACL), and Stan Umeda (Florin JACL). Numerous other volunteers generously helped at the event.
Andy Noguchi writes from Sacramento. He worked on the NCTOR Committee plus serves as the civil rights co-chair of the Florin Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) and the N. Calif. W. Nevada Pacific JACL District. He may be contacted at: