For the past twelve years ago, I been posting about a project I’ve had the privilege of co-directing for my district: The Time of Remembrance Oral Histories Project.
Initially, the project focused solely on a World War II event: The mass removal of Japanese-Americans from the West Coast following the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the onset of War War II.
Literally overnight, an entire population was denied the rights guaranteed to all citizens under the U.S. Constitution, and the history of the communities surrounding my school district was forever changed. Few would return to reclaim their farms, businesses, or former lives. The 16-minute documentary below provides a window into a time in our nation’s history when justice failed – and, more importantly, a reminder of the need to constantly strive for a “more perfect union.”
As you can see from visiting the Time of Remembrance website, my co-director Kathleen Watt and I have expanded upon the project to include The Secret War in Laos, stories of our Hmong and Mien refugee community. Not surprisingly, there are many connections between the stories of WWII and the Vietnam War.
This year, we have returned to these timely and timeless WWII stories, always inspired by lessons learned from our interviews. More recently, Stan and Christine Umeda have drawn our attention to some similarities in what is happening at our southern border.
To see senior citizens (80+ years) standing up for those who have no voice speaks volumes. Considering they themselves were silenced during WWII, as they were stripped of the rights guaranteed to all U.S. citizens, their voice and commitment to social justice should resonate with everyone following current immigration events.
I stand in awe of Christine, Stan, Marielle, and other members of the Florin Japanese American Citizens League for traveling to the border to speak out against the separation of families, a traumatic childhood experience from the incarceration experience that still haunts them – and moves them to take civic action.
And thank you, Christine, for sharing the resources listed below:
- From the Daily Kos reporter Gabe Ortiz – Japanese American internment camp survivors hold protest outside migrant family jail
- Blog post from Emily Cohen – Pilgrims’ Progress
- Article from PRI’s Natasha Varner – Immigrant detention centers are a grim reminder of Japanese American history
- Article from ABC News – Japanese American internment camp survivors protest at immigrant detention facility
Can we stop history from repeating itself? Yes – by eliminating bystanders. It is through the courage and actions of upstanders, even a small group of upstanders, that it is indeed possible to reverse history.
If you are discussing the border issues in your classroom, I invite you and your students to post a comment on how to #StopRepeatingHistory.