Although our community in the Bay Area will be observing our Day of Remembrance this coming Sunday, let us remember that 67 years ago today, the path of our community was drastically altered by the signing of Executive Order 9066 by President FDR. For the Japanese American community, February 19th, 1942 would be the day that lived on in infamy, as 120,000 Japanese Americans were eventually rounded up and relocated away from the west coast.
I can think of no greater culturally and historically significant event in the Japanese American community. Day of Remembrance should be a day in which we give recognition to the great perseverance and sacrifice of the earlier generations of our community, and to also give stern recognition that the loss of livelihood, dignity, rights and even lives resulting from the internment of our community is an experience that our country should neither forget nor repeat. Day of Remembrance is also a time to salute and give gratitude to the Nisei veterans who fought for their country despite being placed in camps. Likewise, I give recognition to the No-No Boys and resistors who demonstrated the integrity of their own resolve and principles by standing firm against the government that had hypocritically stripped their community of their rights.
Day of Remembrance is also an opportunity to acknowledge the efforts to rebuild the community after internment, and to celebrate the achievement of Redress that the Nisei and Sansei won. Day of Remembrance is a time of looking back and expressing our gratitude and appreciation of those who have come before us and who have struggled and who have had some part in creating the community that today is one I call my own.
While Day of Remembrance is an event that prompts us to look to the past, it also presents to me an opportunity to question the current state and future outlook of the community. At this point in time, as the yonsei and gosei, shin-issei and shin-nisei come into increasing prominence in the community, I wonder how much of this history my generation still retains, and how deep our own connection with the struggles of our predecessors runs. I wonder at what point the responsibility to carry on the obervance of this day will fall upon the shoulders of today’s youth, and how that interpretation of that historical moment and its aftermath will be internalized and then expressed by a generation that has enjoyed so much privilege borne of the determination and grit of their great-grandparents, their obaachans and ojiichans.
I would love to see what this day means to other young Japanese Americans, and how they see us carrying on this legacy in the future. Please feel free to leave a comment with your own thoughts. For now though, hopefully we’ll see some of you this Sunday to observe, reflect and serve the community at the Day of Remembrance.