HomeAsian AmericansDay of Remembrance seeks to heal injustices, uplift activism

Day of Remembrance seeks to heal injustices, uplift activism

By Matthew Yoshimoto, AsAmNews Contributor

The Day of Remembrance, which falls on Feb. 19, is used by the community to pay tribute to injustices caused by the mass incarceration of Japanese in the United States during World War II, as well as promote social justice advocacy across contemporary issues. 

It recalls the civil liberties that were lost with the signing of Executive Order 9066 in 1942, which resulted in the forced removal and incarceration of 120,000 people of Japanese descent, two-thirds of whom were U.S. citizens, according to Will Kaku, vice chair of the Nihonmachi Outreach Committee, which is hosting a Day of Remembrance event at the San Jose Buddhist Church on Sunday. 

Kaku explained that the day not only honors the Japanese American community but is also meant to provoke discourse regarding contemporary civil rights, national security policies, racial prejudice, discrimination, reparations and wartime hysteria.

“Each one of us has the opportunity to reflect on what that tragic event means to us today,” Kaku said in an email. “It is important for us to realize that this is not just an 82-year old story and it is not just a story about Japanese Americans. This is a story that affects all Americans and residents.”

Understanding the importance of enlisting the help of younger community members given their “relentless energy and commitment,” Kaku explained the theme for his group’s event is “Youth Activism: Building Community.” 

Kaku said he hopes the event works to “break down barriers” and promote trust and respect among people of different cultures. 

“We hope to build a community where we can all look out for each other,” Kaku said in the email. “As recipients of redress, we feel that it is our responsibility to defend all people when they become the target of discrimination and hate. We strongly adhere to the words of Martin Luther King Jr: ‘In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.’”

Jinni Pradhan, program director for the Center for Asian Pacific Islander Student Empowerment at San José State University, said SJSU’s event will have the shared goal of helping the community understand Japanese American history and its implications on the present day. 

Japanese American incarceration is a part of SJSU campus history, with the men’s gym building having served as a registration center for local Japanese Americans in 1942, Pradhan said, stressing the importance of uplifting “the generations of activism” that developed in U.S. history. 

“We cannot forget what happened; we need to understand our history and be in dialogue about it in order to move forward,” Pradhan said in an email. “I hope that by continuing to amplify this history through the Day of Remembrance, others will understand how the world they live in now is inherently connected to that moment.”

Gala King, the Northern California regional program director at Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity, said the group’s event this Wednesday in Oakland aims to honor the families and their descendants as they continue to heal from this traumatic period. 

King explained events like these can raise awareness for ongoing struggles, such as racially-motivated mass incarceration, inhumane immigration and detention facilities and the plight of people in places like Gaza who are facing displacement and genocide. 

“Coming together to honor the Day of Remembrance is a way we heal from these historical traumas, bringing visibility to the impacts of war and incarceration, both in the past and present,” King said in an email. “In doing so we honor the resilience in communities who are impacted today, like immigrants and Palestinians, who are leading our justice movements.”

AsAmNews is published by the non-profit, Asian American Media Inc. Follow us on FacebookX, InstagramTikTok and YouTube. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to support our efforts to produce diverse content about the AAPI communities. We are supported in part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library in partnership with the California Department of Social Services and the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs as part of the Stop the Hate program. To report a hate incident or hate crime and get support, go to CA vs Hate.

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