Marking a ‘Day of Remembrance’
Tomo No Kai marks the forced internment of 120,000 Japanese Americans in 1942 by “Breaking the Silence.”
UC Irvine’s Tomo No Kai orchestrated their annual Day of Remembrance to commemorate the anniversary of the signing of Executive Order 9066, which ordered the internment of 120,000 Japanese Americans, on Feb. 19 at the Student Center’s Pacific Ballroom.
On Monday evening, the room full of students, faculty and members of the UCI community were entertained with a photo exhibit, free food, special performances and lectures from guest speakers.
On Feb. 19, 1942, during the U.S.’s involvement in World War II and after Japan’s bombing of Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed and issued Executive Order 9066.
Japanese Americans were ordered to leave their friends, their homes and their lives behind and move to “relocation centers,” which many referred to as concentration camps, for the remainder of the war.
Second-year film and media studies major Aliya Kochiyama of Tomo No Kai, UCI’s Japanese culture club, organized this year’s DOR with the theme “Breaking the Silence.” Kochiyama is the residing historian of Tomo, where she has been planning the event since spring quarter of last year.
“I wanted to put on this event to show that DOR is important not just to Japanese Americans, but to all Americans, because this moment in history is something we need to keep educating people about,” Kochiyama said. “What happened in these internment camps isn’t something that’s really talked about, and that’s why we need to break the silence. We can’t let something like this happen again.”
The event began with two guest speakers. The first, Warren Furutani, is a fourth-generation Japanese American activist and politician who served in the California State Assembly and was instrumental during the Asian American Movement of the 1970s. Furutani gave a brief history behind the government’s involvement in the internment camps but focused on what the government is doing today and how they can learn from what happened to the Japanese Americans.
“The real question here is what the government can do to protect our citizens,” Furutani said. “We need to look at what happened and apply that to post-9/11 events relative to today’s war on terrorism and the Arab and Muslim communities. Japanese American internment is not just a historical lesson, but a reference point when dealing with contemporary issues.”
The second speaker was Tad Nakamura, a fourth-generation Japanese American who was named as one of the “30 Most Influential Asian Americans Under 30” by the popular website Angry Asian Man, as well as one of CNN’s “Young People Who Rock” for being the youngest filmmaker at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival.
Nakamura showed a brief clip from his film “A Song for Ourselves,” which focused on the formation of identity during the Asian American Movement of the 1970s as through the eyes of musician Chris Iijima. Nakamura stressed the importance of creating a “culture of consciousness,” a concept especially aimed at college students.
“It’s one thing to know dates, numbers and facts, but it’s another thing to feel the passion behind the event. You need to create your own culture to be aware,” Nakamura said.
Jodaiko, Tomo’s traditional taiko drumming ensemble, gave a special five-minute performance, followed by performances from YouTube singer-songwriter Jeff Bernat and rapper Azuré, who entertained the audience with popular songs from their respective albums.
“I did this because I wanted to make a connection through music,” Kochiyama said in closing. “I wanted to show that through music and culture you can still get a message across and inspire activism and change.”