By Gary Luster
Every February, the Gardena Valley Japanese Cultural Institute commemorates the Day of Remembrance and this year is no different.
Scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 25 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., the JCI will host the Campaign for Jus- tice: The Japanese Latin American Story featuring a special screening of the 2004 short film Hidden Internment: The Art Shibayama Story, followed by a virtual live discussion panel.
This year the spotlight will be on the hidden history and stories of Japanese Latin Americans who were abducted from their home countries and wrongfully incarcerated in the United States during World War II.
Shibayama, who died in 2018, was the oldest of six kids, and was one of those incarcerated Japanese Latin Americans who would eventually become a key person in leading the fight for fair reparations for the Japanese Peruvians. Refusing to take the rather pathetic monetary sum of $5,000 from the U.S. government as an apology, Art worked to speak out about this history and demanded a fair acknowledgement from both governments that violated their civil rights.
The screened film, which has Shibayama as the central figure, tells the story of how the United States, during World War II, seized Peruvians of Japanese ancestry from their homes in Peru and imprisoned them in Crystal City, Texas. There, the entire families were used in hostage exchanges for American prisoners held in Japan. Detainees were stripped of their passports and legal documents, including Shibayama and his family, and were not allowed to return home after the war.
After the screening of the film, the JCI will host a discussion with a panel of experts featuring Director of the Japanese Peruvian Oral History Project and coordinator for Campaign For Justice: Redress Now For Japanese Latin Americans, Grace Shimizu; University of Maryland professor and Co- President of the Board of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, Phil Nash; and former Japanese Peruvian incarceree at Crystal City, Chieko Kamisato.
This program is co-sponsored by The George and Sakaye Aratani CARE Award, UCLA Asian American Studies Center, and Valerie J. Matsumoto who is the George and Sakaye Aratani Chair on the Japanese American Incarceration, Redress, and Community at the University of California, Los Angeles.
George and Sakaye Aratani are philanthropists who focus on supporting organizations that work with Japanese and Japanese American causes. Their generous contributions to the UCLA Terasaki Center for Japanese Studies led to the creation of the George and Sakaye Aratani Fellowship and the George and Sakaye Aratani Field Experience Fellowship. Valerie J. Matsumoto, a professor of History and Asian Ameri- can Studies at UCLA is the author of Farming the Home Place: A Japanese American Community in California, 1919-1982.
Feb. 19 is a significant date for the Japanese American community. On this day in 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which gave the U.S. Army the authority to remove civilians from the military zones established in Washington, Oregon, and California during WWII. This led to the forced removal and incarceration of some 120,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry living on the West Coast, who had to abandon their jobs, their homes, and their lives to be sent to one of ten concentration camps scattered in desolate, remote regions of the country.
Every February, the Japanese American community commemorates Executive Order 9066 as a reminder of the impact the incarceration experience has had on our families, our community, and our country. It is an opportunity to educate others on the fragility of civil liberties in times of crisis, and the importance of remaining vigilant in protecting the rights and freedoms of all.
GVJCI is a 501(c)(3) non-profit community center dedicated to serving the needs of the Nikkei (Japanese Americans and Japanese immigrants) and broader community of the South Bay through educational, cultural, social, and recreational programs.
To register for this online event, visit the GVJCI website at www.jci-gardena.org/dor-2023.