Japanese internment demonstration honors 77th anniversary of executive decision

Japanese internment demonstration honors 77th anniversary of executive decision

Photo Credits: JUSTIN HAN / AGGIE

ECAC, YDSA involved in demonstration to inform students of Japanese-American internment during WWII

The Ethnic and Cultural Affairs Commission (ECAC) and the Young Democratic Socialists of America (YSDA) chapter at UC Davis held a demonstration in front of the Memorial Union on Feb. 19 in honor of the 77th anniversary of the U.S. executive decision to inter Japanese-Americans during World War II.

Rina Singh, a fourth-year political science, international relations and Italian triple major and chair of ECAC, emphasized that the event at the MU was intended as a gesture of solidarity for individuals impacted by the internment of Japanese-Americans.

“I think it’s really important for us as a commission that aims to stand in solidarity with different communities of color to be out here,” Singh said.

Yalda Saii, a second-year sociology major and commissioner of ECAC, also stressed the importance of reflecting on the event of Japanese-American internment in the U.S. when considering daily life and rhetoric in the nation today.

“I think it’s also important for us to recognize in our political climate today just the parallels, because obviously we don’t want something like this to happen again,” Saii said. “We have to be attentive of current political rhetoric and work towards a future where we don’t have to be concerned about the possibility of this happening again.”

The demonstration included a clothesline with pieces of paper listing each of the 10 internment camps created by the U.S. during WWII. Students participating in the demonstration looked up a name of an individual interned in one of the 10 camps and placed a link made of a colored piece of paper that included the interned individual’s name under the location where they were interned.

“For example, Manzanar is the one that people here know about, so now we have three names in Manzanar,” said Morganne Blais-McPherson, a graduate student in the anthropology department and co-chair of YDSA. “We had a couple of people who didn’t even have to use a search engine, because actually their grandparents had been put into internment camps. They put the names and they knew where their grandparents had been placed.”

Of the students whose grandparents were interned is Mark Shimabukuro, a fourth-year cinema digital media major and member of YDSA. Shimabukuro stressed the importance of learning from history to avoid making the same historical mistakes in modern times.

“I think one of the most important tools we have as a society is collective memory,” Shimabukuro said. “We can look back at the mistakes of the past and not only honor those that had to go through these things, but learn from these experiences and make changes to ensure that nothing like this will ever happen again.”

Shimabukuro said that he feels he’s continuing his grandmother’s legacy by raising awareness and reminding others about this period in American history, just as his grandmother, who was interned, did throughout her life.

“Especially since this is a particularly overlooked event in American history, I want to make sure that people are able to connect the names and faces of these people to this point in our history, so we don’t forget the humanity of these people interned,” Shimabukuro said.

Blais-McPherson said that students responded well to the demonstration and were interested in it.

“I was putting up fliers on the tables and just having conversations and people were really thanking us, because I think that people do think this is an important part of American history that we need to remember,” Blais-McPherson said.

When asked why the YDSA organization was partnering with ECAC for this demonstration, Blais-McPherson responded that it was because both organizations “are very anti-racist.”

“In terms of why we’re doing it now, it is the 77th anniversary,”  Blais-McPherson said. “And we just want to also remind people that it’s not that racism isn’t here anymore.”

Written By: Sabrina Habchi — campus@theaggie.org

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