George Takei to donate part of proceeds of his Broadway production “Allegiance” to Japanese American National Museum

AsAm News: 

Actor George Takei is working his social media magic for a good cause and for his legacy project.

He launched an Indie Go Go campaign this weekend to support his Broadway production of Allegiance, the story of a Japanese American family ripped apart by the loyalty questions asked while they were incarcerated in World War II.

Takei’s goal is to raise $250,000 and in just two days, he’s already raised nearly $70,000.

Screen Shot 2015-03-22 at 11.55.05 AM
Allegiance opens on Broadway with previews in October before its official opening on November 8 at the Longacre Theatre.

You can read George’s entire story of Allegiance, see a video which includes highlights from Allegiance’srecord breaking run at the Old Globe Theater in San Diego and give to the campaign at Indie Go Go.

The untold stories of WWII Japanese-American internment resisters

First reunion photo of draft resisters who had been imprisoned at the Federal Prison Camp in Tucson, Ariz., during World War II. (Jan 12, 1947)

NBC News (by Frances Kai-Hwa Wang):

Japanese-American World War II internees are often portrayed as meek and subservient, quietly going along with the U.S. government’s orders without question. But the new Suyama Project at the UCLA Asian American Studies Center is uncovering and gathering the untold stories of those who fought back and resisted internment, defying many historic portraits.

The project documents the resistance stories of the conscientious objectors, draft resisters, No-Nos, renunciants, legal challengers, and other “troublemakers” who had been previously silenced by the Japanese-American community.

The men from Tule Lake War Relocation Authority Camp Block 42 who had been illegally arrested at gun point in 1943 for refusing to register for the controversial loyalty questionnaire
The men from Tule Lake War Relocation Authority Camp Block 42 who had been illegally arrested at gun point in 1943 for refusing to register for the controversial loyalty questionnaire.
(Tule Lake War Relocation Authority Camp Block 42, 1943)

It also documents everyday acts of resistance such as “borrowing” wood from camp construction sites to make personal furniture, making moonshine in camp, and sneaking out past camp fences to go fishing.

At a recent Suyama event in San Francisco, brothers Mamoru “Mori” and James Tanimoto discussed being illegally rounded up from Tule Lake War Relocation Authority Camp Block 42 for refusing to register for the so-called loyalty questionnaire.

They were interrogated, rousted at night under bright lights, and made to hear the clicks of guards ominously loading their rifles as if ready to shoot, making the men believe they were going to be executed,” wrote documentary filmmaker Frank Abe about their presentation, “Then from the darkness a voice shouted no one was going to escape under his watch, and the men were returned to their barrack.”

Mamoru “Mori” and James Tanimoto were two of about 35 men from Tule Lake’s Block 42, who had been illegally arrested at gun point in 1943 for refusing to register for the controversial loyalty questionnaire.
Mamoru “Mori” and James Tanimoto were two of about 35 men from Tule Lake’s Block 42, who had been illegally arrested at gun point in 1943 for refusing to register for the controversial loyalty questionnaire.

Made possible by an anonymous donor, the Suyama project is named for Eji Suyama (1920-2009). A Nisei veteran of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team who took part in the legendary rescue of the “Lost Battalion” of Texas.

After the war he publicly and controversially supported Japanese Americans who protested their incarceration as No-Nos, draft resisters, and renunciants.

A broadly understood notion of resistance represents a more complete picture of what happened during World War II and how resistance also formed an important dimension of the rights and freedom of Japanese Americans,” Director of the UCLA Asian American Studies Center Professor David Yoo told NBC News. “Because these stories touch upon human rights, they are important for all peoples.”

In 1999, the former federal prison camp in Tucson was converted to a recreation site and named after Dr. Gordon Hirabayashi, the most well-known prisoner held there.
In 1999, the former federal prison camp in Tucson was converted to a recreation site and named after Dr. Gordon Hirabayashi, the most well-known prisoner held there. In 2001, a second ceremony was held to dedicate interpretive kiosks to educate visitors on the history of the site. (L-R) Roger Nasevama, Hopi conscientious objector; Ken Yoshida Topaz (Central Utah) draft resister; Dr. Gordon Hirabayashi, originally held there for violating the curfew and exclusion orders; Susumu Yenokida, Amache (Granada) draft resister; Harry Yoshikawa, “voluntary evacuee” draft resister; and Noboru Taguma, Amache (Granada) draft resister.

Lillian Nakano, civil rights activist and co-founder of Japanese American Redress and Reparations Movement dies

Rafu Shimpo: 

Lillian Reiko Nakano, a longtime civil rights activist and noted musician, died on Feb. 28 at Torrance Memorial Hospital. She was 86.

Born on April 30, 1928 in Honolulu to Saburo and Shizuno (nee Nakamura) Sugita, who were also born in Hawaii, she grew up in Honolulu and had three sisters, Julia, Grace and Elizabeth, and a brother, Robert.

After the Pearl Harbor attack, her father was immediately arrested by the FBI and detained at the federal detention center on Sand Island in Hawaii for a year. Nakano and the rest of her family were then sent to the internment camp in Jerome, Ark. in 1943 and were moved to the camp at Heart Mountain, Wyo. in 1944. They were released in 1945 and returned to Honolulu..

She married Bert Nakano, a fellow Hawaii native who was interned at Jerome and Tule Lake during the war, in 1949. Soon after, the couple and members of their families moved to Minneapolis/St. Paul in Minnesota and then Chicago. In 1957, they had a son, Erich, their only child. They moved to Japan briefly in 1964 and then settled in Gardena. Bert died in 2003 at the age of 75. Lillian lived with her son from the mid-2000s until her passing. Lillian Nakano co-founded NCRR with her husband Bert in the early 80s.

I worked with Lillian closely for many years, first in the Little Tokyo People’s Rights Organization on the issue of Little Tokyo redevelopment, then the redress movement through National Coalition for Redress and Reparations,” said Evelyn Yoshimura of the Little Tokyo Service Center. “She and her husband Bert were among the most active, most curious and open-minded Nisei I ever met. I watched her growing before my eyes as she began to assert herself and play a leadership role, weighing in on how to work with JACL, as well as always reminding us how important the grassroots community members were.”

Funeral service will be held on Saturday, March 14, at 5 p.m. at Gardena Buddhist Church, 1517 W. 166th St. (between Western and Normandie) in Gardena. A reception for guests will follow the service.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to Nikkei for Civil Rights and Redress (formerly National Coalition for Redress and Reparations), as her involvement with NCRR, especially during the campaign for redress, was a cherished memory for her. Send donations to: NCRR, 231 E. Third St., G-104, Los Angeles, CA 90013.

Lillian Nakano reading NCRR's statement in support of the Muslim community at a candlelight vigil shortly after 9/11, when Muslims and those perceived as Muslims were targets of hate crimes, including murder.

Lillian Nakano reading NCRR’s statement in support of the Muslim community at a candlelight vigil shortly after 9/11, when Muslims and those perceived as Muslims were targets of hate crimes, including murder

Community Advocate

After working many different jobs in Chicago and then in Gardena and the South Bay, Nakano became active with LTPRO (Little Tokyo People’s Rights Organization) in the late 1970s, opposing the destruction of housing for redevelopment and advocating for greater community control.

In the early 1980s, she was a founding member along with her husband of NCRR, which consisted of the Los Angeles Community Coalition for Redress and Reparations and other community-based groups around the country. She was very active in the campaign to win redress for Japanese Americans who were deprived of their constitutional rights during World War II, urging Nisei her age to speak up about the camps and join the effort.

Her husband was the national spokesperson for NCRR for nine years and was active in other political campaigns, such as Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition. She was always active along with him, though more in the background. In 1988, legislation providing individual payments and an apology was finally signed into law, successfully ending this historic campaign.

“Lillian always had a smile,” recalled Mike Murase of Little Tokyo Service Center, who was also active in the redress movement. “She was always willing to talk to people, to persuade and motivate them to stand up for ​what was right, and to offer support to those who needed it. She was enthusiastic and conscientious. She liked people and wanted to change society to be better for common people.”

Lillian Nakano and June Hibino at an information table during a redress-related event in the 1980s.

Lillian Nakano and June Hibino at an information table during a redress-related event in the 1980s

Evelyn Yoshimura of LTSC commented, “I worked with Lillian closely for many years, first in the Little Tokyo People’s Rights Organization on the issue of Little Tokyo redevelopment, then the redress movement through National Coalition for Redress and Reparations. She and her husband Bert were among the most active, most curious and open-minded Nisei I ever met. I watched her growing before my eyes as she began to assert herself and play a leadership role, weighing in on how to work with JACL, as well as always reminding us how important the grassroots community members were.”

Longtime NCRR leader Kathy Masaoka remembered the 1981 hearings of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, during which many former incarcerates spoke publicly about their experiences for the first time: “Lillian was a role model to many of us Sansei women who saw her speak up and be fearless. When the commissioners were not going to allow the Japanese speakers to read their testimonies, Lillian prompted Bert and others to assert their right to speak.”

Nakano expressed solidarity with Arab and Muslim Americans at a candlelight vigil in Little Tokyo on Sept. 28, 2001, just after the 9/11 attacks. Initiated by NCRR and co-sponsored by other community organizations, the vigil was attended by about 300 people and featured speakers from the Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee, Muslim Public Affairs Council, and Council on American Islamic Relations.

“I feel so badly for the Middle Eastern peoples of all communities who are now the targets of this same kind of hatred and violence as a result of the tragic events,” Nakano said. “Sixty years ago, we heard very little from our government leaders and the general public to caution against this.”

Shamisen Master

Music was always another important part of her life. She began learning shamisen and other classical arts at age 8 in Hawaii. After her studies were interrupted by the camps, she resumed her studies and in 1955 received her master’s certificate (natori) and her professional name, Kineya Fukuju, from Master Kineya Shofuku. She taught shamisen and did some performances in Chicago, but didn’t do much teaching or performing when she moved to Gardena, where she focused her attention on raising her son and working.

After the redress victory, she began collaborating with her nephew, the late jazz pianist and composer Glenn Horiuchi (1955-2000). This allowed her to grow as an artist and provided an opportunity to continue the tradition of shamisen music in alternative formats.

In addition to being an activist, Lillian Nakano was a talented shamisen player.

In addition to being an activist, Lillian Nakano was a talented shamisen player

She was a guest soloist in the premieres of Horiuchi’s “Poston Sonata” and “Little Tokyo Suite.” This began a series of tours throughout the U.S., Mexico, Canada and beyond, including performances at the Earshot Jazz Festival in Seattle, the Western Front Jazz Festival in Vancouver, and the Berlin Jazz Festival.

Other performances included music for Purple Moon Dance Project’s “Floating Lanterns” in San Francisco in 1994, with Katada Kai in 1998, with Horiuchi and William Roper at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and a Grand Performances Summer Concert in Downtown Los Angeles in 1998.

Nakano worked with the Children’s Theater Company of Minneapolis in 1998 with taiko master Kenny Endo; at the Skirball Cultural Center with composer/choreographer Nobuko Miyamoto; and as part of the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange’s “Hallelujah” performance in 2001. She also had numerous concerts with Tom Kurai of the Los Angeles Taiko Center.

“I performed many times with Lillian, who was a master nagauta shamisen artist, from about 1995 to 2007,” said Kurai. “We performed traditional nagauta, ensemble music for kabuki as well as contemporary music. Much of the contemporary music was written by Lillian’s nephew, the late Glenn Horiuchi. Along with her shamisen students in the Sanmi Ensemble, we collaborated with jazz musicians Francis Wong and William Roper. We performed at Japan America Theatre, Japanese American National Museum, John Anson Ford Amphitheater, UC Riverside, UC Santa Cruz and many other venues.

“Although Lillian was a master of shamisen, receiving her certified natori from Japan, being Japanese American, she was not afraid of improvising in order to broaden the music into a more contemporary setting. I learned so much about traditional music from Lillian as well as how to improvise my taiko playing. Lillian was comfortable with both worlds and could easily move between the old and new forms of music.

“Through my association with Lillian, I gained not only a firm foundation in music, but just knowing her as a friend, I learned more about humanity and the importance of social action. Lillian’s loss is not only a loss for the music community but a big loss for the entire Japanese American community as well.”

Nakano was the recipient of numerous grants to support her preservation of the shamisen art form from such institutions as the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs and the California Arts Commission, and was honored with a Master Musician Fellowship by the Durfee Foundation in 2001.

Bay Area-based jazz pianist, composer and bandleader Jon Jang commented, “What is quite remarkable about Lillian Nakano is that she not only represents one of the major Asian American women revolutionary activists of the 20th century and beyond, along with Yuri Kochiyama and Grace Lee Boggs; Lillian also nurtured a younger generation of activists and infused them with the blood and the struggle of the music because Lillian was a master of the shamisen, a three-string Japanese lute, who was not allowed to perform the instrument at Jerome internment camp in a similar way black people were denied the use of drum during slavery.

“Some of these younger activists were her son Erich, who has been a longtime activist leader and played piano, as well as her late nephew Glenn Horiuchi, who was also an activist as well as a brilliant composer, pianist and shamisen performer.”

Nakano slowed her activity and retired from the late 1990s into the 2000s to help raise her two grandchildren. She later took great joy watching their basketball games and seeing them grow up.

“She was a dedicated and devoted mother and loving wife; she and Bert helped raise their grandchildren from the time they were born and supported them as they grew into young adults,” her family said in a statement. “She was an activist and fighter for civil rights and social justice. She was a friend, mentor and role model to many in the community.

“Although outwardly gentle, and one who did not seek the limelight, she had wellspring of strength and determination that enabled her to truly make a difference in the lives of family and friends around her, and the community.”

Microsoft co-founder’s research team has found sunken Japanese WWII battleship Musashi

An image taken by Paul Allen of the WW2 Battleship Musashi, which sank in 1944

USA Today:

A research team led by Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Paul Allen has located a Japanese battleship that was considered one of the world’s largest and most technologically advanced warships when it was sunk off the Philippines during World War II, according to the expedition’s website

Using an underwater vehicle, the team aboard Allen’s superyacht M/Y Octopus found the Musashi on Sunday in the Sibuyan Sea.

The search vehicle, using high-resolution cameras, spotted the 73,000-ton battleship on its third dive, the statement said.

The Musashi, built under strict secrecy and commissioned in 1942, was sunk by U.S. forces during the lead up to the Battle of Leyte Gulf on Oct. 24, 1944.

Nearly half of its crew of 2,399, including Commander Vice Admiral Toshihira Inoguchi, lost their lives when the ship went down under a barrage by 19 torpedoes and 17 bombs.

Allen said he respects the area as a war grave and plans to work with the Japanese governmentto ensure the site is treated respectfully and in accordance with Japanese traditions.”

An organization that supports Japanese navy veterans and conducts research on maritime defense said that if the discovery is confirmed, a memorial service could be held at the site, according to the Associated Press.

The Musashi, and her sister ship Yamato, were the heaviest and most powerfully armed battleships ever built, Allen said. The Musashi featured 18-inch armor plating and was armed with nine 18-inch guns, the largest ever mounted on a warship.

The research team began looking for the ship more than eight years ago, drawing upon historical records from four countries, detailed undersea topographical data and advanced technology aboard the yacht.

Since my youth, I have been fascinated with World War II history, inspired by my father’s service in the U.S. Army,” Allen said. “The Musashi is truly an engineering marvel and, as an engineer at heart, I have a deep appreciation for the technology and effort that went into its construction. I am honored to play a part in finding this key vessel in naval history and honoring the memory of the incredible bravery of the men who served aboard her.”

The Japanese-Peruvians interned in the US during WW2

Photograph of Blanca Katsura in 2014Blanca Katsura and her family were among 1,800 Japanese-Peruvians to be interned in the US 

BBC News (by Jaime Gonzalez of BBC Mundo):

Blanca Katsura will never forget the night of 6 January 1943. She was 12 at the time and living with her parents and two siblings in northern Peru. On that night, two officials came to their home and took away her father. Mr Katsura, who owned a small general store, was arrested because he was part of Peru’s prosperous Japanese community.

My father told them he hadn’t done anything wrong, but they didn’t listen to him,” she recalls.

Japanese people began migrating to Peru in considerable numbers at the end of the 19th Century, drawn by opportunities to work in the mines and on sugar plantations.

By the 1940s, an estimated 25,000 people of Japanese descent lived in Peru. Many had become lawyers and doctors, or owned small businesses.

An undated photo of a  relative of Art Shibayama in his shop in PeruMany Japanese-Peruvians did well in their new homelands and set up successful businesses 

Their prosperity, further fuelled by racism, soon triggered anti-Japanese sentiment in Peru, Stephanie Moore explains.

Ms Moore, a scholar at the Japanese Peruvian Oral History Project, says after the outbreak of World War Two, the Japanese community in Peru became a target, and their assets were confiscated.

In May 1940, as many as 600 houses, schools and businesses belonging to citizens of Japanese descent were burned down,” she says.

Following Japan’s 1941 attack on the US naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, the US government asked a dozen Latin American countries, among them Peru, to arrest its Japanese residents. Records from the time suggest the US authorities wanted to take them to the US and use them as bargaining chips for its nationals captured by Japanese forces in Asia.

Italian, German and Japanese residents of Latin America are seen leaving a temporary internment camp in the Panama Canal Zone Many Japanese-Latin Americans were taken to a camp in the Panama Canal Zone first

Mr Katsura was among the 2,200 Latin Americans of Japanese descent who were forcibly deported to internment camps in the US. Blanca Katsura, who is now 83 and lives in Northern California, remembers how she learned of his fate.

A month after my father was detained, he sent me a letter because it was my birthday,” she recalls. “He had been taken to Panama from where they were planning to send him to the US,” she adds.

Six months later, Blanca Katsura’s mother decided to take her three small children to the US to search for her husband.

When we arrived in New Orleans after a month-long trip, they confiscated our passports and then sent us by train to the Crystal City camp.”

As many as 4,000 people were interned during World War Two in this camp in Texas run by the US Immigration and Naturalization Service. Most of the detainees were of Japanese descent, although some German and Italian immigrants were also held there.

Undated aerial view of Crystal City Internment Camp, TexasCrystal City Internment Camp was located 180 km (110 miles) south of San Antonio in Texas

It was at Crystal City that Blanca Katsura was reunited with her father. “I was shocked, he had lost so much weight,” she remembers.

For the next four years, her family lived in the barracks at the camp. Her memories of that time are not particularly traumatic, she says.

Being a child at the time time, I had no worries and made lots of friends.We were able to go to school and learn Japanese,” she adds.

Japanese-Peruvians attend a class at the Federal High School in the Crystal City Internment Camp in Texas in 1944Children in Crystal City attended classes inside the camp
Ms Katsura says she later learned that the camp authorities were keen for the children to learn Japanese so they would be able to speak the language once they were deported to Japan.
Chieko Kamisato Chieko Kamisato now lives in Los Angeles
Chieko Kamisato’s memories of life at Crystal City are less positive.

You could call it a concentration camp, because we were surrounded by barbed wire fences and guards with guns,” she says.

We couldn’t go out at all, although we were free to move around inside,” she recalls.

My parents were really bitter about the situation because they were forced to come to the US. They had no choice,” she says.

Ms Kamisato’s father had moved to Peru from Japan in 1915 and had worked hard to open a bakery in the capital, Lima. Now 81, she lives in Los Angeles.

Of the 2,200 Latin Americans of Japanese descent to be interned in the US, 800 were sent to Japan as part of prisoner exchanges. After World War Two ended, another 1,000 were deported to Japan after their Latin American home countries refused to take them back.

A group of children poses for a photo in Crystal City Camp in this undated photoWhile there were also Germans interned in Crystal City, the majority were of Japanese descent

Ms Katsura’s and Ms Kamisato’s families successfully fought deportation and were eventually allowed to remain in the US. In 1988, then-President Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act and apologized on behalf of the US government for the internment of Japanese-Americans. Under the act, the government paid tens of thousands of survivors of the camps $20,000 (£13,000) each in reparation.

But Japanese-Latin Americans did not qualify for the payments because they had not been US citizens or permanent residents of the US at the time of their internment. Outraged, they filed a class-action suit and 10 years later, the US government agreed to pay them $5,000 each. Most accepted, but a small group headed by camp survivor Art Shibayama decided to hold out, demanding to be paid the same as Japanese-Americans.

Blanca Katsura says that even though her childhood at the camp may not have been traumatic, no amount of money can compensate her family for its loss.

My parents wanted to go back to Peru but couldn’t. They missed the life they had there,” she recalls.

The Peruvian government sold us out to the US government and that is not a very nice feeling. How would you feel about it?

George Takei to star in Broadway musical about interned Japanese-Americans

NY Times: 

Allegiance,” a musical about Japanese-Americans in United States internment camps during World War II, will begin performances on Broadway in October at a Shubert Theater to be announced later, the show’s producers said Thursday. The musical, which will cost a relatively hefty $13 million to mount, will star George Takei, who is best known as Mr. Sulu in the original “Star Trek” television series, and whose personal experiences in internment camps in Arkansas and California inspired “Allegiance.”

Mr. Takei, in a telephone interview, described the show as “very, very personal” and a tribute to his parents as well as the tens of thousands of people of Japanese ancestry – the majority of whom were American citizens – who were forcibly relocated to camps from 1942 to 1946 under an order by President Roosevelt. Mr. Takei said that he had invested a “substantial” amount of his own money in the musical, and that it features characters drawn from his family and life, including a grandfather character that Mr. Takei will portray in his Broadway debut.

I consider this my legacy project,” said Mr. Takei, who is 77 and spent about four years of his childhood in two camps. “This is the first time that this dark chapter of American history will be done on the Broadway stage.”

Mindful that theatergoers often skip Broadway musicals that are tagged (however unfairly) as ruminations on history, like “The Scottsboro Boys” and “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson,” Mr. Takei highlighted the romantic subplots and centrality of baseball in “Allegiance,” as well as the overarching theme of family unity.

The show’s backdrop is the imprisonment of innocent Americans simply because we looked like the people who bombed Pearl Harbor, but the story is universal – people falling in love, getting married, having a family,” Mr. Takei said. “The musical will find an audience because whether you are white, black, Latino, young or old, people can identify with the idea of family and the stresses put on a family, which in this case were enormous.”

Allegiance” had its world premiere in 2012 at the Old Globe Theater in San Diego, receiving mixed reviews but drawing large and ethnically diverse audiences. Since then, Mr. Takei said, some scenes and dialogue have been tweaked but the show is essentially the same. The Old Globe cast included the Tony Award winner Lea Salonga (“Miss Saigon”) and Telly Leung (the 2011 Broadway revival of “Godspell”). Mr. Takei said Ms. Salonga and Mr. Leung were in negotiations to do “Allegiance” on Broadway but no casting beyond his was confirmed at this point.

The musical’s producers, Lorenzo Thione and Andrew Treagus, have been waiting for an available Broadway theater for about two years, but other shows – some more evidently commercial than “Allegiance,” and some flops – landed them first. “Allegiance” will arrive during a period of increasingly steady opportunities for Asian-American theater actors in New York: a Broadway revival of “The King & I” is set to open this spring, while the hit London revival of “Miss Saigon” looks likely to arrive on Broadway at some point, though probably not before the 2016-17 theater season.

Allegiance,” which has a book by Marc Acito and music and lyrics by Jay Kuo, will be directed by Stafford Arima (Off Broadway’s “Carrie,” “Altar Boyz”). Preview performances are scheduled to begin Oct. 6, with an opening night of Nov. 8.

The musical grew out of a chance encounter several years ago that Mr. Takei and his husband, Brad, had with Mr. Thione and Mr. Kuo at back-to-back theater outings in New York, after which Mr. Takei shared his childhood memories of the camps over dinner.

We talked for a long time about my childhood imprisonment, about my father’s anguish at being challenged over his loyalty to America – my dad was born in San Francisco and played baseball, my mother was born in Sacramento,” Mr. Takei said. “I’m a weeper, and when Jay emailed me a song after that, about my father and the idea of allegiance, I just gushed. I knew I had to do this.”

We stand on their shoulders: Remembering Asian American leaders before us 

fmural

 Audrey Magazine:

In light of Martin Luther King Day, we take the time to reflect on the efforts of not only Martin Luther King Jr., but also the others who stood at the forefront to fight for civil rights in America.

I once stood in front of San Francisco State University’s Filipino mural (pictured above). As a freshman still full of curiosity and bewilderment, I took in every detail possible. While questioning who the people in the mural were and why they were there, one detail in particular resonated with me. There was a quote in the corner painted in bold red, “We stand on their shoulders.” That brought the piece full circle for me, and suddenly I was filled with gratitude.

The Civil Rights Movement was not just of King’s doing, but a coalition of thousands of local movements, including efforts made by Asian American activists. The Civil Rights Movement brought to light the racial disparities in America and demanded equal representation. People of color were ultimately fighting against marginalization and misrepresentation in institutions, the denial of basic human rights, and were standing against a system that consistently silenced their voices.

In honor of their efforts, here are some of the Asian American leaders who were crucial during this pivotal time in America.

Richard Aoki:

Aoki_1

By the age of 3, Richard Aoki and his family were victimized by racism during WWII when they were sent to a Japanese internment camp in Utah. That early experience was key to his understanding of mistreatment made by the US government. This, lead him to join and aid the Black Panther Party (despite his conflicting work as a FBI insider).

In Hyphen Magazine‘s articleDiane Fujino–author of Samurai Among Panthers: Richard Aoki on Race, Resistance, and a Paradoxical Lifestated that he was “one of the most important political leaders bridging the Asian American, Black Power and Third World movements.”

 

 

Yuri Kochiyama:

yuri-kochiyama-200x200

Yuri Kochiyama, Japanese American activist, dedicated her life to serving the black, Latino and Asian American communities. According to NPR’s article, “Kochiyama couldn’t help but stick out. She lived in New York City housing projects among black and Puerto Rican neighbors. Kochiyama began participating in sit-ins and inviting Freedom Riders to speak at weekly open houses in the family’s apartment.”

She was most noted for her friendship with Malcolm X,  and making him see that the Black Power movement wasn’t just an African American struggle but a multi-ethnic struggle.

 

Grace Lee Boggs:

mg_culturespy_3421

One of Audrey’s Women of Influence, Grace Lee Boggs made strides in the Black Power Movement alongside her husband, James Boggs. She was involved in the African American Movement for more than 70 years. A Chinese American woman who pre-dated both the Asian American movement and second-wave Women’s Movement concerned with gender inequality, Boggs’ first experience with activism came when she got involved with protests in the black communities of Chicago over rat-infested housing.

 Larry Itliong:

FILIPINO-1-articleLarge

The Filipino American advocate for agricultural workers’ rights, Larry Itliong was a key leader in the Delano Grape Strike together with Caesar Chavez (seen above). However, his efforts for demanding better pay and treatment for laborers are often overlooked.

In popular culture, it’s seen as a Chicano movement, not as the multi-ethnic alliance that it actually was,” says Dawn Bohulano Mabalon–a history professor at San Francisco State University and author of Little Manila is in the Heart.

 

Third World Liberation Front (TWLF):

tumblr_lexc4y4QTA1qfkl9wo1_r2_500

Intercollegiate Chinese for Social Action (ICSA), Pilipino American Collegiate Endeavor (PACE) and Asian American Political Alliance (AAPA) were the Asian American unions that were part of the collective coalition of student unions called the “Third World Liberation Front.” These students fought a year long battle against the marginalization of a Eurocentric education, and were successful when the first College of Ethnic Studies was established at San Francisco State University. This is a battle that continues to inspire the oncoming generations as both Los Angeles and San Francisco are  now institutionalizing Ethnic Studies in high schools.

 


Fall of the International Hotel:

i-hotel

In what was once the “Manilatown” of San Francisco, there stood the International Hotel (I-Hotel), a hub and a home not only for WWII veterans who were legally denied land, but also for low income families who could only afford single room occupancies. During the city’s first attempt to demolish the building in order to make a parking structure, many Bay Area student organizations, neighboring Chinatown organizations and community leaders stood in solidarity to create human blockade around the building.

But during the second eviction, authorities were successful at violently removing the elderly residents, which is seen in the documentary Fall of the I-Hotel. It wasn’t until decades after that the community’s efforts to rebuild the I-Hotel paid off in 2005 when the new I-Hotel was opened.