‘Wartime Hysteria’ theme of San José’s 36th Annual Day of Remembrance
San José, CA – On Feb. 14, nearly 300 people came to San José State University’s Morris Dailey Auditorium for the 36th Annual Day of Remembrance. This event commemorates the anniversary of Executive Order 9066 issued by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on Feb. 19, 1942 that led to the incarceration of about 120,000 Japanese Americans in concentration camps during World War II.
The theme of this year’s event was “Wartime Hysteria” which connected the hysteria aimed at Japanese Americans with anti-Muslim sentiments today. Guest speaker Zahra Billoo, Executive Director of the Bay Area chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and student Sharina Champa of the South Bay Islamic Association both spoke to current Islamophobia and the importance of solidarity with the Japanese American community.
Masao Suzuki of the Nihonmachi Outreach Committee or NOC, which organized the event, spoke of the history of national oppression that Japanese and other Asian Americans faced that led to the concentration camps. His voice slightly cracked with emotion as he said, “War hysteria is on the rise again. This is not acceptable. It was not right then. It is not right today.”
Student Mei Suzuki spoke to the young people at the event, “There is a phrase that goes ‘no history, no self’ and conversely that to ‘know history is to know self’. Learning how my community was affected by the camps helped me explore my identity in terms of my cultural heritage and as an American.” She added, “I will end my speech by entreating all of the young people in the room to use this evening as a chance to reflect on an important event in history that still has the potential to be repeated if left to be forgotten.”
After the program at Morris Dailey Auditorium, the audience held a lighted procession past the statues commemorating Tommy Smith and John Carlos, two African American athletes who did a Black Power solute on the medal stand at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. The procession ended at the old gym, now named Yoshihiro Uchida Hall, which was where Japanese Americans in San Jose were processed to be taken away to the concentration camps. There the audience heard from Jimi Yamaichi, 94 years old, who spoke of his experience being processed in the gym.
Video of the 2016 San José Day of Remembrance by J-Town Community TV can be seen on the web at this link or below