A standing-and-sitting-room-only crowd of 350 people packed Dolores Mission in Boyle Heights on Sunday to stand for democracy, equality and freedom from hate and fear in the wake of the bigotry, racism, misogyny, homo- and transphobia, xenophobia and intolerance.
The gathering of young and old, white, black, Latino, Asian, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist and agnostic was energetic and hopeful.
This was one of many gatherings that took place in cities across America as part of #IAmAmerica and a coalition of Muslim American organizations and interfaith groups.
About 15 members of Nikkei for Civil Rights & Redress (NCRR) participated in the vigil.
Haru Kuromiya, 89, an active NCRR member, read the following statement at the “I Am America” vigil:
“My name is Haru Kuromiya and as a Japanese American who was incarcerated during World War II, I would like to express my outrage at the recent proposal to register American Muslims.
“I was a teenager when the government took my family to Manzanar, Calif. and then to Crystal City, Texas. We had a farm in Riverside, Calif. and were shocked when our father was taken by the FBI after Pearl Harbor. I fear that this targeting of people based on their religion or race will lead to greater violations of people’s rights.
“I do not want to see any community suffer like we did. As a member of the Nikkei for Civil Rights & Redress, I also believe that we have a special responsibility to speak out when we see others being discriminated against or scapegoated.
“Since Sept. 11, 2001, NCRR and the Japanese American community have stood with the American Muslim and South Asian communities. Over the past 16 years, we have held Break-the-Fast programs during Ramadan and have learned about Islam. We have gone together to Manzanar, one of the ten concentration camps, so that the American Muslim community could learn about our history.
“We created a program called Bridging Communities to bring our Japanese American and American Muslim youth together to learn about each other’s communities and issues. And now, more than ever, we are committed to building bridges and to stand together against any threats to our rights and to our safety. Thank you.”
The crowd gave Kuromiya a rousing and respectful ovation.
Kanji Sahara, 82, a former Jerome internee and currently the treasurer of the Tuna Canyon Detention Station Coalition, said, “The rally at Dolores Mission was amazing. I could not believe the energy in the audience. The applause for Haru was thunderous.
“When Haru spoke and said she was in camp during World War II, the applause was thundering. People stood up and cheered. This showed that in this battle against the registration and incarceration of Muslims, the Nikkei must take the lead.”