Special Program to Commemorate JA Wartime Legacy and Impact on Muslim Communities

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ALAMEDA – As Buena Vista United Methodist Church celebrates its 120 years as a faith community, it will hold a special program, “Building Beloved Community: Past, Present, and Future,” on Sunday, May 6, from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. to commemorate the Japanese American experience with wartime mass incarceration and how similar wartime hysteria is impacting Muslim communities today.

The program is timely given that on April 25, the Supreme Court began oral arguments on an amicus brief filed against the “presidential proclamation,” i.e. the third iteration of the Trump Administration’s travel ban on majority Muslim countries. The brief was filed by Karen Korematsu, Holly Yasui and Min Yasui — the children of litigants who challenged orders that led to the mass incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II — along with other civil rights organizations.

“We are reminding the Supreme Court that when it ‘looked the other way’ in 1943-44 and failed to hold the government to the requirements of the rule of law and the Constitution, it was a civil liberties disaster,” said Don Tamaki, civil rights attorney, who joined in the filing. “Let’s hope they don’t do the same thing again.”

The program will connect the Japanese American wartime legacy of the church to these recent civil rights violations through a book reading, film screening and panel discussion.

The program will begin with a reading by Karen Tei Yamashita from her recently published book, “Letters to Memory,” an excursion through internment using archival materials from the Yamashita family. Yamashita is the author of “Through the Arc of the Rain Forest,” “I Hotel,” and more, all published by Coffee House Press. She has been a U.S. Artists Ford Foundation Fellow and co-holder of the University of California Presidential Chair for Feminist and Critical Race & Ethnic Studies. She is currently professor of literature and creative writing at UC Santa Cruz.

The reading will be followed by a film showing, “And Then They Came for Us” by Abby Ginzburg, which narrates how 75 years ago, Executive Order 9066 paved the way to the profound violation of constitutional rights that resulted in the forced incarceration of 120,000 Japanese Americans. “And Then They Came for Us” brings history into the present, retelling this difficult story and following Japanese American activists as they speak out against the Muslim registry and travel ban.

The film will be followed by a panel discussion with Cookie Takeshita, who will share her personal experience during and after internment; Tamaki, a member of Fred Korematsu’s legal team, who will speak on the current Stop Repeating History campaign, which draws on legal strategies from the Japanese American movement to challenge the Muslim travel ban; and Sacha Maniar, the national security and civil rights program coordinator with Asian Law Caucus, who will share the impact on Muslim communities today and what action is being taken.

“As we continue to remember the Japanese American legacy, we must also lift up how similar rhetoric is negatively impacting communities today,” says Rev. Michael Yoshii, who has been the pastor at BVUMC for 30 years. “This is a pivotal moment for our community as we rise up in support of those who are targeted now.”

The program will take place in the Sanctuary of the church, located at 2311 Buena Vista Ave. in Alameda, during BVUMC’s 59th annual Spring Bazaar. The event is free and wheelchair-accessible. For more information, call (510) 522-2688 or visit www.buenavistaumc.org.

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