May-June 2017 update

AMICUS BRIEF: The legal team that re-opened the World War II cases of Minoru Yasui, Gordon Hirabayashi, Fred Korematsu in 1983 under a “writ of error coram nobis” is again hard at work to carry on their legacy, to remind the U.S. Supreme Court about the unjust treatment of Japanese Americans during World War II, and to ask the current Court to repudiate that travesty of justice and NOT let it happen again.

Hirabayashi, Yasui and Korematsu

Gordon Hirabayashi, Minoru Yasui, and Fred Korematsu

On June 26, the U.S. Supreme Court granted the government’s appeal from the 4th and 9th Circuit Courts, reinstating part of the Muslim travel ban and establishing a briefing schedule for a full hearing that will take place this fall. The children of Yasui, Hirabayashi and Korematsu have filed amicus briefs in the US District and Circuit Court levels on this and other cases (amicus means “friend of the court” – not litigants but interested parties providing information and arguments to the Court relevant to the litigation). But this is the first time we’ve had the opportunity to address the US Supreme Court since the World War II cases were handed down. Because the coram nobis cases were won in the lower courts and the government chose not to appeal the decisions in the 1980s, they did not reach the U.S. Supreme Court at that time.

The arguments in the current amicus brief will focus on issues shared by the World War II cases and the current Muslim ban case: the responsibility of the Judiciary to closely scrutinize actions of the Executive and Legislative branches to determine their Constitutionality. This means questioning the validity of “national security” (called “military necessity” during World War II) as a justification for discrimination based on religion and national origin.

Meeting and film shoot in San Francisco. The coram nobis attorneys and children of the original petitioners, Jay Hirabayashi, Karen Korematsu and myself will be meeting in San Francisco to discuss strategy and educational efforts around the filing of the amicus brief. Taking advantage of that trip, I will also be filming interviews with two of the attorneys, Dale Minami and Don Tamaki, and two former staffers of the National JACL, John Tateishi and Lia Shigemura, for the second part of our film.

75th ANNIVERSARY EVENTS IN OREGON. Two events that are depicted in the film were commemorated this year in Oregon: on May 6, the removal of all persons of Japanese ancestry in Mulnomah County to the Portland Livestock Exposition Center (“Assembly Center”); and on May 13, the removal of all persons of Japanese ancestry from the mid-Columbia region by a train that left Hood River.

In Portland, our social media coordinator, Jillian Toda (in photo below), participated in the Return and Remembrance event organized by the Oregon Nikkei Endowment (fiscal sponsor of the Min Yasui Legacy project) and other community organizations. Over 700 people attended the event. Dressed in 1940s clothing and tagged as the Nikkei were tagged in 1942, Jillian sits on an old suitcase representing the “only what you can carry” requirement established by the military. Beside her is a rope on which are hung tags with the names of more than 3,000 people, including Min Yasui, who were imprisoned in the Portland “Assembly Center” during the long, hot summer of 1942.

In Hood River, Linda Tamura and Maija Yasui organized the The Train of Tears event that commemorated the day that about 500 Japanese Americans, including Min’s mother Shidzuyo and his younger siblings, Homer and Yuka (interviewed in the film), were forced to board a train that took them to the Pinedale “Assembly Center” in northern California. Nineteen Nisei who were taken away that day were in attendance at the event.

Maija Annala Yasui, daughter of a Finnish immigrant, who married to Min Yasui’s nephew Philip Yasui, stood at the intersection of the immigrant communities in Hood River. Her aunt Vienna Annala was a teacher at Oak Grove Elementary, where most of the Japanese American children in the Hood River attended school. Linda Tamura, whose family was originally from Hood River, arranged for descendents of those children to read letters written to their teacher “Miss Vienna” from the temporary and permanent detention camps where they were sent. For a very moving and heartfelt account of the day by Maija, see

SPIRIT MOUNTAIN GRANT CEREMONY: On June 14, Sharon Takahashi and I drove to the beautiful Spirit Mountain tribal headquarters in Grand Ronde, Oregon in order to participate in the grant-award ceremony. Sharon is the President of the Japanese Ancestral Society, which is the fiscal sponsor for the grant, and Chris Shiraishi is the treasurer. The film project received $35,000 for the completion of the feature-length film (to run about 80-90 minutes) and educational outreach.

Left to right: Reyn Leno, Tribal Chairman; Sharon Takahashi; Holly Yasui; Mychal Cherry, Community Fund Executive Director.


Denver Mint: Zachary Klipowicz, Equal Employment Opportunity officer at the Denver Mint, showed the film at his workplace to approximately 50 federal employees. Min Yasui’s Commission on Community Relations office, near the site of the current Minoru Yasui Plaza, was across the street from the mint.

JGEMS: Carol Suzuki and Jim Azumano, who organized the world premiere of Part one of Never Give Up! made a presentation to the Jane Goodall Environmental Middle School in Salem, which focuses on environment and community service.

Yomiura Shimbun and the West Hills Unitarian Universalists: Norimasa Tahara and Kio Lance (see photo below), of the Yomiuri Shimbun, the largest daily newspaper in Japan, contacted me about an interview, which we did at the Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center since they were also interested in seeing the exhibits there. That evening we attended a screening organized by Sue Alpern of the Unitarian Universalist fellowship. Peggy Nagae and Barbara Upp were present to add their perspectives with the very engaged audience.


July 22: Screening sponsored by the San Diego chapter of the JACL and the ACLU, at the Scripps Miramar Ranch Library, followed by a panel discussion with Hon. Dana Makoto Sabraw (U.S. Southern District Judge of California), Genevieve Suzuki (board member of SD-JACL) and myself.

July 29: The Los Angeles premiere at the Japanese American National Museum. Reception with narratior George Takei, and post-film discussion with co-directors Will Doolittle and myself.

November: The National Association of Multicultural Education conference in Salt Lake City. The film will be screened at this conference during the first week of November, and at a community screening sponsored by the Wasatch Front JACL.

December: Donna Cole, businesswoman and community activist based in Houston, has organized a screening of the film at the Holocaust Museum on December 2, and is coordinating with others in Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio. We will be submitting the film to the Austin Asian American Film Festival and hope to screen it there during the second week of December.

Oregon Public Broadcasting: We discussing with OPB the airing of the film on public television. We need to add closed-captions for the hearing impaired and purchase Omission and Errors insurance before it can be broadcast. We hope to screen Part One on March 28, 2018 – the third Minoru Yasui Day in Oregon.

Please let us know if you would like to organize a screening of the film in your town! And especially if you have any ideas or contacts for educational outreach. We will be submitting an application to the Center for Asian American Media to become our distributor but in the meantime, we are interested in developing relations with schools and educational institutions. THANK YOU!

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