Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Being Nikkei in Cuba, WW2

 I would like to go to Isla de la Juventud, where the largest community of Nikkei Cubans are (Japanese immigrants and their descendants). It is an 1.5 hour ferry crossing to a beautiful place! Here is a story dear to my Nikkei heart. During the war, Batista was pressured as other Caribbean and Latin American leaders by the US government to do a parallel effort of imprisoning their Japanese citizens. The US plan, especially in Peru, was to use those kidnapped Latin American citizens as prisoner exchange. They succeeded in doing one boat load, but when Japan realized they were not getting Japanese but immigrants to another land they refused to do further negotiation and these kidnapped Japanese Latin Americans were put into Crystal City (TX) prison camp and became people without a country, separated from their families. That is not the heartwarming story, though. Batista imprisoned men 15 years old and older at Presidio Modelo on the island. They were crammed in, and their families also suffered because women and children were left to take care of subsistence farming. The difference between the Cuban Nikkei experience and the experience of US Nikkei in WW2 concentration camps was that when the Cuban neighbors finished plowing their fields, they came over and plowed the fields of these families, for the most part mono-lingual Japanese. They remained Neighbors rather than become part of a national environment of hatred. When Cuban Nikkei are asked if they felt more Cuban or Japanese, they are puzzled at that question. "We're Cuban!" they say. When they are asked if there is a baseball game between Cuba and Ja- before the words came out they shouted "Japonaise!" They are proud of their roots but they experience more inclusion in Cuba than many other places. My main reason that I personally wish the end of the blockade is because my country, the US, does not allow our cultural exchange and oral history exchange with Japanese in Cuba. They allow art exchanges, Christian exchanges, but not us. That is discriminatory! The blockade discriminates against Nikkei!


Sharon Elise posted this. Chinosole lived here in the 80's - 90's. And the time she spent in Eugene she spent passionately. A friend of Audre Lourde, she continued the hard conversation which had opened up with the great author's visit between women of the LGBTQ community and women of color. It was painful but necessary. She and Professor  David Henry Anthony also started the Free Africa Movement here. When the Bijou brought the South African imported film, "The Gods Must be Crazy" breaking an international boycott against South Africa, Chinosole was leading the protest line outside the Bijou and as the theater continued to show the film to crowds for weeks, moviegoers, many of them our friends, crossed the line. It was disheartening. Chinosole moved to CA, during that all too long run, but before she went she was on the line and encouraged us not to give up no matter what. I bring this up because that line served as the place where lifelong respect and friendships were made between the Anglo women of the LGBTQ community and women of color because on that line, as temperatures dropped and the rain poured down on us, people began to leave the line except us women, every show night. That commitment served as the foundation for a long friendship between the women in this community. That's just two of the many things she did for Eugene. But just for me, Chinosole and a group of us were having lunch. I had been pink-slipped and not called back to teaching. Chinosole asked some questions and learned that my principal had said several racist things to me, and then had also called me in for answering my students' questions about how I voted on Prop 13 which prohibited Gay and Lesbian people from rights, basically criminalizing homosexuality, honestly. He thought that it was wrong for me to take a teachable moment as my students hatefully said all Gay people should be put inconcentration camps to talk about witch hunts and the bill of rights, and my own family's experience during WW2. She got very angry and told me I needed to fight for that job. I was pretty naive about my rights. Frankly the anxiety blocking me from facing the School District Personnel Clique shrank before the thought of making Chinosole any madder! It was not difficult for me to stick up for my students, or take a stand for what I believed in but it was hard for me to stick up for myself and Chinosole held that mirror up to me and gave me the directional push and kick in the butt I needed. After 30 plus years of teaching I could not imagine giving up on something that gave me so much and I owe her so much for that. I also echo what Sharon said, "Chinosole, you left without saying goodbye." Rest in Peace and Power, Sister.  

Chinosole. You left without saying good bye. Rest in peace. La lucha continúa

War Zone

Here is more powerful writing from Lyla. The first lines really resonated with me. I've always felt I was born in a war zone. As a 5 year old just starting school, first time among others than my grandparents, mother and uncles, the only brown spot in a classroom of 12 children in Marsing, Idaho, speaking another language, looking like the enemy back then in 1950, I remember the clues which made me realize it. As Sharon Anderson, my playground friend said, explaining why I was the only one not invited to her birthday party, "my mom said you can't come because you killed my brothers." How does a 5 year old digest that one?
In 1937 my indigenous grandmother attended Rehoboth, 
a Dutch Reformed Church school near Gallup, New Mexico.
She tells me stories of children writing one
hundred times on a piece of paper:

I will only speak English.
I will only speak English.
I will only speak English.

To be born into this body--this beautiful brown body--is to be born into a warzone.
The world will never stop telling you that you are inferior.

I know who I am.
I am equal to the sun, to the grass.

Beautiful children like my grandmother
with smiles so pure and hearts so loving
were told they were a broken form of human
with every word and action.

Beautiful people, who held the cure for cancer in their songs,
and lived in harmony with one desert for so much longer than
any archaeologist or anthropologist could ever detect,
were called uncivilized.

Selma Critics

     Can I get real about the LBJ part of the film? I do not get all this whitewashing of history -- that the march was LBJ's idea? Why did I go through the 60's and 70's thinking that the highest office of government wanted MLK to go away and indeed they may very well have been in some way responsible on some level for his assassination then. I appreciated that the director chose to put that chilling scene where LBJ picks up the phone to call FBI director Hoover in the movie. It left that real question that was being thought and the dread that people of color and white anti racist allies recognized and truly felt then.
      I appreciated that it was made clear to the audience that being able to talk to the President, having access to powerful people made King vulnerable not more protected because that's a truth that people of privilege do not know but many people of color who have been in similar situations know to be true -- that King's life choice was as dangerous and isolated as could be. That, in fact, King was safer with the grassroots peoples -- who all faced violence together -- than he was by himself in the white marble halls of power with suited men with handshakes and smiles. I liked it when the film showed King and his other national organizers going into towns, received by the local organizers -- like in the breakfast scene, so real that many people of color could feel that welcome and camaraderie and the smell of breakfast, as well as the scene when the local organizers were guarded about King and other national organizers sweeping in and the consequences they may be left with when the national organizers returned to Atlanta. Who hasn't been there if they are people of color and organizing. 
     There were so many truths captured by this film and shared with those who could not know, no fault of their own, the back story, the inside story, the feelings. It's hard to tolerate these critics, whining because of some whitewashed factoid experienced by them from their own corner of reality is left out and in doing so are blind to what jewels have been included that they didn't know? Please! It's a big enough story; make your own film. Make that film that puts the clergy who answered King's call the center of a film. Hell, if you want to make LBJ the hero of the Civil Rights Movement rather than a President trying not go faster than he's ready and failing because even a President cannot control the extent of HATE and VIOLENCE Alabama police meted out, and a President cannot control the decent folks who stood up when called to put their lives on the line, many from clergy, fine. Make that film. It deserves to be told -- (about the clergy, I mean). But dammit, so does Du Vernay have the right to tell this one. If you are going to be swine missing the pearls which the wonderful director of this movie chose to include, I feel sorry for you, but please stop your damn complaining. Let us enjoy the sweet moment of a two hour film which actually captured what we remember and which transformed a nation.
"from Outside the Belly" was also known as "TBAsian" from 2008-2010. Thank you for reading.

from Outside the Monster's Belly

from Outside the Monster's Belly
. . . following Earth instead (Rakaia River, site of Salmon Ceremony, photo credit Ruth Koenig)


Blogs I Follow

Blog Archive

About Me

My photo
Eugene, Oregon
I am a citizen of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe. I am a Nikkei descendant sansei (third generation);retired teacher, involved in the Winnemem tribal responsibility to Water, Salmon, and our belief that the Sacred is our Teacher. Working locally for human rights and supporting youth leadership.