Let’s Talk … About Tsuru for Solidarity

In the fall of 2018, a small group of Nikkei in the Bay Area gathered to begin planning for a preliminary pilgrimage to Crystal City, Texas, a former Department of Justice camp where several of us had been held as children separated from our fathers during World War II. With the increasingly hostile and racist policies and practices proliferating from presidential executive orders and public rhetoric, we couldn’t ignore the fact that today, just 40 miles east, on the very same highway, 2,400 mothers and children seeking asylum were unjustly being held in the prison-like facility of the South Texas Family Residential Center. The frightening resonance echoed our own families’ experience of being stigmatized as an “unassimilable race of people” and as potential “spies and saboteurs.” Today, government authorities are targeting Muslims as potential “terrorists” and asylum-seekers as “criminals and rapists,” once again, using “risk to national security” as justification for bypassing due process of law. We suffered the long-term consequences of similar hateful rhetoric that led to our mass incarceration, indefinite detention, and family separation during and after WWII. Yet, when we were removed from our homes, there was no public outcry — no marches or protests. With few exceptions, America turned its back on us, turned away from the injustice being perpetrated. We felt compelled to show up. Standing at the barbed wire fence, we could only see the white tops of massive tents that isolated and cut off the prisoners inside from the rest of the world. We wanted to publicly stand on our moral authority as former child prisoners to protest the criminalization and mass incarceration of innocent people and to demand that the government “Stop Repeating History!” In protest we hung more than 30,000 brightly colored tsuru (paper cranes) on the barbed wire fence, folded by Japanese Americans and allies from across the country and Japan. Taiko drummers from Denver and New York brought their drums to Texas to sound our heartbeats. We wanted the children to see that there were people outside who cared; we wanted them to hear our voices speaking out on their behalf. We wanted them to know that we would do what we could to keep America from turning its back on their plight. And Tsuru for Solidarity was born — a hatchling, flying on the wings of hundreds of people who understand the importance of showing up, speaking out, and sharing our stories as lessons to be learned by all Americans. As we continue our protest demonstrations, we have been joined by hundreds of individuals, formed coalitions with other Nikkei and ally groups with the shared goal of using our voices, our history, to close all U.S. concentration camps. All are welcome to join us in Washington, D.C. June 5-7, 2020, where we will hold a march and rally, beat our drums, raise our voices, and hang 125,000 tsuru representing each of us who were incarcerated during WWII. For more information, please go to: www.tsuruforsolidarity.org. Satsuki Ina, Ph.D. is a licensed marriage and family therapist specializing in intergenerational trauma. She can be reached at satsukina44@gmail.com. She is also a filmmaker (“Children of the Camps” — www.children-of-the-camps.org and “From a Silk Cocoon: A Japanese American Renunciation Story” — www.fromasilkcocoon.com). The views expressed in the preceding column are not necessarily those of the Nichi Bei Weekly.

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