Legacies Redefined: NorCal Time of Remembrance honors Asian American history, pushes for solidarity

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IN UNITY — Filmmaker and Japanese Community Youth Council Executive Director Jon Osaki, JACL youth representative Krista Keplinger and Asian Law Caucus attorney Carl Takei. photo by Kenji G. Taguma/Nichi Bei News

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The California Museum on O Street is home to a wealth of exhibits and programs showcasing the state’s history and culture. On Feb. 10, it was home to the annual Northern California Time of Remembrance, which commemorates the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II.

This year’s selected film, “Not Your Model Minority” by filmmaker and community organizer Jon Osaki, analyzed the origins of the model minority myth and how it has historically been used as a tool to sow conflict between communities of color. Presented by the Florin, Lodi, Placer County and Sacramento chapters of the Japanese American Citizens League, the event included a post-screening panel discussion, as well as an audience Q&A.

While initially focused on presenting the wartime history and obtaining monetary redress for the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II, this year’s Time of Remembrance shifted focus to addressing intersectional activism between marginalized communities. Katie Uemura, a member of the JACL’s Florin-Sacramento Valley chapter, also sits on the planning committee. She said that choosing to show Osaki’s “Not Your Model Minority” was part of a larger motivation to draw in younger generations of Asian Americans.

That required the committee to put its finger on the pulse of what young generations want to see — it landed on intersectional solidarity. Uemura said that the organizers wanted to acknowledge past tensions between different ethnic communities while uniting in the face of an ever-changing political landscape.

“We realize that there’s a lot of different opinions within our own Japanese American, Asian American community — but also, there’s some communities that don’t get along as well with other communities,” Uemura said.

“And we’re trying to forge bridges so that we can all be united in solidarity today.”

The planning committee chose to center this year’s theme on the model minority myth in the wake of the Supreme Court decision’s to effectively end affirmative action in college admissions in 2023, which large portions of the Asian American community supported. Uemura said that this is the model minority myth at play, in which Asian Americans have been used for — and have also played into — efforts to compare them to other minority communities, minimizing the experiences of both groups.

“(The Supreme Court decision is) directly related to the incarceration of Japanese Americans. You know, how are BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) oppressed or pitted against one another?” Uemura said. “So this was a way to take current events, tie it to our history and bring everyone up to speed.”

Following the screening of Osaki’s “Not Your Model Minority Myth,” Osaki, JACL youth representative Krista Keplinger and Carl Takei, an attorney at the Asian Law Caucus, participated in a panel discussion.
Osaki said during the panel that the support of the Black American community was a backing force for Japanese Americans seeking monetary redress for Executive Order 9066 in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

“The Congressional Black Caucus could have easily said, ‘What about us? What about the harm that’s been committed against our community?’” Osaki said to the audience. “But they were unanimous in their support.”

Takei added that the Japanese American incarceration was one of many instances in which the United States government violated the rights of marginalized communities, and that the Japanese American community is in a unique place to support other groups seeking reparations for injustice.

We should be supporting this because what happened to us — you know, that racist deployment of state power and status is not unique, and we shouldn’t buy into the myth that (that) was unique. You know, this is a country that was built on slavery; it was built on the genocide of Native Americans,” said Takei, who is a senior staff attorney and criminal justice reform program manager at the Asian Law Caucus.

“And when other communities come to us for support, and asking for an apology for reparations for the harm that was done to their communities, we should be saying, ‘Yes; yes, we support this demand. And we have a particular moral authority in doing so because of the success of our demand for reparations.”

As the Black American community was supportive of the Japanese American community when its reparations initiative was making its way through Congress, Osaki said that it’s time for Japanese Americans, and the Asian American community at large, to respond in kind.

“It’s really important that, that work starts now; you cannot build alliances and relationships with other communities only during moments of crisis. You have to put in the hard work every day — and it is hard work; I do want to just be very clear about that,” Osaki said to the audience. “It is hard work to sustain alliances and partnerships with other communities of color, but the benefits really are, you know, so significant that it is really important for our communities to think about how we can be better at that moving forward.”

Following the panel discussion, audience members participated in a Q&A session with all three panelists. Bora Kim, a graduate student of psychology at the Wright Institute in Berkeley, was one such participant. Kim, who aspires to work as a psychologist with marginalized communities, said that they found the film screening eye opening.

“I feel like a bubble has burst,” Kim said. “I’m learning about all these injustices and marginalization and history, and that’s what brought me here, and I’ve been kind of figuring out how I can use my power and privilege in order to uplift our community and other communities of color.”

Ultimately, the goal of the Time of Remembrance is both constant and changing. It began as a movement to educate people about the incarceration of Japanese Americans at the hands of the American government. Then the goal became drumming up support for the reparations movement. Now it is to create intersectional solidarity by dismantling the model minority myth. And an increasing number of people are catching on.

“I love this movement,” Kim said. “So knowing that there are a bunch of people working to dismantle the model minority myth, and it’s growing — and I want to contribute to it. I’m not really sure how, but I’m just getting started.”

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