“Never Again Is Now”

The United to End Racism (UER) team at the Tule Lake Pilgrimage [see previous three articles] led a protest in solidarity with families separated at the U.S. border by the unjust “zero tolerance” policy.

At each pilgrimage on Saturday morning, the participants travel to the site of the former Segregation Center for a memorial service. We remember and honor those who died in Tule Lake and all of the people whose lives were forever altered by their imprisonment there. The service inspires us to remember, so that it never happens again.

This year the memorial carried special meaning. It took place on a “national day of action” in the United States. Thousands of people were taking to the streets [going into the streets] to protest the “zero tolerance” border policy that has separated families and threatens to detain them for extended periods in makeshift concentration camps.

The parallels between the incarceration of Japanese people during World War II and the border situation had not been lost on us [missed by us]. In the weeks prior to the pilgrimage, members of our team (mainly Mike Ishii) had planned a protest.

On Saturday morning we helped the Japanese elders who had been incarcerated at Tule Lake sit in two rows at the front. Behind them stood the rest of the pilgrimage, nearly four hundred people, including allies from the Modoc tribe on whose land the Tule Lake Segregation Center had been built. In the background was Castle Rock, the iconic geographic landmark of Tule Lake.

The elders held banners that read, “No More U.S. Concentration Camps” and “Never Again Is Now.” Each slogan was underscored by an image of barbed wire. Mike Ishii, Ashley Uyeda, and other UER members led the group in the chants “No No! No No! Concentration camps have got to go!” and “No ban. No wall. Sanctuary for all!”

In a last chant we incorporated a Japanese phrase familiar to the elders: Kodomo no tame ni (“For the sake of the children”). The whole chant was “Kodomo no tame ni. They’re our children. Set them free!”

Before we started the chant, Mike spoke about how we are the perfect people to speak to the issue. Our elders know directly the devastating impact of racism. Their lives were disrupted, many families were divided, and the hurts of incarceration are still felt today. It is time to let the world know of our outrage at what is happening at the U.S. border.

Then we chanted. The power of four hundred Japanese American voices and the sight of our elders raising their fists were a huge contradiction to the ways that racism has tried to silence us and make us invisible. Tears flowed freely.

At the end Mike read a statement, which everyone repeated and amplified. It ended with “No ban. No wall. No camps. No-No!” The last words refer to the Japanese Americans who in 1943 answered, “No-No,” to the divisive loyalty questionnaire and who were then labeled disloyal and imprisoned in the Tule Lake Segregation Center.

We felt proud of helping our Japanese American elders, brothers, and sisters claim their voices.

Keith Osajima

Redlands, California, USA

Becca Asaki

Brooklyn, New York, USA

Kenso Michisaki

San Jose, California, USA

Reprinted from the e-mail discussion list for RC Community members

(Present Time 193, October 2018)

Last modified: 2022-12-25 10:17:04+00