Over the years, those who were imprisoned in the ten US war-time concentration camps for US citizens of Japanese ancestry and their descendants began making a pilgrimage to their respective camps in remembrance of what happened in the US back in the 1940’s when a US President, with the flick of a wrist signed into law the single largest forced removal and mass incarceration of US citizens in US history. The act would effectively erase the rights of citizenship and exclude anyone with 1/16th Japanese blood from the protection of the four freedoms promised to everyone anywhere in the world.
This was to be an important year. It would be 75 years since the camps began closing when those imprisoned would be forced to yet again leave what had become “home” with only what they could carry, 25 dollars and a bus ticket courtesy of the US government to face a possibly hostile world outside the barbed wire fences into an uncertain future. Many who had never been back had been planning to make this journey, some for the first time, for others it was to be their last. However due to Covid 19, all of the annual pilgrimages to the camps were canceled this year.
As a result, many of the planners got together, along with the NPS and other historical organizations, to create a Virtual Pilgrimage to the camps. It's a reminder of how easily hard fought freedoms can be lost and that race did matter then and obviously still does today in 2020.
There are many stories in America. Most focus on the struggles of "whites" or "African or persons of African descent," the two groups eligible for citizenship as stipulated in the 1870 Naturalization Law established after the Civil War. It would necessitate a whole new group of laws which would govern those who were not 'African" but were also "not white" by law. The Asian American experience falls within this penumbra and I believe is the missing link to understanding race in America.
The Virtual Pilgrimage is open to anyone who wants to register. I will be presenting a talk about my Yellow Bowl Project on June 19th, 2020. We can virtually visit all ten of the camps as well as seven other places my tea bowls took me in my examination of this American story. There are many other stories and lesson we can learn while the pilgrimage lasts, from June 13 until August 16, 2020.
Here is a ink to the complete schedule and registration information for the Virtual Pilgrimage.
FYI, I’ve finally created a twitter account, @SetsukoWinches1, if you’d like to share.
Hope you find it interesting!
My Yellow Bowl Project hopes to spur discussion around these questions: Who is an American? What does citizenship mean? How long do you have to be in the US to be considered a bonafide member of this group?