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"There's so much to be learned from this experience. I don't think this is just about Japanese Americans. It's about how profoundly damaging racism is."
- Dr. Satsuki Ina


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


"To some of us, diversity is not a buzzword but rather a source of pride and strength. And diversity - whether acknowledged or not - has always been part of America."
- Anita Creamer, Sacramento Bee

The following two newspaper articles on the Children of the Camps Project appeared in the Sacramento Bee prior to the film's completion. They describe more about the project's origin and purpose:

Children of the Camps: Opening Eyes to Internment Trauma

Diversity: Source of Regret or Pride?

 


CHILDREN OF THE CAMPS
Opening eyes to internment trauma
By Anita Creamer, The Sacramento Bee

Seven years ago, Satsuki Ina started a series of workshops encouraging her peers - Japanese American adults who had spent part of their childhoods behind the barbed wire of internment camps - to examine their lives.

Ina, a marriage, family and child counselor and an education professor at California State University, Sacramento, has devoted both her career and her heart to the healing power of education. Now she's the producer of "Children of the Camps," a documentary based on the experiences of other Japanese Americans who spent their early years interned during World War II.

"People ask me, 'Why are you digging all this up?'" she says. "It never really got buried. It hasn't died in us yet.

"In the Japanese culture, you don't express feelings, you don't complain, you don't say anything about family. So this was a pain people just held. In that way, the wound doesn't get healed.

"There's so much to be learned from this experience. I don't think this is just about Japanese Americans. It's about how profoundly damaging racism is."

Ina was born in 1943 at Tule Lake Relocation and Segregation Center in the windy and desolate high desert just south of the Oregon-California border. Her parents were both born in the United States, as well.

No matter. Post-Pearl Harbor hysteria stripped them - and 120,000 other Americans of Japanese descent - of their legal rights and sent them into imprisonment at 10 camps. Some 18,000 of them, including 8,000 Japanese Americans from the Sacramento area, were interned at Tule Lake.

It's a shameful chapter of American history, a mistake that the U.S. government acknowledged in 1988 with reparations and an official apology.

And that, says Ina, began the healing.

"We know that childhood trauma has reverberative effects on people's trust and self-esteem," she says. "This is no different."

The emotional legacy of imprisonment has been passed to younger generations, she says, and includes low-grade depression as well as the drive to overachieve as a way to be accepted.

After Ina saw "The Color of Fear," a documentary about the impact of racism, she contacted the filmmaker. He encouraged her to capture her workshops on film.

In "Children of the Camps," executive producer Audrey Kasho-Wells and a crew of Sacramento filmmakers document a special three-day retreat in Bolinas, during which Ina leads a group of six former internees through remembrance into the relief of healing.

The oldest, a woman named Marion Kanemoto, was 14 when she was imprisoned with her family. Born here, she spent most of the war overseas, alone, after she was traded to Japan in a prisoner of war swap.

Another participant says: "I felt so ashamed of being Japanese. I felt somehow I'd caused World War II."

Says Ina: "Sometimes people say, 'It wasn't so bad. We felt safe inside.' But there's a denial of degree they suffered. My mother was writing letters to my father saying, 'I don't know if we'll be lined up tomorrow and shot.'

"Our parents buffered us from the trauma they were suffering."

To finish the film, Ina is applying for a Corporation for Public Broadcasting grant. On the evening of June 21, an art auction at Sacramento's Excentrique Art Gallery will also beneft the documentary.

After the war, Ina's family moved to Cincinnati and then returned to San Francisco, where her parents ran a picture framing business.

"In Ohio, the teachers said I should Americanize my name, so they called me Sandy," she says. "I reclaimed my name when I was 35. My mother was distraught. She thought something could happen to me. Now, she's the only person who calls me Sandy.

"So you see how deeply ingrained this wound is."


      Copyright 1997 Sacramento Bee All Rights Reserved


DIVERSITY:
Source of regret, or pride?
By Anita Creamer, The Sacramento Bee, June 23, 1997

She took the time to write a long letter after she read a recent column about "Children of the Camps," Sacramento educator Satsuki Ina's documentary film about healing the lingering pain of Japanese Americans who spent part of their childhoods in World War II internment camps.

The woman who wrote was a child of World War II, as well.

She loved those years. She cherished them in her memory.

And so she wrote of patriotism and pride, of victory gardens and gas rationing, of writing to American soldiers overseas and waving at the servicemen packed on the troop trains passing through her hometown depot.

No one can take those memories from here. And no one is trying to.

Yet she also writes:

"The reason so many Americans consider the war years to be happy ones is that it was a time, like no other before or since, when all Americans were united as one.

"There were no hyphenated Americans then...No one spoke of multiculturalism. Diversity was not a buzzword of the day. Politically correct was an unknown expression, and racism was not even a word in the dictionary.

"In those years, everybody celebrated the same holidays.  There wasn't a separate Christmas holiday for blacks and Jews.  There was no Cinco de Mayo.  Courts didn't close down for Jewish holidays.  There was no Black History Month and no Martin Luther King Day.  America had one culture."

OK, maybe she got a little carried away.

There's no separate for Christmas for Jews now, for example, and Jewish holy days have been around far longer than Christian ones.  Cinco de Mayo has been celebrated by Americans of Mexican descent for many, many generations.  It's not a recent development, nor are African American celebrations such as Juneteenth, which since the late 1860s has commemorated the day that word of the Emancipation Proclamation arrived in Texas.

To some of us, that's the beauty of America - the idea that one culture can be grand enough and generous enough to include and celebrate so many others.

To some of us, diversity is not a buzzword but rather a source of pride and strength.

And diversity - whether acknowledged or not - has always been part of America.

The woman was writing to object to a column that presented a picture of wartime America that differed from her own.  Satsuki Ina's childhood reality was not hers, and she really didn't want to hear about it.

But how does making the effort to understand and heal the experience of one diminish the experiences of the other?

Aren't we big enough to grasp that different people - in the same country, even in the same family - have different experiences of the same events, different memories and different lives?

History has many perspectives.  Why should that realization cause pain?

Yet it does.  Several veterans got in touch to complain that no one ever bothered to write about the men who fought and died in World War II.

You'd have thought that 50 years of accolades for sacrifices of their youth might have meant something.  If that's not a measure of our continuing admiration and gratitude, it's hard to see what would be.

In a speech calling for a national dialogue on race, President Clinton said: "We have torn down the barriers in our laws.  Now we must break down the barriers in our lives, our minds and our hearts."

The woman wrote: "All the various races and ethnic groups want to hang onto their own culture rather than be Americans."

In a more respectful world, tolerance wouldn't be such a threat.  And we wouldn't cherish the barriers of stereotype at the expense of understanding how rich we are, as a people, in each other.

 

      Copyright 1997 Sacramento Bee All Rights Reserved



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