Wednesday, July 18, 2007

JAPANTOWN: New Dawn J-Town Collective April 1974 Issue



“This month New Dawn is initiating a column in our paper entitled ‘Let the People Speak’. This column will serve as a forum to highlight the experiences and ideas of Asian Americans. Countless discussions with people in the community sparked the idea for the column. From these discussions, the New Dawn staff has gained a deeper understanding of the importance of drawing lessons from the people’s wealth of experiences. The people are truly the moving force in history, providing strength for our struggles today.

The following column was written by Mr. Tokuo Miyao, long-time resident of SAN Francisco’s Nihonmachi and a staunch member of the Committee Against Nihonmachi Evictions since its birth. Here Mr. Miyao writes of the growth and needs of the Japanese community.”

Nihonmachi Shield- The creation of Japanese American destiny

By Tokuo Miyao

“Ever since Japanese immigrants started to come to this country during the late 1800’s, and early 1900’s Issei pioneers faced economical, political and social re­sistance, discrimination and prejudice. ‘Yellow Peril’ was the slogan of the ra­cists of California. Overcoming and with­standing this rampant hatred, Issei pio­neers began to form their communities throughout California. San Francisco was not an exception. Labor discrimination, school discrimination, housing discrimina­tion and untold other forms of discrimina­tion were faced by Issei pioneers and their offspring. Amidst such social and economic discrimination they were able to establish a community we today call Nihon­machi.

The 1920’s were equally as bad, months of detention in Angels Island, wives and husbands and children separately confined was an every-day affair. But Nikkeijin (Japanese Americans) withstood with tears and anger. Issei worked hard to establish their community but with the coming of World War II, they were forced to be eva­cuated and herded into concentration camps encircled with barbed wire and machine guns pointing at them. All constitutional rights and due process of law were either ignored or scraped in the name of National Defense.

Nisei who were just growing from their teens to draft age were all in concentration camps, actually a prisoner’s camp…. Many Nisei discovered that they must sacrifice themselves to earn the right of citizenship by voluntarily serving in the armed forces. Whether the action was a smart action is debatable. But the fact is they have honorably served and accomplished their mission of credibility as citizens of the U.S.A. Returning from the camps and from services in the armed forces, Issei and Nisei again reestablished the second Nihonmachi. . .Nihonmachi again became an active focal point of spiritual and cultural life for Japanese in America. However, Nihonmachi was confronted with still another enemy. This time in the form of the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency. The situation of Nihonmachi in 1974 has been a result of RDA and the master plan of this city and the federal government.

Today, since the formation of the Committee Against Nihonmachi Eviction -“CANE”, fighting against elements forcing small businesses and residents out of Nihonmachi. Many people have joined and have been strategically struggling, mobilizing the Japanese community and have exerted their ideas and have been successful in many ways.. CANE has been shielding, guiding and planning the present hardship faced by the community and is laying the course of Nihonmachi’s destiny fortelling the fate of the Nihonmachi of the future.

Through faith in their struggle, people from all aspects of Nihonmachi are beginning to understand what it means to stand up and struggle so that the ethnic unity of Nihonmachi can survive and have the credibility of existence. If the people of Nihonmachi were aware twenty years ago, this present destruction could have been prevented. All future forces must be crushed today or the Nihonmachi will be washed away not only the spread of tourism, but also by the multinational expansion of Ugly Americanism and Ugly Japanese economic expansion. This struggle is slowly defining the philosophical basis of existence and undoubtedly has taken a first step of the coming of the New Age -where solidly molded thinking will control the future action of this community. The struggle must be unified into action to be successful.”