By Cheryl Hirata-Dulas
Pangea World Theater and JACL’s Twin Cities chapter partnered to screen Abby Ginzberg and Ken Schneider’s timely film “And Then They Came for Us” to a full house in Minneapolis, Minn., on Sept. 22.
The film shows how vital it is to speak up against efforts to register or ban Muslims today by documenting the truth of what occurred to Japanese Americans and people of Japanese descent during World War II after they were forcibly incarcerated following the issuance of Executive Order 9066.
In addition, retired St. Paul Pioneer Press reporter Leslie Suzukamo penned two epilogues to bring audience members up to date on the issues being discussed. The first epilogue recounted the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Muslim ban while simultaneously, in a seemingly contradictory action, reversing Fred Korematsu’s 1945 case.
Thanks to communications with Satsuki Ina of Tsuru for Solidarity, Suzukamo’s second epilogue reflected on current immigration issues and gave examples of how Japanese Americans continue to determinedly voice disapproval of the U.S. government’s policies and actions at the southern border.
After the epilogues were read, recordings of local hip-hop artist Guante’s readings of two of Ina’s poems, “Elena” and “We Came Back for You,” were played. Ina’s emotive poems spoke of her experiences at the migrant detention center in Dilley, Texas, not far from Crystal City, where Japanese Americans, including those from Peru, were held during WWII.
Next, WWII incarceration survivor Sally Sudo and CAIR-MN’s Civil Rights Attorney Ellen Longfellow spoke. Sudo described her memories of Puyallup and Minidoka, where she spent her early elementary school days. Longfellow detailed the ways the ban has affected the local Somali community, many of whom are represented by U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar (MN, 5th District).
Sudo and Longfellow were then joined by Twin Cities Board Member Janet Carlson in a Q & A session. The ensuing discussion centered around ways audience members can contribute to efforts to address the troubling border situation.
The subsequent audience survey, which was completed by half of those attending, revealed that the event had inspired all of the respondents to take action against injustices that were discussed. One wrote, “No more silence,” while others pledged to share their concerns with friends and, especially, teachers.
Finally, to support the chapter’s youths’ effort to contribute origami cranes to Tsuru for Solidarity, their cranes, many of which had been folded at a recent Obon Festival and the previous day’s Normandale Japanese Garden festival, were displayed. After the discussion, many audience members folded cranes for the project as well.
Pangea and the Twin Cities Chapter plan to meet to discuss further collaborations on events addressing immigration, racial injustice and social inequality.