Left image: Henry Sugimoto, ca. 1965, courtesy of the Japanese American National Museum (Gift of Madeleine Sugimoto & Naomi Tagawa, 9297.122). Right image: Photo by Nitish Meena on Unsplash.
Last month, the University of San Francisco Asian Pacific American Studies and Gleeson Library | Geschke Center, along with a number of other co-sponsors, organized the 2018 USF Day of Remembrance: Building Sanctuary: Alliances and Action Across Communities. Day of Remembrance commemorates February 19, 1942, the day which President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, authorizing the government and the military to incarcerate and imprison over 120,000 Japanese Americans. The 2018 USF Day of Remembrance program addressed this history and why it is especially important today.
To open the program, John Ota of Nikkei Resisters gave a moving statement, reflecting on the incarceration and forced relocation of Japanese Americans to remote, desolate camps—an egregious violation of civil rights in our country’s history—and connected it to present day exclusionary immigration policies against communities of color.
Moderator Professor Evelyn Ho transitioned to the panel discussion by asking panelists to share their definition of sanctuary and recent developments on local and national levels. Hong Mei Pang, Director of Advocacy at Chinese for Affirmative Action (CAA) and co-founder of Revolutionizing Asian American Immigrant Stories on the East Coast (RAISE), and Professor Bill Ong Hing, described the constant fear, anxiety, and trauma undocumented immigrants, their families, and communities are experiencing because of ongoing threats of arrest and deportation. Additionally, Hong Mei Pang provided information about the Rapid Response Network and the work of CAA, SFILEN, and other partners to support undocumented immigrants. Professor Hing and USF law student and USF Task Force to Support Undocumented Students representative Gabriela Garcia, discussed the ongoing organizing efforts at USF, including Know Your Rights workshops and the Immigration Law Clinic. They described working with clients who are struggling to pay their DACA renewal application fees and public transportation costs. Fr. Greg Bonfiglio and Mike Neary of St. Ignatius Parish shared that recent government policies and changes moved them and other parishioners at St. Ignatius to take a public stance through declaring sanctuary with St. Agnes Parish. Professor Evelyn Ho noted that her church, St. John’s Presbyterian, also recently declared sanctuary. Natalie Terry, Community Organizer with Faith in Action Bay Area and Director of the Ignatian Spiritual Life Center & Children’s Faith Formation at St. Agnes Church, reflected on working with many concerned and woken individuals and volunteers wanting to help, but who are often paralyzed to act. She encouraged the audience to, when thinking about the question What do I need to do?, to also consider the questions Who am I becoming? and Who do we choose to be in this moment? Overall, this timely and important program helped to connect communities, reaffirm ongoing efforts, and put forth ideas for moving forward.