To start the year, in January we joined with Japanese Americans for Justice and 24 other social justice, community, labor and faith groups to organize the Oshogatsu Protest to Close the Camps at Yuba County Jail to end their contract with ICE and call attention to the inhumane conditions there. In February, as part of an incredible month of Day of Remembrance events, we organized a direct action at the Northwest Detention Center — Day of Remembrance, Day of Action in partnership with La Resistencia, Densho and the JACL, Seattle Chapter. Event co-organizer Stanley Shikuma noted that this was “the largest Asian American protest action outside of Seattle in Washington state in decades — maybe since the first Day of Remembrance in Puyallup in 1978.”
We were filled with hope and determination as we planned for our in-person National Pilgrimage to Close the Camps in Washington DC in June. However, the Covid-19 pandemic changed our plans and forced us to cancel the in-person protest. We launched the Contagion in the Camps project as a way to support Detention Watch Network’s #FreeThemAll campaign, drawing parallels between our own experiences with epidemics and illness in the WWII concentration camps with what is happening today to highlight the urgency of the current situation.
We never gave up on our vision for a national, inter-generational protest to close the camps, and we worked hard to transform it into an online experience. In June, we hosted Tsuru Rising!, our virtual protest to close the camps, and Kimochi Night, a space for cultural celebration and healing. For two days, we brought together 1,000 registered attendees, 30,000 viewers, nearly 250,000 tsuru, 7 direct actions, and 22 healing circles for change. We connected dozens of artists, organizations, and activists in a cross-community gathering demanding a closure of U.S. concentration camps and a national reckoning and accountability around anti-Blackness and police brutality. We gathered as a community moving toward transformative solidarity against all forms of state violence — a more expansive vision than we originally conceived. Learn more here and watch the recordings.
In the summer, we started Community Conversations: a four-part series designed for deeper community dialogue around identity and intergenerational trauma, anti-Black racism in our own community, and an exploration of what it means to be in solidarity with other communities historically targeted by racism and state violence. We had over 1,000 registered attendees, 25 healing circles, 12 affinity groups, and 13 amazing speakers. You can watch all of the sessions here. Community Conversations will continue in 2021!
Over the July 4th weekend, we were thrilled to participate in two actions as part of XMAP: In Plain Sight – a stunning effort to make visible the injustices of the largest immigration detention system in the world. In Los Angeles, led by Karen Ishizuka of Nikkei Progressives, the words “No More Camps” were sky-written over the Santa Anita racetrack which once held thousands of Japanese Americans during WWII. Up north in Washington State, kites were flown outside the Northwest Detention Center, amplifying the work and demands of those inside. Attendees heard stories and grievances from people detained & family members, learned about the connections between ending immigration detention/deportations and the work of decolonizing, and explored the links between the ICE, CBP, and the calls to #DefundPolice. This innovative project is on-going with events and art installations that have continued throughout the year.
In July and August, we protested together with the Shut Down Berks Coalition, Haitian Women for Haitian Refugees, Free Migration Project, CASA, and Haitian Bridge Alliance at Berks Family Detention Center in Pennsylvania in solidarity with the Black and Brown families enduring these inhumane, devastating conditions in the midst of the pandemic. We brought healing and solidarity to these actions and we will continue to fight tirelessly to #FreeTheFamilies.