In December 2015, former President Barack Obama remarked at a naturalization ceremony in Washington, D.C., that in “one of the darkest chapters in our history, Japanese immigrants and even Japanese American citizens were forced from their homes and imprisoned in camps.” On February 19th, 1942, seventy-eight years ago, Executive Order 9066, a United States presidential executive order, was signed and issued by Franklin D. Roosevelt. This order triggered the single largest forced migration in American history and made a dramatic change in many Japanese Americans’ lives.
Since 1942, February 19 is a very important day for Japanese Americans in our community to honor Japanese and Japanese Americans whose freedom and lives were taken away due solely to their race. The Nikkei Student Union (NSU) at UW collaborated with two other student organizations, Asian Student Commission and Japanese Student Association, to co-host the Day of Remembrance. This took place on February 20th at Intellectual House on the University of Washington campus to commemorate this sad history, raise awareness in younger generations, and ensure that we don’t make the same mistakes in the future.
Yoko Fedorenko, the cofounder of NSU, explained that “we struggled to find a place where we can engage with the community and feel that we belong. I hope that NSU will be the one for those young Japanese Americans at UW to continue to step up and take advantage of the resources and power we have and to hold events like this to bring more Japanese Americans together.” Though she is graduating, she believes strongly that the remaining students will keep up the activities and bring more people into this newly formed strong community. There is so much more to learn from the oral histories of those who were there than we can find in textbooks. People should make an effort to join the proceedings next year to keep history alive.