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Densho: “Our Voices Will Not Be Silenced”

By David Yamaguchi
The North American Post

Co hosts Erin Shigaki and Brady Wakayama

Densho held its annual fundraiser online on October 5. The live video’s centerpiece was a discussion between author Maggie Tokuda-Hall and retired bookseller Karen Maeda Allman. Tokuda-Hall described the tremendous offer she received to republish a new version of her book, “Love in the Library,” as part of an AAPI series with Scholastic: a NASDAQ-listed corporation with national reach into American schools. The catch was that she would have to remove an “offensive” paragraph — on incarceration camps being a defining characteristic of American history — to acquire the deal.

Maggie Tokuda Hall<br >Photos video screenshots DY

The exchange provided a telling glimpse of what is happening behind the scenes in these days of book banning: publishers “whitewashing” ethnic books to achieve sales. (Tokuda-Hall turned Scholastic down.)

I would encourage those who missed the Densho video to watch it after it is available for streaming on demand, likely after light editing for length. Several features make its viewing worthwhile.

First, it stands in as an annual update of what is happening at Densho. Certainly, many readers receive its monthly emails and revisit its website often. Yet watching the yearly video reemphasizes Densho’s central thesis: that there is something magical about telling stories through video. It conveys a primacy and intimacy that still photos and words cannot.

Second, what made it invaluable for me was the opportunity to watch a half-dozen mostly Yonsei speaking confidently and capably before a camera. While doing so is the everyday work of one co-host, TV journalist Brady Wakayama, we are less accustomed to seeing familiar community activists like Shigaki and Maeda Allman doing so.

In Wakayama, Shigaki and Tokuda-Hall, we are seeing a new Japanese American generation coming into its own. While only a few years separate late-born Sansei from leading-edge Yonsei, the latter benefit from a key advantage the former lacked: being raised by parents whose educations were not interrupted by war and the community-wide poverty and prejudices engendered. Watch the Densho video to glimpse the emerging Yonsei future.