Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Cherry Kinoshita Interview
Narrator: Cherry Kinoshita
Interviewers: Becky Fukuda (primary), Tracy Lai (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: September 26, 1997
Densho ID: denshovh-kcherry-01-0012

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BF: So when did you begin your involvement in JACL? You're a long time JACL'er. At what point did you sort of step into that organization?

CK: Okay, as I say... so we came to Seattle in the '50s and then it was just making a living and we had to both work. And then in '53, our son was born and since my parents were staying with us, then I was able to work and it was a necessity to work. So it was not much time to do anything other than that. Working, coming home, you throw off your coat and start cooking and there wasn't even time to play with the baby and all that. But then by, as I said, when Kyle, my son, was about ten or so, then it began to be a little easier to think of doing some other things. And since I had been a JACL member in Minneapolis where there was a chapter, then I decided I'll join the Seattle chapter. And I came in and the first meeting I attended, I became secretary. [Laughs] So that's where I jumped right in and then from then on, I was on the board for every year, every year.

BF: What attracted you to JACL? I mean...

CK: Well, because of my familiarity with JACL earlier in Minneapolis and there we were doing, you know, mostly social things, getting together, fellowships and this and that. Not involved in civil rights very much. Very little. And so I was familiar with the organization and therefore I again knew that if I was going to pick any group -- because I didn't have a church affiliation -- so I just joined JACL. And then it was after being in JACL and Seattle chapter, around that time had, Min Masuda and Don Kazama had just come in a few years earlier and I don't know if you know, they were very, very strong on civil rights and just very inspirational leaders. And they led the chapter into areas that you know, Seattle also was a fairly social group, picnics, socials and these kinds of things. And then during Don Kazama's period there was that protest about the Elks. The Elks had a "no minority" policy, and in that period they actually went -- I think that was Joe Okimoto -- they went and actually physically picketed. And of course that was very strange to me. I didn't join in that. But you know, this kind of thing made me realize that you do have to get out there and protest some of these things. So you gradually get caught up in that.

BF: So it sounds like you got into JACL a little bit more for social reasons or to meet people.

CK: Yeah.

BF: And slowly got an education in politics.

CK: Yeah, into the civil rights area. Although I knew that JACL was not a frivolous organization. I knew they had a purpose. And then as I say, Min and Don were leading into areas... oh, I'm trying to think of that other event. Oh, some of these things, and they may not be chronologically correct. But then the Iva Toguri case came along where JACL took up the cause when we understood the unfairness with which she had been convicted and imprisoned, it was just...

BF: She was labeled falsely as a spy, Tokyo Rose...

CK: A spy. She was just one of many who had broadcast and she had been caught over in Japan and because she knew English, she was, you know... I think she was employed to do that. But somehow she was picked out to be the scapegoat. And just, just the injustice of that really stirred everybody up. And somewhere, somewhere along the line I had gotten this feeling of when something's not right and is not fair, it's gotta, you've got to do something about it. You look around and is anybody doing anything about it? You've got to get in there and do it. So, and I can't pinpoint exactly, but sort of grows on you as to, these things that need to be done.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.