Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Title: Miyoko Kaneta Interview
Narrator: Miyoko Kaneta
Interviewer: Virginia Yamada
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: October 12, 2018
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1000-449

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VY: Well, let's see. Is there anything else you'd like to talk about before we conclude today?

MK: Yes. I got my first teaching assignment at Garfield High School. Mr. Roscoe Bass was the principal, and I taught Japanese. And Garfield had a large population of black students at the time, and of course, Caucasian students, a few Asian students. I was very surprised how quickly they could pick up a foreign language. And I gave them Japanese names and had them write it in Japanese block letters, and I posted it on the bulletin board and they really liked that. I remembered when I was at one period working at UCLA, Dr. King came. And it was not a staged visit, it was not in the hall or anything, it was held outdoors very informally. So I got excused because I wanted to go and see and hear his "I Have a Dream" speech. And so the car parked right in front of us, and the men got out and I thought, wow, Dr. King is very big and looks strong. And then another gentleman came out all suited up, and very mild and gentle looking, and I thought, oh, that's Dr. King. It was almost like a double, bodyguard, I think. And the first one that came out, he just practically jumped out of the car. And so I was shocked, thinking that was Dr. King, and not seeing the picture that I used to see in the magazines. But Dr. King came out, and he gave his famous speech, and I was so, we were all just taken by his "I Have a Dream" speech. When I started teaching my first year at Garfield, we had a Martin Luther King Day. And there was a young man, who was not a student, he came and gave that speech, and it reminded me of the way Dr. King gave it when I heard it. And so I wrote a little note to... I can't remember her name, she was in charge of this club. She was a black teacher, and I told her that this young man sounded just like Dr. King, who I personally saw and heard him give a speech. And when she read that note to her organization, they were so envious. [Laughs]

And there was one point, when I was still at Garfield, I was heading towards the office, when I heard a basketball bouncing back and forth. And I saw a big crowd of students gathered in the hallway, and so I had to excuse myself to break through to see what was going on. And then one of the students told me that fellow, he must have been a basketball player, he was a black student, he was tossing the ball back and forth with another basketball player. I don't know what the reason was. And so students couldn't go by, lest they get hit. And so I thought, well, I'm going to try it. So the moment I stepped out in front, the basketball came whizzing by and I caught it. And the kids behind me just roared; now they could get through. And I just hugged the basketball, and I saw one of the teachers who stood by not daring to do anything, I guess, just keep things in order. I said, "Mr. So-and-So, you saw me catch the ball, I'm going to go straight to the principal's office now." He said, "Okay." So I marched into the vice principal's office, and he was a former Garfield student who had graduated and became the principal then. And so I told him the story and gave him the ball, expecting him to discipline the boys. And so I checked the next day to see what had happened, and Mr. So-and-So, the principal that I gave it to, said that, oh, he just gave the ball back. And I said, "What?" I was so disappointed, that I went out and I met the teacher who was on top of things but just keeping control. I said, "Mr. So-and-So, how come the ball was given back without any discipline?" And this teacher that I was talking to who was in charge of keeping control of the crowd that day, said, "You know, you're very brave. We're afraid of the black students." He told me that outright, and I was so shocked. And so when I was going back again to my classroom, I heard running footsteps behind me, and another black student behind me said, "Ms. Kaneta, you caught that ball, didn't you?" And I said, "Yes, do you think I'd make the basketball team?" And that was the background that I found out.

VY: That's an amazing story. So the teacher wasn't doing anything just because they were afraid?

MK: I guess. That's what he told me, he said, "We're afraid of the black [students]." And here I just dared to do things, not coming from that side. That was very interesting.

VY: Very interesting.

MK: I think I have my retirement paper in there alluding to that.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2018 Densho. All Rights Reserved.