Densho Digital Repository
Seattle JACL Oral History Collection
Title: In Memory of Tatsuo Nakata Interview
Narrators: Akemi Matsumoto, Emily Momohara, Joy Shigaki, Arlene Oki
Interviewers: Brent Seto, Bill Tashima
Date: February 6, 2022
Densho ID: ddr-sjacl-2-32-11

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BT: You know, Emily, you're bringing up some really good thoughts here. And I'm going to ask if Joy can get in on this conversation. Because on the civil rights part, I tend to think of Joy and Tatsuo as a team, because they were both on the Civil Rights Committee and Joy actually rejuvenized that committee and expanded it to include a lot more coalition partners, but they did a lot of work with communities, especially during 9/11. And I know that Joy and Tatsuo did a lot of work with Pramila Jayapal when she was head of Hate Free Zone. But there's a personal aspect to that, I think, of Tatsuo that he took civil rights issues personally, like you said, because he knew the pain. And one part that that sticks out in my mind that is how our chapter got very involved with a Somali family, the Hamoudi family, and helping them. And I'm hoping that Joy can expand on these experiences because I think it's it talks about both Joy and Tatsuo's commitment and the reasons why they did this. Joy, if you don't mind.

JS: Sure, I mean, I think for both of us, but I think Emily's spoke to that. As people of color, you're oriented to the world and your experience of racism, whether it be overt or microaggressions, like your view of the world is particular within the context of a racialized society being in the U.S. He certainly carried that from the Midwest back to Seattle. But I also think so much about the chapter was about, I mean, it was established to honor the Japanese American, sort of, community, but also fighting for civil rights. Fundamentally, the work was about equal rights and justice for Japanese Americans. So there is a history of that, and we came from a chapter that also, you know, drove... it was divisive at times during the war, right. I mean, again, these are the evolutions of organizations over time historically, but also was the driver a lot in terms of the redress movement and carried forward amazing mentors and people who were leadership in our community, but also informed what was happening nationally in this country, not just in the JA community, but within the context of American history. And I think similarly, both of us, and many of us on this call were part of the Civil Rights Committee. It's this connection of our own personal community and family experience to the context of what's happening in the country, that issues of civil rights and issues of social justice and issues of fighting against, sort of, white supremacy, which is what we call it now is like about seeing that intersectionality across communities of color, because oppression is not, and racism in this country is not fundamentally only sitting within the context of our own sort of racial group. And I think that evolution of making these connections of what it means to be in solidarity around issues that impact all of us, but also on the same token, like the Japanese American community, have built sort of a certain amount of... and again, this is not about comparison, but we have a platform to be able to advocate and be in solidarity with other communities, when it came to 9/11, to use the, speak to our Japanese American incarceration experience to those who spoke about imprisoning Arab Americans and anyone of Middle Eastern descent right after 9/11. And what it meant to show up for community, which I think it's also a reflection of how other communities showed up for us at certain times in our own history. So I think for many of us who came into JACL either later, but also even those who came in earlier, you know, it was this recognition that our struggles are not in isolation from one another. And because of the Solidarity work that was very central in Seattle, and very unique, I think most of us know, it's still very unique out in the Bay Area. There is some of that, but there is something very unique, I think, to leadership and then history in Seattle.

And I think that was part of the reason I came back to the work in the chapter and I knew about it growing up and obviously very aware of that history. But it really was about are we really willing to turn the corner to really stand behind communities and on behalf of communities because of our history of, and experience of incarceration, and because of our real understanding of how structures in this country have continued to oppress communities, and what does it mean to use our platform and our voice to be able to be showing up for folks? The work of the committee, though, is meant to be fun. I mean, I think like we all spoke to, it's how do you build community, you build through relationships, and we can talk a little bit more about that. But we were talking about, you know, but I have food, and you got to make it fun. And I mean, I think many of us on the screen, some of the work has been hard, right? I mean, that's just the truth. But it's also, it's the balance of having fun, and enjoying the people you're working with, and really building authentic connections, which I think Tatsuo fundamentally understood, too, and valued, right, so that everyone's point about the relationships that he built, it wasn't just as a means to an end, it really was about deeper connection to people. Because ultimately, that's how the work has to get done, too. Can't get done kind of in isolation. So I think that that was at the center of a lot of our work together. And it was just a furthering of learning as a community, learning as a board, learning in membership, reflecting back what we're learning together, right? This is all about, kind of, progressive growth and reflection too as an organization, it's people who are part of the organization. That we didn't have all the answers, but we also knew that it was this opportunity to really build dynamic community that was unique, and I think, a really unique and special time at the chapter at that time.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2022 Seattle Chapter JACL. All Rights Reserved.