Densho Digital Repository
Seattle JACL Oral History Collection
Title: Kathryn Bannai Interview
Narrator: Kathryn Bannai
Interviewers: Elaine Kim, Bill Tashima
Date: March 17, 2022
Densho ID: ddr-sjacl-2-38

<Begin Segment 1>

BT: Hi, my name is Bill Tashima and I'm a past Seattle JACL president and current chair of our chapter's Legacy Historical Project. Our project, funded by the national JACL Legacy Fund grant, aims to preserve our rich history and legacy of JACL through online preservation of our historical documents as well as supplementing this material by adding recorded oral histories on pivotal leaders. In this session, we'll be talking with Kathryn Bannai. Kathryn was a Seattle JACL chapter president during the early 1980s. Kathryn became president during an exciting period for the chapter as JACL became engaged in a variety of civil rights and community work and activities. And the chapter worked in earnest toward the redress campaign for acknowledgement and restitution from the government for injustices wrought upon Japanese Americans during World War II. Kathryn represents the next stage of Seattle JACL with leadership of women and Sansei, third generation Japanese Americans. Leading our discussion today will be Elaine Kim, a UW Junior. And with that, I'm going to turn it over to Elaine, who will introduce herself and begin the conversation with Kathryn.

EK: Hi. First and foremost, I just want to say thank you, Kathryn, for being able to contribute your time to this. Just like Bill said, we are here to document leaders like you who had such an impact on the Seattle JACL chapter. But just a little about me is that I'm Elaine and I'm currently a UW intern for the Legacy Fund grant project. And, I guess, without further ado, we'll just head right in. So Kathryn, if you don't mind telling us a bit about yourself? An introduction, if you will.

KB: Sure. Well, first of all, thank you so very much for having me. I'm delighted to be a part of this project and I think as will become clear through our discussion today, I really feel that it was a great privilege for me to serve the Seattle chapter and in particular, as its president in 1982 and certainly have ongoing gratitude to the people of the chapter for their impactful and inspirational ongoing work.

I grew up in Gardena, California, when, during my childhood, it had the largest concentration of Japanese Americans outside of Hawaii. I was active in Girl Scouts, church, and in school leadership activities. After having spent some time in Michigan and Japan, I attended the University of California Hastings College of the Law and later moved to Washington State. Subsequently, I resided in British Columbia and then moved to Northern New Jersey, then the New York metropolitan, New York City metropolitan area, and I currently reside in Los Angeles' Little Tokyo neighborhood. Professionally, I worked as a lawyer and as an adjudicator in Seattle and in Vancouver, British Columbia, as a labor adjudicator -- as a human rights adjudicator, and in New Jersey as an adjudicator and human resources professional. As a volunteer, I served as a trustee of Eastern Washington University, as president of the Seattle and New York chapter JACL, as a governor and trustee of the Japanese American National Museum, as a board member of the Little Tokyo Community Council, and as an advisory council member of Kizuna, an organization that seeks to educate, engage, and empower next-gen Nikkei. I served on the Seattle Public Safety Civil Service Commission as a member and as a chair and on the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal.

EK: Perfect thank you, Kathryn.

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<Begin Segment 2>

EK: And, if you don't mind sharing how and why you became active with the Seattle JACL chapter.

KB: Prior to moving to Seattle, I was providing legal services to low income individuals as a part of the federal VISTA program, and I was contacted by Denny Yasuhara, who was then president of the Spokane chapter JACL, requested that I assist him in persuading Washington State University to establish an Asian American Studies program. So we went down to Pullman as a community group, spoke with the administration, and were unsuccessful. We then... well, actually before then, began the work of drafting an administrative complaint to what was then the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits discrimination and educational services. Our objective was, under Title VI, to secure establishment of an Asian American Studies program at Washington State University. When I left Spokane for Seattle -- and this was certainly before that case was resolved or even filed with a GW, because I had finished my VISTA commitment -- Denny recommended that I speak with Mitch Matsudaira, who was then president of the Seattle chapter JACL. And so, once in Seattle, I dropped by Mitch's store. Mitch had a men's clothing store on Jackson Street in the International District. And I walked in and Mitch was there and so was Don Kazama. Don Kazama was also a prior president of the Seattle chapter, and they were very welcoming, said, "You should start coming to board meetings and you should join a committee," and that's what I did. And, at that time, the chapter had what I think is really an extraordinary approach to succession, which is that it provided -- I think that one-third, or a good portion of its board positions would be set aside for Sansei. And this helped ensure that the board, in fact, was intergenerational. And, it also, of course, meant that once people were on the board that they could develop into leadership -- leaders for the Seattle chapter. And so I became a board member. And it was an exciting time for the chapter. I was... I think we had well over seven hundred members, I think, when I was president, maybe seven hundred and fifty members. We had this incredible newsletter, a comprehensive newsletter, compiled by Ara Nagaoka. We would... it seemed to me it was like -- it felt like twelve pages of printed text that he, I believe, used a typewriter to put together. and he would come with stacks and stacks of paper and we would meet once a month and collate and staple and place address labels on these newsletters that went out to the community. We were truly a grassroots organization. And I think that... I was involved until approximately 1983 when -- 1982 and 1983, when my responsibilities related to representing Gordon Hirabayashi and his coram nobis case, just required that I pretty much devote all my available volunteer time to his case.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2022 Seattle Chapter JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

BT: Kathryn, I'm going to ask you a question here. I'm sorry. I'll do this from time to time. But I'm kind of curious, how did you go from the board to becoming president?

KB: I think, I actually can't explain that. I think what happened was, the board was -- I'm going to be -- I was going to talk a little bit at some point in time about the Japanese Canadian project. And so what happened was -- and I'm assuming this was part of it -- was that first of all, the board was very open to people just stepping up and saying, "I have an idea. I think we should be doing X." And the board would say, if it was a reasonable idea and fell within the purview of the types of community programs that the chapter was involved in, saw a need for, or civil rights or social justice-oriented, the chapter would say yes. So it had this very broad scope at that time, I think because among other things, a lot of other -- a lot of Nikkei, other Nikkei organizations were -- had not yet been established. Like I think even like the idea of a cultural center was a committee of the Seattle chapter. So I kind of wonder if part of it is that I got active in committees, people had a chance to see me engaged in board meetings. And then I also headed a project of the Seattle chapter called the Japanese Canadian project. I'm just kind of wondering whether people just felt well, maybe I would be a suitable person to run, be on a slate of officers. And I believe at that time, we had, like, at least three vice presidents. I think we had maybe a president-elect. And so you just kind of got on this track and then you were likely eventually president. I don't know that it always worked that way, but it seems to me that I probably served as an officer at least one year before, before I was president. I thought it was really extraordinary that this active chapter with Nisei -- who were very much still in their prime, I think many were still in their fifties, were professionally really quite prominent and active -- had devoted a lot of their life and passion to, for example, the redress movement, and bringing that to fruition, would say to a Sansei, "We think you're the right person to lead this chapter." And I never asked anyone, "Why me?" But I think I was too young to... I was like, when I became president, I was thirty-one years old. I think I was too young to kind of appreciate that if you're in your fifties and you've devoted your life to an organization that's really quite profound, to then say, we have enough confidence in the Sansei to turn over the reins of leadership, knowing that there's bound to be some failures and disappointments along the way. And I think for those of us who are still involved -- for those who are involved in the community, looking at the Yonsei, I think we can kind of appreciate what that means, to step aside. They didn't really step aside in the sense that they remained active, but they were interested in developing leadership, I think, and they were supportive. And they were fine with not being the spokesperson at the national convention, for example.

BT: Thank you very much. I mean, that, because that gets back to Elaine's question about potential barriers, because a lot of folks think of JACL, especially a couple -- twenty years ago maybe -- as being male dominated, being Nisei dominated, and it sounds like your experience with the Seattle chapter, bringing in youth, bringing in women, bringing in and accepting outsiders being from non-Seattle, you didn't experience any of these issues at all. You had environmental acceptance, is that fair to say?

KB: I was a true outsider [Laughs]. I really was. You know, I walked into Mitch's store in 1978, and Mitch didn't know me from anyone. And we had a conversation and Don and Mitch said, "Come to our board meetings, see what's going on, we welcome your being involved, join a committee." I think that is an ideal. And I think what we all hope for are vibrant organizations that will see their worthwhile mission carried forward with the same � with values that are relevant, but hopefully values that are also consistent. And so I lobbed the Seattle chapter for, at the beginning, at least during, while I was there, saying, we're gonna actually set aside a third of our board positions or whatever that percentage was, for Sansei. I've never heard of an organization that has taken that approach. But I think that made a big difference. In fact, I told -- I saw Tomio Moriguchi at a Japan Council meeting in Seattle years ago. And I said to him, as I watched Yonsei step onto the podium, �Seattle Yonsei step on to the podium. I said, "I think this is the fruit of all of that foresight and inspiration."

EK: Yeah, thank you, Kathryn.

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<Begin Segment 4>

EK: I was really excited when Bill actually said that you're a part of the Sansei generation just because I was in a class about Japanese American history and we learned a lot about Sanseis and the impact that they had. Specifically, I remember reading about -- I'm not sure if you know -- like Gidra and Women's Liberation Movement, and everything, and just the Japanese American, Asian American women behind all of that. And so, if you don't mind speaking more to the experiences of being a member of the JACL as a Sansei generation, and anything that you wanted to share about it that was notable, and also something that you want to share about just how this chapter and this community was able to take initiative on having the Sansei generation lead forward. So if you could speak to that?

KB: Sure. Well, first, I would say organizationally in 1982 was a time of robust and diverse programs. There were twenty-seven established committees that included a broad range of civil rights and social justice related advocacy and community programs. And, of course, in 1982, redress was a major project with a substantial momentum coming off of the September 1981 Commission on Wartime Internment and Relocation of Civilian's hearings before -- in Seattle. I recall that our board meeting agendas were packed with informational items, discussion items, and decision making. Attendance and participation were high. And, as I mentioned, we had this incredible newsletter. There was a high level of knowledge that people brought to the meetings.

When I think about my experience as a Sansei that are generational in nature, I'll just kind of mentioned some things that come to mind. I was a teenager, my early teens, absorbing the information related to the '60s Civil Rights Movement. And, in those days, probably I was absorbing a lot of it through the Los Angeles Times, Time Magazine, and other print media, but there were certainly black and white -- compelling black and white images coming out of the South at that time. I recall standing on the front lawn of my family home in Gardena and looking in the direction of the freeway and seeing the glow from the fires of the Watts Riots, or rebellion. I recall the rise of Black Power while I was in high school and I particularly recall in my senior year of high school, the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, Jr. And I think those assassinations really were a, sort of, I think, a pivot point for certainly a lot of people of my generation. I recall watching the protests at the Democratic National Convention in 1968 and before I entered college. And once I was in college, coming to understand Yellow Power, and for those of us of that era, there was a lot to think about who we were and our identity. And like many people, protested the Vietnam War. So these are just some of the influences, I think, shared by others and in my generation, and they were formative.

At the time I moved to Seattle -- and this was ten years later -- there were other like-minded Sansei attorneys willing to join and putting in the many volunteer hours necessary to achieve our goals. So I can give some examples. When the CWRIC hearing was scheduled for Seattle in 1981, I organized a group of Sansei attorneys with prepared and presented testimony on legal precedents for reparations. Earlier I organized a smaller group to prepare an amicus brief on behalf of the Asian Law Association for submission to the Seattle Federal District Court case in the Seattle Public Schools' desegregation case. Later in 1982, I sought out volunteers to work on Gordon Hirabayashi's coram nobis case. They were just this incredible team and I have a huge respect for their work. And I'd have to say that sometimes they were the same people. So, the person who I really would wish to mention here is Gary Iwamoto. Gary Iwamoto was involved in all three of those activities that I mentioned. And he was always... he would always say yes, and he was always such a valued critical thinker and writer. And he also was someone who worked across community lines. He wasn't just involved in the Nikkei community, he was a real -- he was and I think continues to be just a stalwart in the International District with InterIm and other organizations. And I think there was tremendous value in having him a part of the JACL-related activities. So, I mean, those are like some thoughts.

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<Begin Segment 5>

EK: Thank you. And you briefly touched on this before during your introduction, on your involvement with the JACL. But, during your time with the Seattle JACL chapter, if you don't mind answering what projects that you worked on during your time with the Seattle JACL chapter and what they meant to you. And if there was one in particular that you would like to -- you're not limited to one -- but if there's specific projects that you would like to talk about and the impact it had, not only on you, but on the individuals, community or group it affected? If you could share that.

KB: Sure. I think, when I think of the projects I was involved in, probably the one that is at the forefront is a Japanese Canadian project. In 1980... 1980 probably, I approached the chapter and said, "I wonder if the chapter would be agreeable to be a sponsor were I to secure a grant from the Washington State Commission for the Humanities to bring to Seattle an exhibition about the experience of Japanese Canadians, 100 years of the Japanese Canadian experience from immigration to the present. And couple that with a symposium to look at the comparative experience of Japanese Canadians, of Japanese Americans, as well as an archival exhibit at the University of Washington Suzzallo Library." And the chapter said, "Yes, go to it." [Laughs] And I was successful in securing, securing the grant, and had a wonderful committee of folks which included Gordon Hirabayashi, who was a professor at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, but happened to be on sabbatical at the University of Washington that year. He was ideal because he... we needed someone who had professional contacts with scholars and artists and writers in Canada and in the U.S. for our symposium and he in fact had those relationships.

The photographic exhibition and accompanying text had parallels to the Japanese American Experience starting with immigration to North America, exclusion... removal and exclusion from the West Coast, and postwar resettlement. It was relevant to and resonated with me as a Japanese American and others who saw it. And the fact that we were able to secure the Frye Art Museum, just outside of the downtown area on First Hill, was really, felt like quite a coup. Because what it meant was that this exhibition would reach a larger general audience, which it ended up doing. The exhibition served to educate and promote understanding. And there was a book for visitors at the museum to record messages. I think this was the idea of the museum itself, which showed that the exhibition had a positive impact amongst its visitors. The day-long symposium brought together, as I mentioned, scholars and artists and writers from both sides of the border to discuss their experiences, and especially as it related to the forced removal and exclusion from the West Coast. The symposium was well-attended, especially by Japanese Americans at Seattle Central Community College. At that time, we had no idea that in approximately a year and several months, that same stage and auditorium would be the site of the CWRIC hearings. I think it ended up just being fortuitous that we all kind of started turning our minds to these compelling stories and images and what its impact had been on our communities. That wasn't by design, of course, because we didn't know about the CWRIC hearings at the time that the project was approved, but it was fortuitous timing.

This symposium included Asian American -- Japanese American poet, Lawson Inada, and the Canadian novelist, Joy Kogawa. And Joy Kogawa's book Obasan is a seminal piece of literature describing the experience of a fictional family that had been removed and excluded from Vancouver, and the impact and legacy of that experience on them. So it was quite a treat for me and I'm sure other people in the audience to see Lawson Inada and Joy Kogawa serve on a panel together. I think either one of them alone would have been an exceptional experience. Having them both speak respectively from their Japanese American and Japanese Canadian perspective was an extraordinary experience. There were other people who contributed at the symposium and I value that as much.

The third component of the project was an archival exhibit about the World War II experience of Japanese Americans at the Suzzallo library. And that clearly reached many university students and visitors to the university. The committee was of the view that the project succeeded and this goes to present the exhibition that would attract as wide an audience as possible, to produce a well-attended and successful symposium, to consider the comparative experiences of Japanese Americans and Japanese Canadians, and to collaborate with the University of Washington. My understanding is that the experience was meaningful also to the Japanese Canadians who attended. One comment by a Japanese Canadian was that when Japanese Americans -- Japanese Canadians met Japanese Americans during that time, the Japanese Canadians seldom knew about Japanese Americans, and would be surprised that Japanese Canadians had an experience similar -- a history similar to that of Japanese Americans. And, in fact, I think, in many respects, it was a much more challenging and difficult experience than that the Japanese Americans experienced. And she felt that viewing gigs for Japanese Americans -- to view the exhibit, and to attend a symposium was an effective way to educate Japanese Americans and to bring our respective communities together. So, I think that was... and I spoke two years ago with a Japanese Canadian, and I said -- who was head of one of their organizations in Vancouver -- and I said, "Has there been anything similar since this project in 1981?" and she said, "No, we should do something." [Laughs]. But again, I think this, the Seattle chapter deserves credit for what I thought was an impactful, impactful project -- oh, impactful and a worthwhile educational project.

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<Begin Segment 6>

EK: You mentioning all that makes me... I just thought to myself, gosh, I wish I was alive during that time to be able to attend all of that. I think that it just goes to show... I mean, it didn't only impact individuals who didn't know much about the Japanese American or Japanese Canadian experience, but it also impacted individuals who experienced those experiences and like connected, which is just, I mean, at the core, that's just amazing. And then, if you don't mind, Kathryn, you mentioned the [CWRIC]. I'm not 100% familiar with it. So do you mind explaining what [CWRIC] is?

KB: Sure, the [Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians] was established by Congress to look into the, basically, the impacts of the Executive Order 9066, and the various military orders, and other governmental actions that develop from that. And in particular, the people who were forcibly removed and excluded and incarcerated, and also to come up with recommendations based on its findings. And this is -- they produce a report called Personal Justice Denied, which is really a critical piece of documentation about the experience of Japanese Americans in particular, although it covered other groups as well. And this was the report that determined that the root causes of the deprivation of rights of Japanese Americans during World War II was... and I'm kind of embarrassed right now that it's just not rolling off the tip of my tongue. But failure of political leadership, wartime prejudice, and wartime hysteria, and racism. I think that I'm not getting the words quite right. But I think those are essentially the three categories. So it's a very important work. It was based upon not only exhaustive research by the Commission, but was also based on testimony taken, I believe in maybe up to eleven sites across the United States.

It was an extraordinary moment in Japanese American history because Japanese Americans were known not to have been very forthcoming about their wartime experience. I think was a very complicated thing to talk about that period. And there weren't very many people who were certainly interested in hearing about it in general, the general community. Certainly, I think, like most students in my era who were in high school, we had maybe one paragraph in our history books that acknowledged that Japanese Americans were incarcerated during World War II, and that most of them were citizens. And certainly nothing about how there was no military basis or any rational basis for that action, but military necessity for that action. But the testimony, these hearings across the United States, were extraordinary because, for example, in Seattle, people came forward and testified in person before the commission about their experience and its impact on their lives. And it was just profoundly moving to hear the stories that I think many people had not even shared with their own children. I mean, and even... I think I can share this. That I... we know about the people who actually had recorded testimonies before the commission. In addition to that, many people wrote to the commission, and told their stories and their impacts. And I happened to be looking at the Densho website and I looked up the name of Hideko Shimomura, who is the mother of a friend of mine, and I discovered her testimony on the Densho website. And I called her daughter and said, "Are you aware that your mother submitted this testimony?" and she hadn't. And her uncle also, I think his testimony was on it. But it was a really good example. Her mother was actually a student at Julliard when war broke out. And her parents then called her back to Seattle to join the family so that they could go to Minidoka together. And you think about all the people who had these... where at the beginning of their lives, they were, they were talented, they had life before them and, they could never recover that, recover that again. So, thankfully, a lot of the testimony has been put on video, as well as been published. So I would urge anyone with an interest in the CWRIC to go to the Densho website and to become informed. And also, if they're interested, they can actually view the testimonies or read the testimonies.

EK: Thank you, Kathryn. Just, everything that you mentioned there and shared just made me think that it's important that more spaces where people can bring their testimonies forward is really important, have shared experiences come forward. And like you said, you said that only a paragraph of your education, of your history books, only talked about Japanese American history during World War II and I think that, even if it's expanded today, it's not much, even in my education, and it's really disappointing. And I think that, like I said before, there needs to be more space, not only for Japanese Americans, but those to learn more about these testimonies that come forward within this commission. But thank you for sharing that. I will definitely look into it right after this.

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EK: But, as you mentioned before, you were the past president of the Seattle JACL. And in fact, you were the third female president of the Seattle JACL. So, if you could speak to what the significance of this role meant to you, as well as what your experience was as... I would say you're definitely a trailblazer for future women leaders within this chapter and also, I just think within just a general basis, that you're a trailblazer for future women leaders. But also, if you don't mind sharing your potential barriers that you experienced as well during your time as the president of the JACL, and if that had anything to do with the role of being a woman.

KB: Well, thank you. I mean, first of all, I think you're being too generous to me. But I'm pleased to talk about my experience. In 1982, I think the most significant role I played was in representing the chapter at the National JACL convention. At a meeting of the National JACL Redress Committee, the national committee sought a vote in support of establishment of a foundation as the approach to redress. In representing the Seattle chapter's position, I made a vigorous objection to the proposal. The Seattle chapter held a firm belief that individual redress payments were an essential component of Japanese American redress. And, as I argued, the Seattle chapter's view was that the proposed foundation approach amounted to a breach of faith with the many members who have joined the redress movement on the basis, with the understanding, that the National JACL would seek individual redress payment. The national convention that day supported their proposal to establish a foundation. However, of course, the chapters -- the chapter ultimately prevailed in its position because the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 provided payments to individuals. I think, it may sound kind of strange to say that I think that that was -- I identify that as a significant role that I played as president when I basically failed. But I think, it's important to me because it just showed how principled the chapter was in its fidelity to its membership. And it's sense that, even if you're going to lose, you need to stand up for what is right. I think that is part of the essence of the Seattle chapter. Speaking with a loud... speaking with a reason but a clear voice.

As for being a female president, I think it's really noteworthy that Shigeko Uno was the first female president in 1948. This was thirty-four years before I was president. That's just extraordinary and I think that the chapter should get some credit for that. That was two years before I was born. Cherry Kinoshita was the second female president in 1977. I never served under Cherry as president because 1977 was the year that I finished law school in California. However, I got to know Cherry when I moved to Seattle in 1978 and became involved. And she was always active during the time that I was in Seattle. The Seattle chapter became the founding member of the Community Committee on Redress Reparations and Cherry was the co-chair of that committee. In informal ways, through intermittent contacts and observation, she influenced my development as a young leader in understanding the value of one on one personal communications and the importance of strategic approaches in the redress movement. I never think about redress without recalling Cherry's key role, her many contributions, and her persistence. She was just an exceptional role model, and I think I and the chapter owe a great debt of gratitude to her.

EK: Was there -- I was just wondering, in particular, was there anything that you want to share about your own experiences during your presidency, as a woman, and there's anything started that you wanted to mention?

KB: I think that, in terms of the chapter itself, I always felt supported. I felt it was... it was an extraordinarily good environment for me to be developing as a leader in which, and for me to... as I stated, with the Japanese Canadian project, I was just told, "Just go to it, we've got your back." And I felt that way about being chapter president as well. If you're interested, I will tell an anecdote about Cherry that I think says something about the chapter. Spark Matsunaga was in Seattle, I think in 1982, the year I was president. And my recollection, he was there because the chapter had organized this wonderful tribute to Asian and Pacific American volunteers. It was a way of really uplifting, in the greater Seattle area, the incredible work that was being done by APA organizations and volunteers. I think it was also significant that this wasn't a Nikkei tribute and appreciation, it was an APA event. And they invited Spark Matsunaga to be the keynote speaker. And, I think it was probably Cherry who decided, well, then we should have a luncheon with Spark Matsunaga to talk about redress because, of course, this would have been... he was in the U.S. senate. It was an opportunity to talk about individual redress payments. And these were relatively early days, of course, this was really... it was on the heels of the CWRIC hearing in September of 1981. And so we had a luncheon at Bush Garden, kind of, they have these, large sort, of tatami rooms with long tables. And before the luncheon, Cherry pulled me aside and said, "Kathryn, I want you to feel free to speak up in this meeting and tell Spark Matsunaga what you think. Because we, as Nisei, can talk about redress and what we want, but we have... we are in a position to personally gain as beneficiaries of these individual redress payments. Whereas you present a viewpoint as a Sansei and as a lawyer as to why it is so important that, in fact, the U.S. government acknowledge the wrongdoing and provide compensation to those who suffered from the unjust actions of the government." And I thought it was really extraordinary that she did that. Because I think otherwise I would have gone to the meeting, even though I was president, and felt, this is the Niseis' issue. This is something they've worked on for decades, that they're passionate about, they are the story. And they could speak in a way that is so articulate about redress beyond what I could do. And I thought this was a really good... illustrates the Seattle chapter's approach, which is let's develop our leaders, let's look at how our next-gen, our younger generation, has something to say that we ourselves might not or would not say. So I... and it says a lot about Cherry Kinoshita, I think, as a mentor, as a strategist. And so, in terms of how I became president, is because of people like Cherry who kind of saw the future, and said, okay, let's... how are we going to -- how are we going to realize the future that we have in mind for this Seattle chapter? Is that helpful?

EK: Absolutely. More than helpful.

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<Begin Segment 8>

EK: But I just had a quick question. This might not be a quick answer to a quick question, but because you're a part of the redress movement and everything, I was just wondering... this is something I actually, I also interviewed Bill, and we talked about redress as well, but just the idea of government redress, and everything and how, you can't really put a monetary value on all the, all the injustice and trauma that left -- that was left during incarceration, and just for Japanese Americans during that time. And so I just wanted to see, as someone who is part of this redress movement, what redress kind of means to you and what other people who look back -- who go to this recording, what you think people should understand about redress?

KB: You know, I think what's important is really that people be knowledgeable of the report, Personal Justice Denied. But beyond that, listen to some of the stories and understand the impact on lives when the government takes arbitrary action that deprives people of, of their rights and, I think, what really is important is that people take away from that a commitment to ensure that this never happens again to anyone else. To me, that is, that is the most important thing is that people kind of learn the lesson but they know the history. And then they look around and they see its relevance to what's happening today and how that points to the need for Black reparations, why it's important that when children and families are separated at the border that we take care in -- as a society and in the way our government handles that and so many other issues. I think we're, we're in a moment right now with yesterday being the anniversary of the Atlanta murders, of thinking a whole lot about what do we do? What is the appropriate response in this circumstance to what is occurring in our society and how it's impacting our communities. And it's very complicated, I think, but just because things are complicated doesn't mean that we should stop searching for solutions and trying to do what we can. And I think the Seattle chapter, right after the Atlanta murders, stepped up admirably, as I recall. Put out a message about things that people in communities could do, constructive things people and communities could do in response. So, I think that... and I could talk somewhere about this maybe when I talk about coram nobis, but I think a lot of us feel that all of these issues are pretty linked because they have to do with human rights, it has to do with social justice, and that the lesson I would hope most people would get from learning about, one that people should become informed, people should understand, and hopefully what they take away from that is a sense of responsibility.

EK: Thank you, Kathryn. I just, it's a heavy topic to think about. Well, I wouldn't say its heavy, but I would -- I mean, it is, but I just think that, sometimes the idea of just human rights and social equality and justice in general just seems like such a simple idea but doesn't manifest in our society today. And it's just a... seems like, sometimes it's just such daunting work. When you take one step forward there's always something that takes us one step back. So, I just want to say thank you for those words of wisdom really, it's just a matter of pushing forward. So thank you.

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EK: And so, like you said, you worked on the coram nobis case for Gordon Hirabayashi and I just wanted to say that I... largely why I wanted to possibly go into law was because of the Korematsu and Hirabayashi case, and so I'm just thrilled to hear about your work with it. But, if you could share a bit about your experience and if there was anything specific during your time, and just during your experience with us, you would like individuals to know about Gordon Hirabayashi and his experience and also just with the case.

KB: Sure. I'll first note that I wrote an article about my work and on Gordon's case for the Seattle Journal of Social Justice which is available for free online. And so that's something that, we're... I won't certainly cover that today. It's not possible to overstate how meaningful it was for me as a lawyer and as a Japanese American whose family members were removed -- subjected to wartime removal and incarceration -- to have the opportunity to represent Gordon and to bring his case before the judicial system with newly discovered evidence that showed that the government's lies and other misconduct that led to Gordon's convictions, and supported the exclusion and incarceration of Japanese Americans. It was truly a privilege to be able to take that before the courts. For the attorneys involved in the coram nobis cases, it has been important to speak out when the Japanese American experience and coram nobis cases are relevant to government actions. And this is, I'm now speaking about the period after the coram nobis cases were decided and involve, and also, I think we feel compelled to speak out and be involved in other relevant issues such as anti-Asian hate and violence and African American reparations which also flow from issues related to the coram nobis cases. I'll note that, that project speaks out about what people should know and understand about the coram nobis cases and related matters and provide speakers and useful resources. And so, I think it's an excellent, it's an excellent resource that people should consult if they're interested in this.

So I'd like to speak kind of more to my, what I think, beyond that, maybe, which typically doesn't get highlighted about Gordon's case. I would encourage people to know about and reflect about Gordon Hirabayashi and his uncommon courage. Judge Voorhees, who was a judge in Gordon's coram nobis case in Seattle, wrote a piece in which he compared Gordon's courage and the significance of his conduct to the iconic figures in British history. This is something he wrote in a legal memorandum as a part of Gordon's case but it's... I've only seen it published in one place.

So, I would also like to raise something that is more accessible and also about Gordon's courage. Judge Mary Schroeder, who wrote the opinion of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Gordon's successful case to have both of his convictions for violation of the military orders vacated, wrote an article entitled, "What Gordon Hirabayashi Taught Me about Courage." It's really a wonderful piece and it is available for free on the Seattle Journal for Social Justice website. I think that it is important to the inspirational aspect of Gordon that will hopefully, for the ages, be remembered.

And finally, I would want people to know about Arthur Barnett, whose conduct as an ally shows what a critical role allies play. Arthur literally stood by Gordon's side when he surrendered to the FBI by taking a principled stand of resistance to the military orders. I mean, Gordon literally had a piece of paper, a statement of principle, as to why he was resisting, and Arthur was by his side. Arthur stayed by his side during Gordon's case, during wartime, and, in so many ways, was always by his side as a legal adviser and a lifelong friend. Arthur also worked to ensure that Japanese Americans returning to their homes in the Seattle area, after removal and incarceration, would be welcomed home and be supported. Arthur also participated Gordon's coram nobis case. Arthur's access, support, and solidarity with Gordon and the Japanese American community is inspiring and I understand that it cost him professionally and financially. And so that is another story that I hope will be remembered and told over, told over and over. It is... Gordon and Arthur knew each other because they were members of the Quaker, the Friends meeting in the University District. They were both Quakers. And I think that, it is just another one of those examples of how the Quakers have stepped up for people of color throughout the history of this country, including enslaved people.

EK: Thank you. Something that I just... the term "uncommon courage" is just, that's sitting with me still. It's gonna sit with me for a while. To coin that term, I don't know , for that to... I guess that's just like a perfect way to describe Gordon Hirabayashi's actions. And so I'm going to definitely look into those sites and the documents on Arthur and Gordon Hirabayashi as well.

KB: I would be happy to share them with you because some are rather difficult to find. Certainly Judge Voorhees -- what Judge Voorhees wrote I'd be glad to share with you. I only know of one place where it's published. And I have a couple of articles from a Quaker publication that Arthur Barnett sent me with articles from Arthur and from Gordon.

EK: Okay, perfect. I would love that. Thank you so much.

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<Begin Segment 10>

EK: And just going back to the JACL, and your work with it, I was just wondering, you are involved with -- you were involved with the Seattle JACL chapter, now the New York chapter as well. And so going, moving from state to state, you still are part of this community. So what value do you find in remaining in a community like the -- like the JACL? And how have these chapters helped you achieve the goals you set out for yourself, and even the work that you do, and currently have done?

KB: Right now, I am a member of the New York chapter. But I am not, I'm not active in it. But I can speak to what it's meant to me to be involved in the chapters. It's given me opportunities that I value as a volunteer to contribute to the chapter's grassroots civil rights advocacy, and to advance programs that serve the community. And it's turned out that, at times, my professional interests in civil rights and serving the community has aligned with the needs of the Nikkei community and occasionally my involvement in other community organizations or projects intersected with JACL chapter activities. And so, one of those examples was I talked about presenting testimony to the [Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians]. I actually... that was a situation where the Seattle chapter organized the testimony in Seattle and decided that there would be a panel which would include the Asian Law Association, and I was a member of Asian Law Association. And so when I organized our panel of attorneys and our research, that was in my capacity of the member of Asian Law Association but, in fact, it was also, the hearing itself was a collaboration with the Seattle JACL. Regarding the New York chapter JACL, I was its president from 2014 and in 2015.

And I'll just give, I'll just give one example of why I think it -- there was value in having a JACL, local JACL chapter. During my tenure, I received a call from a representative in a New York State teachers group that was working with the New York City councilmember to establish a Fred T. Korematsu Day. And they were seeking support from the local Nikkei community. I was told that the resolution was in an advanced stage of readiness to present to the New York city council, but I asked for the opportunity to review the draft resolution. It turned out that the draft resolution had factual and other errors and our chapter provided revisions that were accepted and reflected in the final resolution adopted by the city council, the New York City Council. Although the community... I felt that that was one place where, one example of where, if there, if there hadn't been a New York chapter. And that chapter had gone through -- had considered disbanding, actually. And I, certainly at that moment and some other moments, I thought this is another example where the fact that there was somebody there who could be contacted and be engaged and say this is really a great idea to establish a Fred T. Korematsu Day, but it's really important that the resolution itself be accurate. And people welcome our input, and I'm glad that we had -- we were there to be engaged and to help ensure that the resolution for this event, which now occurs every year, in fact, is accurate, the foundation, the resolution -- the foundation, which is based on the resolution, is correct. Communities differ, and I credit a significant part of my ability to have contributed as a volunteer in the Nikkei community organizations that I'm involved in, in Los Angeles, to my past involvement in the New York and Seattle JACL chapters. I think, as I said, we're, we're different, but we're -- we have similar sorts of experiences, similar sorts of histories, and, and to some extent, we have similar, similar goals as a community. And so, I am grateful that I've had the opportunities to be a part of the JACL chapters.

EK: Yeah, I mean, I just recently... because I'm joined for doing the, being an intern for the Legacy project. But I... during this short time that I've been working with individuals like Bill and hearing from individuals like you, the JACL is such a phenomenal chapter -- Seattle JACL and just the national JACL just... JACL in general is just a phenomenal organization and the community that it develops, I can just tell that lasts for a lifetime and impacts a lot of things. So, thank you for sharing that, Kathryn. And then, if you don't mind, talking about current Japanese American activism, and just Seattle JACL, and the younger Japanese American generation.

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<Begin Segment 11>

KB: Right, the current Japanese American activism, the Seattle JACL, the younger Japanese American generation, inspire me and give me great optimism for the future. Examples are just too numerous to mention, but I'll cite three in no particular order that just happened to be on my mind today. Yesterday, the one-year anniversary of the Atlanta spa shootings, I read the collective statement calling for reflection and action of which the Seattle chapter is a signatory. And I also applaud the work of younger Japanese American activists who, alongside older Japanese American activists, are supporting African American reparations, education, and legislation, and that the Seattle chapter presents educational programs to address anti-Blackness in our, in our community. And I'll note the actions taken by the Seattle chapter to address ongoing child and family, family detentions. I'm cognizant of our limited time and I wish to just finally circle back to the vision of the Nisei who gave Sansei like me the opportunity to develop and serve as leaders. I'm encouraged to see that the Seattle chapter's tradition of commitment to intergenerational engagement and activism continues to be evident throughout its work. And, of course, the fact that I have the honor of being interviewed by you, Elaine Kim, is such an example and I have thoroughly enjoyed this opportunity to meet. Not to say that I'm not open to other questions, but I wanted to make sure that our conversation today didn't end with my not expressing my admiration for the work of the chapter and my optimism about the future.

EK: Thank you so much, Kathryn. I mean, if you have any lasting words, you're more than welcome to share, but I just wanted to say thank you so much for being able to contribute your time, but most importantly, being able to create such a legacy and impact for individuals like me, who really, I think, leave a lot of knowledge. And so, I just want to say thank you for that. And thank you for just sharing all your stories. And just being able to, for individuals who go back through -- who go back to this and watch this, I can say I feel like they're going to feel the same way that I do right now which is just like, absolutely just like, awe inspiring. So thank you so much. But yeah, if you have any lasting words that you would like to share, if not, Bill, if you wanted to add anything.

KB: I don't... I think I've talked too much already. [Laughs] But I've really enjoyed this.

EK: Bill, you're on mute. Bill, you're on mute still.

BT: Yeah, okay. All right. Well, I think we're gonna end. And Elaine, thank you very much. Very nice job and, Kathryn, It was just a wonderful session as part of this project. With each interview, I become just truly inspired. And I can see how our chapter is built on so many of our predecessors. Not just our Nisei, but fellow Sanseis like you and thinking that it's actually forty years ago that you were president. And if you look at our chapter now, you can see the work -- the product of all your efforts forty years ago, and it still continues. So everyone, thank you very much. And I think we'll end right here.

KB: Thank you so very much. Do take care.

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