"Allyship is not a single action. It is ongoing action, with a focus on other people,

not on yourself."

Center for Creative Leadership

The Time is Always Right

"The Time is Always Right" focuses on the allyship between Japanese and Black communities during and after World War II's incarceration. This includes history of Bronzeville in Los Angeles, fight for reparations for both communities, and the paradox of the model minority myth.

Historical Players

  • Bronzeville: A short-lived African American enclave in downtown Los Angeles that replaced Little Tokyo during WWII after the U.S. government removed Japanese Americans from the West Coast into concentration camps (Densho).
  • Japanese American Incarceration: After the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, removing 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry as a "military necessity." California defined anyone with 1/16th or more Japanese lineage should be incarcerated. Forty years later, the U.S. government later admitted their actions were based on "race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership."
  • Jim Crow Laws: Comprised as a series of state and local statutes that legalized racial segregation, these laws existed for nearly a hundred years (post-Civil War era to 1968). The legal system was stacked against African Americans, denying them the right to live safely and well. During this era of intense discrimination, African Americans could not access the same public facilities, hospitals, and instutions. Those who attempted to defy these laws were faced with arrest, fines, jail sentences, violence, and death. After World War II, there was an increase in civil rights activities, focusing on the right to vote. Within twenty years, the military, education, voting, and housing desegregated, resulting in the removal of the Jim Crow laws.
  • House Resolution 40: The idea to study and develop reparation proposals for African Americans Act was introduced by Rep. John Conyers Jr. in the 1970s. In 2021, it was re-introduced by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee. HR40 recently passed, examining slavery and discrimination in the colonies and the United States from 1619 to the present and recommend appropriate remedies.
  • Ronald Dellums (1935-2018): Born and raised in Northern California into a family of labor organizers, Ronald Dellums took his seat in Congress in 1971. He was the first African American elected to Congress from Nothern California and the first successfully open socialist after World War II. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1954 to 1956 before attending Oakland City College (now Merritt College), San Francisco State University and then University of California – Berkeley. During his second year of Congress, Dellums began a fourteen year long campaign to end the apartheid policies in South Africa. He was firmly against the Vietnam War and advocated strongly for Japanese reparations during the Redress Movement. In 2007 to 2011, he became the Mayor of Oakland.
  • The Redress Movement: In the 1970s, a movement for redress was raised, in hopes of to prevent further incarceration based on race, religion, etc. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 when the U.S. government formally apologized for the events of WWII and authorized $20,000 to each former detainee who was still alive.

Topic Overview

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, removing 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry from their homes as a “military necessity.” Even as African Americans struggled for their own rights, Densho documented stories of support for incarcerated Japanese Americans – both in private and public spheres. Boyle Heights resident, Mollie Wilson wrote to many of her Japanese American friends, sending gifts, pictures, and cards. 


Upon returning home in 1945, many Japanese Americans did not speak about what had happened during WWII. When they did speak up, they were shunned from their own communities. Politicians and news outlets used Asian American success stories as a weapon against other minority communities, stating, “If you work hard enough, you can be successful in the United States.” The hope was to encourage Black communities to stop their fight for civil rights and “go back” to how things used to be. In addition, there were predictions of “turf battles” between the two groups. Activists, on the other hand, envisioned interethnic political cooperation for their communities. 


Japanese Americans, too, showed support for Black rights. Joe Ishikawa worked with Black community members to desegregate swimming pools in Nebraska while Yuri Kochiyama fought with Black nationalists. More recently, Asian Americans have allied themselves with the Black Lives Matter movement, speaking out about anti-Black policies and educating family and friends on how anti-Black rhetoric affects everyone.


Japanese American Incarceration

Watch Takashi Hoshizaki's clip as he talked about his visitors in the Pomona Assembly Center.

Observation

  • What is happening in the picture? Why so?
  • Where do you think they are located? What observations can you make from your assumptions?

Reflection

  • What does it mean to be a good friend?
  • How do you show someone you care?

Jim Crow Laws

Observation

  • What do you know about the Jim Crow laws?
  • Who did it favor? Who did not?
  • What were some ways Black communities responded to this treatment?

Reflection

  • Think of a time when you were treated differently. What happened? What did you do? How did it feel?

Ron Dellums

Watch Ron Dellums' passionate speech about reparations to Japanese Americans.


Observation

  • What was his speech about? What emotions come to you?
  • Why are reparations important and what do they symbolize?
  • Describe the role of an ally in national movements.

The Time is Always Right

Observation

  • What do you know about Martin Luther King Jr.? What was he fighting for? Describe the
  • Do you agree with this quote? Why or why not?

Reflection

  • Describe a time when you had a difficult decision to make. What did you do? How did you make this decision? Were there other parties affected?

Discussing Art

  • What is the artist's message?
  • What is the story that's being told?
  • What colors did the artist use? Why so?
  • What are three (3) strengths of this poster?
  • What are three (3) weaknesses of this poster?
  • What questions do you have about this piece?

Follow Up Questions

  • What does it mean to be an American?
  • What values does this country hold? How do you know?
  • What are some examples you can think of where these traits were positive? Negative?
  • With the class, look up the definition of the model minority myth. Why is it harmful to Asians and Asian Americans and how does this impact other marginalized communities?
  • Check out the photograph of Mollie Wilson Murphy and Mary Murakami and watch Takashi Hoshizaki's clip as he talked about his visitors in the Pomona Assembly Center. Why are these stories significant?
  • With a partner, research some issues that are occurring in both Asian and Black communities. Discuss the role of an ally. How can you show allyship to these issues?
  • Come up with a call-to-action on how students like yourself can become more involved in racial justice movements.
  • Because of these historical moments and players, what do we know now that we did not know before? What will you do so that future generations can stand on your shoulders?

This page is subject to change. Please visit for the most up-to-date discussion questions. Our goal is to make these lesson guides as welcoming and obstacle free as possible. If you do this as an activity in your course, please do reach out. We would love to hear your feedback and see how we can best improve upon these guides.

Want More? Check out the Ourstory Poster Series!

Talk to us!

Schedule a 30 minute free consultation on how to best utilize this curriculum in your classroom!

Thank you for your interest in our lesson guide!

Are you ready to check out the print-friendly version of "The Time is Always Right" + an additional activity guide for your students? Let's go!