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“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.
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.
Watch Ron Dellums’ passionate speech about reparations to Japanese Americans.
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