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Japanese American activists relive painful past hoping Asian hate doesn’t repeat history


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    SACRAMENTO (KOVR) — The recent spike in Asian hate incidents has local activists pushing to prevent another painful past. They remember being forced from their homes and hauled off to Japanese internment camps during World War II. Considering today’s Asian hate, they’re sharing their stories during AAPI heritage month in hopes history won’t repeat itself.

Marielle Tsukamoto keeps a box of memories. Some are good and some are painful.

“You know, even as a child, you know something is wrong. My grandmother’s crying. My Mom and Dad are upset,” said Tsukamoto.

At five years old, Marielle and her family were forced from their home in Florin to an internment camp in Arkansas. They were among the more than 100,000 Japanese Americans kept in isolation during World War II over concerns of their ties to the enemy. Many of them were citizens born in America.

“That there never was a military threat. That our forced removal was based on racism and political failure,” said Tsukamoto.

She isn’t the only one with vivid memories of a dark time in American history. Her cousin, Les Ouchida, displays a picture of his family on their way to an internment camp.

“You look at that picture and we’re being herded almost like cattle in the back of a truck,” said Ouchida.

But painful or not, they’re memories Les and his cousin Marielle have fought to keep alive.

“You know, for a long time, nobody asked us for a story. We didn’t tell it because we didn’t think we were important,” said Tsukamoto.

They’re Japanese-American activists who are using AAPI Heritage Month to raise awareness — as the increase in Asian hate is a sad reminder of a painful past.

“It’s kind of an important thing that they know about the sacrifices of generations before…the history of our country,” said Ouchida.

“It can’t stop. You have to keep educating people because prejudice is taught from one generation to the next,” said Tsukamoto.

Marielle has been a lead educator in the Elk Grove School District and a nationwide activist with Japanese American cultural groups. Meantime, Les volunteers at the California Museum in Sacramento educating people about the Japanese internments.

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