Politics

BY LUCY MA AND VIVIAN LEE

On Friday, March 3, Nikkei Student Union (NSU) hosted their 31st Annual Cultural Night: “Chirashi” in Royce Hall, a reminder of the persecution and discrimination Japanese Americans faced during World War II, with the implementation of Executive Order 9066 on Feb. 19, 1942.

This executive order forced more than 100,000 people of Japanese descent living in the United States, mostly American citizens, into incarceration among ten concentration camps, a process that not only violated personal liberties but also took away ownership of property and tore apart families.

To acknowledge the history of this experience, NSU uses cultural night as a night where, according to their program, “we commemorate the memory of those incarcerated, showcase our talents to the UCLA community, and celebrate the richness of our beloved Japanese American community.”

This year’s title, “Chirashi,” meaning “scattered,” is a Japanese dish usually served with a mix of different kinds of fish and vegetables that are laid together on top of rice.

Chirashi “was a metaphor for the multiple storylines within the drama that conveys the larger theme of acknowledging the variety of motivations that bring people into our community,” said Emiko Kranz, the current NSU president.

We are first introduced to Lynn (portrayed by Stacy Kadomasu), who is somewhat a hot-headed girl. She is followed by Samson (Justin Shinn), who invites her to his staggering family restaurant, Chirashi.

Lynn often worked begrudgingly in the restaurant because she owes Samson a debt, but, through Samson’s cousin June (Emiko Kranz), who is helping with the family restaurant, Lynn learns that Chirashi had been a safe haven for Japanese Americans during WWII — a place where they could be treated like equal human beings.

However, Samson, despite being the current restaurant owner, ran off with the restaurant’s funds, including June and Lynn’s payments. The story later reveals that Samson ran away because his fate was tied to the restaurant, which burdened him.

Samson explaining why he had left the restaurant. Photo courtesy of Brian Kohaya.

As soon as Samson ran off with the money, a contracting firm appears, announcing that the restaurant will be soon evicted.

Meanwhile, Tetsuya (played by Joey Yasuhiro) is introduced as one of the contracting firm representatives, who had a similar experience to June and Lynn. In order to protect his family’s flower shop and his sick mom, Tetsuya joined his uncle’s contracting firm, where he has to evict staggering yet historical and community-centered shops often.

In the end, Samson returned the money to June and Lynn, who then worked with Grace (Kendra Motoyasu), an architect and Tetsuya’s friend, and Noburu (Andre Leite) who quit working at the contracting firm, to restore Chirashi as a place for the community.

Throughout the show, NSU Modern, Odori, and Kyodo Taiko’s performances demonstrated the different aspects of Japanese and Japanese American cultures and reinforced the culture night’s themes by conveying the emotions of the characters.

Performance by Kyodo Taiko. Photo courtesy of Brian Kohaya.

For example, “Tanuki Senbonzakura” by NSU Odori, “Boot Camp” by NSU Modern, and all of Kyodo Taiko’s compositions were military themed.

According to Kranz, “While the drama wasn’t openly aggressive, there was a certain amount of frustration and anger represented by the struggles each character faced whether the battle was internal or external.”

Through “Chirashi,” NSU hoped to communicate the importance of perspective, historical consciousness, and resistance to injustice through their experiences as Japanese Americans.

Today, fear-mongering against the Muslim communities in the United States is perpetuated by the signing of Executive Order 13769 on Jan. 27, following the presidential inauguration of Donald Trump.

The executive order placed restrictions on refugees entering the United States, targeting  individuals coming from the countries Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.  

It should be no surprise then that the issuance of Executive Order 13769 has spurred many Japanese American communities to stand with the Muslim communities due to similarities of propaganda used to target these groups.

It is through these conditions that the Nikkei Student Union’s Cultural Night serves as a powerful platform to share knowledge about their history to the surrounding UCLA community during these times.  

Regarding the story behind the culture night, Kranz stated that “following the recent events that have affected the political climate such as Trump’s inauguration and the executive orders limiting immigration, we decided to bring in the focus on historical consciousness through the drama.”  

Kranz, a graduating senior and a fundamental pillar in past NSU cultural nights, reflects on “Chirashi” with her hopes for future productions: “The Nikkei community has endured much struggle with the incarceration experience and has fought its way back up in society and I think [the cultural night] is the vehicle by which we can extend our voice to a wider audience and remind everyone how Japanese Americans have made their place here and feel responsible to empower other groups.”

On May 23, 2016, Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote, Asian Americans Advancing Justice and AAPI Data released voter survey results in a report titled “Inclusion, Not Exclusion: Spring 2016 Asian American Voter Survey.” The Asian American identity categories detailed in this survey are as followed: Asian Indian, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese.

Main findings of the survey reveal that exclusionary rhetoric has pushed Asian Americans to identity as Democrats, and evidence indicates that “Asian American registered voters…will punish candidates with anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim views” (Report 2016, 1).

Many Asian Americans identify with the immigrant narrative. From the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 to the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965, Asian Americans have faced legal obstacles to come to the United States. Identification with immigrants that are currently under attack by exclusionary rhetoric may reflect why Asian Americans disapprove of anti-immigrant stances. Furthermore, members of the Japanese American community have been active in organizing solidarity movements with Muslim communities. In the shadow of Japanese American internment during World War II, Japanese American communities today strive to avoid the persecution and internment of specific groups, particularly American Muslims in the aftermath of 9/11.

Furthermore, the Asian American dislike for exclusionary rhetoric is reflected in unfavorable views of Donald Trump (see Table 4 below). The anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim attacks espoused by Trump mark an exclusionary rhetoric. In terms of politicians campaigning for the presidency, the survey indicates Hillary Clinton has the most net favorability among Asian Americans.

Candidate Favorability

Asian American voters have great potential in shaping elections in the 21st century as Asian Americans continue to be the fastest growing immigrant population in the United States. Despite the growing presence of Asian American voters, an NPR article reports that Asian American voters continue to be the least likely to vote. To continue, a May 2012 APIAVote/AAJC survey “indicates that Asian Americans were less likely than other racial groups to be contacted” (Report 2016, 29).

It seems like larger organizations are not on the the Asian American electorate bus, so it is important for community organizations to put effort into mobilizing Asian Americans to vote. Many diverse communities should come together to compose the Asian American identity and have those community voices be heard. We need to untap the political potential of Asian Americans to shape elections.

500 cities across the globe were united in the March Against Monsanto Corporation held on October 12. The worldwide rallies and push towards labeling laws and prohibitions regarding genetically modified organisms (GMO) have again, ignited the ongoing debate concerning severe health issues related to GMO’s and the danger of consequent harmful chemicals near residential areas. Strong restrictions on GMO products are already in place in over 60 countries, yet Monsanto’s company website assures the wary that their genetically engineered products are safe and undergo extensive testing.

The American biotech giant based in St. Louis, Missouri has earned $1.48 billion in a 3-month period this year, on the rise from $1.21 billion for the same segment in previous years. Currently the United States is the leading producer of GMO crops in the world. NonGMOproject.org finds that 90% of corn and 95% of soy used within the U.S. has been genetically modified.

Last week, the Big Island of Hawaii’s County Council Committee passed two GMO prohibition bills following a 6-hour debate, which culminated in a vote of 6-2. Bill 113 outlaws all propaganda, experimental testing and open-air cultivation of GMO’s on the island except for papayas, which have been modified in 1990 to withstand the ringspot virus. These GMO papayas make up 75% of all of Hawaii’s papaya production today. Those found growing new GMO crops on the Big Island could face 30 days in jail and be fined up to $1,000 per day. Bill 109 plans to prohibit all GMO plants, animals and feed. Transgressors will face jail time. Both bills will progress to the full council this week, where further advancement to the Mayor may follow.

Testimonies included biologist Michael Hyson among others. Hyson explained the uncertainty of GMO’s and their link to serious health issues, premature death, tumors and sterility. Dennis Gonsalves, a leader in the modification of papaya against the ringspot virus testified against both bills: “The bills simply limit the capacity of the scientists to work to help farmers.” On the other side, a local farmer saw pigs avoiding GMO fruit. Bill 2491, a third restriction for the island of Kauai was passed on October 16 by a vote of 6-1 and will go into effect in nine months. Local Kauai residents camped out overnight to have a seat in the small courthouse for the 19-hour debate.

The bill requires all farmers to disclose if their crops are GMO’s, publicize detailed information about all chemical use, times they will spray and quantities along with keeping buffer areas between their fields and public areas. The bill also requires farmers to conduct health and environmental impact studies in their county.

The topic of biotech hits home with Hawaiians, since multinational companies, Monsanto, Syngenta, Pioneer, DOW and BASF have been experimenting throughout Oahu, Kauai and Molokai for years. Islanders fear the adverse effects to Hawaii’s fragile environment due to chemical pesticide runoff into the ocean and soil. If the bill is passed, these corporations will not be able to expand production to the Big Island.

In the midst of government shutdown, supporters of immigration reform across the nation gathered this Saturday morning for an event called “National Day for Dignity and Respect” to march and rally in effort to pass immigration reform by the end of the year. The New York Times reported that over 100 U.S. cities bustled with protest activity, and Los Angeles was no exception as nearly 2,000 people marched through Hollywood. Though temperatures reached a high of 90 degrees in Los Angeles, the attendance was high with plenty of energy booming, and the diversity of support showed the relevance and impact of current immigration laws affecting many different communities. The range of attendees included people of all ages from toddlers to grandparents, and a spectrum of varying occupations from janitors to students. Participation included organizations such as Advancing Justice, Asian Pacific Coalition (APC) at UCLA, Chicanas for Immigration Reform, China Community for Equitable Development (CCED), API Equality, Korean Immigrant Workers Alliance (KIWA), and United Long Term Care Workers (ULTCW).

From stuffed alien dolls, raised piñatas, songs and dances, attendees came up with many clever ways to gain attention while sending a charged statement against the term “illegal” immigrant. Protesting in languages from English to Korean and Spanish, various groups chanted in unison with each other: “What do we want? Immigration reform! When do we want it? Now!”, “Hal-soo-eet-dah! Si se puede!” and “Congress escucha, estamos en la lucha.” The march lasted about four hours with continuous chanting to familiar song tunes and participants pounding their fists into the air to represent immigrant power. The beating of drums excited dance performances, and the volume of protests were cheered on by blow horns. Fighting against the safe act and the deportation of undocumented immigrants, against employment wage discrimination, and against the possibility and reality of torn families, different groups united together in this march to push a message that ironically was sung and celebrated in early America: “This land was made for you and me.” Though the lyrics originated in a different context, supporters of immigrant rights will continue pushing for a more inclusive law that protects a land for undocumented immigrants and equality.

 

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Students and workers rally together with colorful and creative signs.

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Members of Chicanas For Immigration Reform hold up signs that read, “Stop ripping families apart.”
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A young man protests against the recent passing of AB60, a bill that requires proof of documentation to be eligible for a CA driver’s license.
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These aliens are being wheeled around wearing t-shirts that read: “I don’t want to be an illegal alien. I want to be legal.”

Here’s a short clip from the event, brought to you by PacTies:

By: Christina Trieu

 

On Monday, October 29th, students gathered in front of Kerckhoff Hall for the “A Day Without an Educated Student of Color” rally to protest a study by UCLA law professor Richard Sander. Sander’s study suggests that UCLA has violated Prop 209 by considering race in admissions.

All photos were taken by PacTies’ staff member Anna Chen.

Burma has finally decided to release numerous political inmates of which some have been held for decades. This is one of many recent gestures to the west, which involve legalizing labor unions, opening a dialogue with the main opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and signing a ceasefire with Karen insurgents in order to get the west to remove economic sanctions.

In return, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has responded by agreeing to exchange ambassadors as a sign of seeking greater cooperation with Burma. Although this act shows that all the parties involved are interested in improved relations, no further action has been committed as of yet to actually remove the economic sanctions which prevent general business with Burma. The lack of actually removing the sanctions just yet is possibly because of the western nations’ attitude to wait and see how the situation develops.

Nonetheless, Human Right’s Watch has dubbed this as a “crucial development” in human rights although they note there are still political prisoners being held that have not been released.

By: Jimmy Zhou

Source: http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/story/2012-01-13/burma-political-prisoners-freed/52528408/1

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