On this episode of Overdue, we speak with filmmaker and owner of JJML Productions, Jon Osaki; State Law Librarian and Access to Justice Coordinator for the Hawaiʻi State Judiciary, Jenny Silbiger; and Professor Emerita and Director Emerita of the Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality at Seattle University School of Law, Lorraine Bannai, about Osaki’s documentary Alternative Facts: The Lies of Executive Order 9066, and how research and libraries played important roles in exposing the truths and in bringing people together in solidarity and community.
Date of interview: March 16, 2023
Hosts: LaRee Dominguez and Brittany Young
The petition for writ of error coram nobis and exhibits:
Continuing Legal Education Webinars:
Harris County Law Library:
King County Law Library
Using Korematsu to Teach Across the Law School Curriculum
These are teaching modules that use Korematsu (and for Civil Procedure, Hirabayashi) in several law school courses and programs, including law school orientation and Introduction to Law courses; Professional Responsibility; Civil Procedure; Legal Research and Writing skills; and Constitutional Law. Each module contains teaching plans and student materials, including overviews of the wartime incarceration, edited opinions, and questions for discussion.
For information about traveling exhibits, contact:
Stephanie Wilson (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Seattle University School of Law;
901 12th Ave, Sullivan Hall
P.O. Box 222000
Seattle, WA 98122-1090
Welcome to OVERDUE: Weeding Out Oppression in Libraries, a podcast produced by the Oregon Library Association's Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Antiracism Committee. My name is LaRee Dominguez. I am the resources coordinator at the Albany Public Library. I am joined by my co-host, Brittany Young.
Hi, I'm Brittany. I'm the Lane County Law Librarian in Eugene, Oregon. My pronouns are she/her/hers. Today we are sitting down with three people I met at the 2022 American Association of Law Libraries Conference when they spoke about Jon Osaki's documentary "Alternative Facts: The Lies of Executive Order 9066," and how research in libraries played important roles in exposing the truth. We have with us Jon Osaki. He is an award-winning filmmaker who founded JJML Productions and has directed and produced promotional educational narrative and documentary films. His initial interest in film grew from his desire to share the stories of the Japanese Community Youth Council, where he has served as executive director since 1996. Over the past few years, he has had films screened at film festivals and community events across the country. As a filmmaker, Jon views this genre as the next step in his lifelong pursuit of social justice inequity.
We have Jenny Silbiger. She is the state law librarian and Access to Justice coordinator for the Hawaiʻi State Judiciary. She serves as one of the judiciary's liaisons to the Hawai’i Access to Justice Commission, and also serves as co-chair of the Hawaiʻi State Bar Association's committee on delivering legal services to the public. She's the current past president of the Hawaiʻi Library Association. She's also a member of the American Association of Law Libraries, recently serving as chair of the government law library's special interest section. As a member of the Self-Represented Litigation Network Law Librarian's Working Group, she is contributing to a 2023-2024 survey update on Access to Justice resources available at public libraries across the country.
We have Lori Bannai. She is a professor emerita and director emerita of the Fred T Korematsu Center for Law and Equality at Seattle University School of Law. After earning her JD from the University of San Francisco School of Law, Professor Bannai joined what is now the San Francisco firm of Minami Tamaki. While there, she served on the legal team that successfully challenged Fred Korematsu's World War II conviction for refusing to comply with orders that resulted in the forced removal of Japanese Americans from the West Coast.
Jon, this question is for you. Tell us the story behind your decision to produce "Alternative Facts." What was your personal interest, and how did your research begin?
"Alternative Facts" was my first feature film. I had been contemplating making my first professional documentary for a while. I was actually pretty dead set on making one about the Japanese incarceration story, in part because so many films have been made about that, and I wasn't sure I could add to the narrative that's already been put out there, but also because I just started to feel like, for Japanese Americans, that was starting to define our community. The only thing we've done and our only contribution to American society is the fact that we were incarcerated. So I was actually leaning heavily against doing a film like this. But a couple things happened, in particular in 2016, when I started production on this film.
The first was I had just a wonderful opportunity to take my family on a pilgrimage to the former site of the Tule Lake Segregation Center. My father, my father-in-law, and my mother-in-law were all incarcerated at that site. It was just such a transformative experience. I learned a ton. I thought I knew quite a bit, but I really learned a lot being there. When I got home, I started to do my own research. I made an unprofessional, I would say more of a home video project about my children being on that pilgrimage. But while I was working on that, I started to do a lot of research and to make sure that I had all my stories, all my facts straight. I started to come across information about what really happened.
My day job is I work in the Japantown community in San Francisco, so I thought I knew quite a bit about the incarceration story. But I realized, as I got deeper and deeper into the research, I started to come across names like Karl Bendetsen and Earl Warren and John J McCloy, folks that I had never heard of before. I had no idea that there were all these people behind the scenes making really critical decisions that affected our entire community. So I got really interested in that story and making sure that people were aware. I know, for attorneys, a lot are familiar with the Korematsu case, and this is in no way a criticism, but lawyers speak in lawyer speak. For the rest of us, we don't always get the impact of some of the jargon that they use. As I started to learn more and more about this, I wanted to make sure that this became more of a widespread narrative about what happened to Japanese Americans.
I do also want to just mention that, probably about a year before that, in the Japanese-American community, we have these events called Day of Remembrances, which signifies the anniversary of the signing of Executive Order 9066. I had been to one in ... I think it was 2015. They happened to be honoring this woman named Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga, who I had never heard of. As I was reading the background information about her and how she was so instrumental to uncovering the truth, again, I was like, "How do I not know this? How do I not know this person and this incredible story?" So these all started to coalesce in my brain. I started to think about how I could tell this story.
Then, of course, the last factor that sealed the deal was, I'm sure everybody recalls that, in 2016, we were also having a presidential election in this country. Many people in our community just could not help but notice the ways that the rhetoric during that campaign was just escalating and was becoming very reminiscent of the ways that Japanese Americans were demonized in this country, and generalized with the Japanese Imperial Military. I think all those factors coming together really led me to moving towards making this film. I thought I could pull it off and make it. I didn't know that anyone would like it. I didn't know that anyone would think it would be any good. But I thought, "This could be a contribution that I could make towards really addressing all the false narratives that were becoming so prevalent at that time."
That's awesome. Thank you so much. Thank you for visiting with your family at Tule Lake so that you would actually follow through and do all of this research and help the rest of us learn more.
The next question is for Lori. Can you share the backstory of how you and the other attorneys who would eventually become the coram nobis team learned of the evidence that would allow you to reopen the infamous Japanese-American Supreme Court cases? What was the strategy for reopening the cases and reaching out to the plaintiffs?
I remember so clearly the day that I learned about this evidence, the evidence that's the key in Jon Osaki's incredible film. There was a professor named Peter Irons who was teaching at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. This was 1981. He discovered these documents that are discussed in Jon's film. He had requested a copy of the Department of Justice files for Korematsu v. United States because he wanted to write a book about the lawyers in the Department of Justice who prosecuted Fred Korematsu. During the course of his research, he discovered this evidence that the government suppressed, altered, and destroyed material evidence while it was arguing Korematsu before the court. During his work, he met Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga, who was an archival researcher with the commission on wartime relocation and internment of civilians. They joined forces together in doing their research into the work done on these cases.
While researching for his book, Peter did a Freedom of Information Act request for the Department of Justice files in Korematsu. He was told that they were found misfiled in the Department of Commerce records, something that's probably a nightmare for all of the librarians listening here to this podcast. The librarian said that he was able to look at these boxes of Department of Justice files, dusty, covered, tied up in a rope. They hadn't been opened in 40 years. The first document that he took out was a letter from one of the Justice Department lawyers, saying, "We have these reports that say that Japanese Americans are loyal, and they should not be mass interned, and if we don't disclose these to the Supreme Court, it will be suppression of evidence."
He knew these were incredible documents. The problem was, he wanted to take a look at them, but he was concerned that they might disappear if he left them there. So he called Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga, who was an archivist for the researcher for the commission, and said, "Get over here right away." She took possession of these documents so that they were available for later on. Aiko later found other documents, including the original DeWitt Report, as Jon explains in the film. The original report was destroyed and then altered, and the altered version was given to the Supreme Court.
Peter, after finding these documents, was not a lawyer. He knew that there was a means to be able to reopen these cases through a writ of error coram nobis, so he was looking for lawyers who might be able to litigate these cases and contacted us. I remember the day that my partner, Dale Minami, came into my ... Or I went into his office, and he said, "I just got a phone call from this guy who's writing a book. He discovered this evidence, and maybe we could reopen Fred Korematsu's case." Of course, at that point in time, we were all lawyers. We had read the Korematsu case in law school. We had learned how our parents were incarcerated, not only incarcerated, but that the Supreme Court said that it was okay. So the opportunity to possibly show that the government lied to the Supreme Court and to attack the Korematsu decision was unbelievable.
Legal teams were formed. There was one legal team formed in Seattle, Washington, to represent Gordon Hirabayashi, a legal team formed in Portland, Oregon, to represent Min Yasui, led by Peggy Nagae, and then a legal team formed in San Francisco to represent Fred Korematsu, and I was privileged to be on that legal team. There were three separate cases. Serving on those teams was an incomparable experience. We did legal research, of course, at a time when there were brand new things called Westlaw, dedicated Westlaw terminals that did nothing else except for access Westlaw. Shepard's came out in long newsprint sheets at the time, and we had IBM Selectrics. But we still did memos and memos and memos. What were the requirements for writ of error coram nobis? Was it a criminal proceeding? Was it a civil proceeding? So legal research.
Factual research, we had Peter's documents, Aiko's documents. We had hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of government documents to go through. But I also want to mention that, as much as we were, of course, driven to win in a court of law, we felt very, very strongly we had to not only win in a court of law, but also win in the court of public opinion, that, basically, if the public, again, wants to do something horrible like the Japanese-American incarceration, unfortunately, the law can be just a piece of paper. We needed to educate people about the evidence in our case. We needed to educate people about what happened during the Japanese-American incarceration so that something similar would not happen again.
So we engaged the media. We spoke to colleges, universities, civic organizations, bar associations. We continue to do so to today. As a result of the work on these cases, all three men had their convictions vacated. Gordon Hirabayashi's case went up to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, where the court reversed his convictions. Fred Korematsu's conviction was vacated in California. It was, as I said, an extraordinary experience.
Thank you for sharing that, Lori. The way that you share it, I've heard you speak about it before, and it's always very exciting to me. To hear about the find of the DeWitt papers, I feel like that's a librarian and researcher's dream to find something like that. Thank you.
It happened because of librarians.
Jenny, this question is for you. I want to talk more about how the World War II history and legal history is reflected in law libraries. Tell us about your library in Hawai’i and exhibits on World War II history that it still maintains. How do you think the public has reacted to the exhibit? What are some of the things your library is doing to keep World War II era events on the forefront of people's memories?
Thank you so much for this thoughtful question, LaRee. Thank you, Brittany and Ericka, for having us on your podcast. It's such a pleasure to be here and to elevate Jon Osaki's amazing documentary and to listen and learn from Lori Bannai and all of the experience that she has around this really incredibly important antiracist topic. To fully address how I really wanted to look about that forefront of people's memories, so I just want to do a quick dive into the context of what it was like to be in Hawaiʻi. As you know, I mean, everyone knows, December 7th, 1941, happened here in Hawaiʻi, in Pearl Harbor. The devastating effects were immediate and impactful and long range, even to this day. In the immediate aftermath, 2,300 military and civilians were killed. Over 1,100 were injured. That afternoon, the territorial governor at the time expanded the Hawaiʻi Defense Act, and the general who was here, General Short, declared martial law and installed himself as military governor. He told everybody, "Hey, we're going to be back to civilian law in two weeks." Well, clearly that didn't happen. Three years later, we were still under martial law.
At that time, there were 159,000 Hawaiʻi residents that were of Japanese descent. 124,000 of them were American citizens. When you combine and look at the numbers, that made nearly half of the population living here at the time. The original Japanese that came to Hawaiʻi came for the sugar plantations, but by the second generation, they had moved off the plantations and had become engaged in the social and economic landscape of the territory. It was crazy because right in the immediate aftermath, 400 Japanese Americans were just rounded up, but nobody knew about it because of all these military orders that were censoring the press, closing the newspapers, closing the Japanese language schools. It was clearly that military orders were about, quote-unquote, "trying to keep the public safe." But they were clearly targeted to Japanese Americans.
At the same time as this was going on, there was also these incredible acts of loyalty and commitment to the country from the same community of Japanese Americans. 400 people were arrested that day, but then there were another 169 kids at the University of Hawaiʻi who were serving in the ROTC Program, who were in the Hawaiʻi Territorial National Guard. At the time, under General Short, actually, they were armed. They were charged with protecting the military bases. General Short was only in power for 10 days. Then, General Emmons came. The history buffs who have studied this will know. Anyway, General Emmons came. He had to disarm the Japanese Americans and then turned around. Instead of saying, "Well, fine, you don't trust us to protect your bases," instead, they formed themselves into the Varsity Victory Brigade, and they donated their labor efforts to support the war here.
Simultaneously, there were another, I want to say, about 1,400 Japanese Americans serving in the Hawaiian National Guard, so active military members. They were eventually six months later sent to the mainland, and they became the 100th Battalion and joined up with the 442nd. But I'll talk about that in a little bit because at the same time that there were these acts of patriotism, there was also such targeted racist actions taken out and directed to the Japanese Americans. I had mentioned about the 400 immediate arrests. A year and a half later, there were 1,500 that were rounded up at an internment camp here in Honolulu, Sand Island. I think by the time the end of the war, it was about 2,000. We had internment camps here on Oʻahu, and then there were sites on the neighbor islands. You couldn't speak Japanese. All your phone calls were listened in on. Your correspondence was rifled through. If you spoke Japanese, you could be arrested. It was crazy if you think about it.
I think our very first Nisei senator, it could be a podcast all about him. His name is Sanji Abe. He's the first Nisei senator elected to the territorial senate. He was arrested twice, first on a trumped-up charge because he had a Japanese flag. But then they were like, "Oh, nevermind, that wasn't actually illegal," until three weeks later. So they let him go. Then they charged him again. I mean, it's crazy, right? They kept him for a year and a half. All of this military tribunals, the military were carrying out all the trials. There was something crazy like a 99% conviction rate because there were soldiers that were carrying out the court system here, but they didn't have any legal background.
At the same time that this was happening, then there was the call for the 442nd Regiment, which you may be familiar with, which is was an all-Japanese American regiment that the 100th Battalion joined up. When they called for volunteers here in Hawaiʻi, 10,000 Japanese Americans volunteered. They wanted to go serve the country. Now they could only take about 2,600 of them to serve, but they went over to the European Theater, and they became what the history buffs will know, the most decorated regiment in all of US history because they were serving the country. Hawaiʻi was the site of this dichotomy of terrible racist ideology, but then, on the other hand, really demonstrated a commitment to serving the country because the Japanese Americans were Americans.
To circle back to your question about, well, how do we keep this in the forefront, across the hallway from me, we have the Judiciary History Center. A third of its exhibits are dedicated to martial law. I think since they opened in 1991, over 310,000 students and teachers have come through to learn about the legal history of Hawaiʻi and specifically about martial law here. Of course, we have the Arizona Memorial, which millions of people have come through to see. I just think it really speaks to how it's not about how we keep it in the forefront of our minds, because remember when I told you about at the time, Japanese Americans made up nearly half of the residents here? But today, Hawaiʻi is still the state with the highest population of Japanese Americans, of Asian Americans, of folks who identify as multiracial. It's just part of our conversation.
We have the Japanese Cultural Center that does events and has online exhibits, and actually has an online exhibit of the internment camp that was here. We also have the Nisei Veterans Legacy. Last year, it was the 80th anniversary of that 100th Battalion. We call it One Puka Puka. If you know, you'll know. Anyway, it was a celebration of the 100th Battalion. The 12 remaining veterans were interviewed. Their families were interviewed. It was all over the news. It's just a continual part of our conversation. You cannot walk down the street without knowing or connecting with somebody who has been impacted by the internment, by the legacy of World War II.
I think what that does is it sets Hawaiʻi up in this unique position that, when Jon was talking about 2016, when there was rhetoric about banning folks from coming into our country who came from specific countries, I don't think it was an accident that it was our Hawaiʻi State Attorney General, Doug Chin, who challenged the Muslim ban in court. I think in part it's because we understand so succinctly. It's a lived experience here of what the demonization of the other can do and what it can result in.
That was fabulous. I love that you brought it back around to that this is a continuing part of conversation, and that I hope brings more people that are listening to this that are not in Hawaiʻi, a little more clarity. Thank you.
My next question is for Lori again. Decades after involvement in Fred Korematsu's case, you and other members of his legal team continued to be active and speak out in his name. For example, the coram nobis legal teams filed an amicus brief in Trump v. Hawaiʻi in 2019. Why did the coram nobis team feel the need to get involved again? What do you think of the court's language finally overturning Korematsu v. United States?
Thank you for that question. As I mentioned, when we were involved in the coram nobis cases in the early 1980s, public education was so important to us because what was really important was not only justice for Fred and the Japanese-American community, but also whatever we could do to help make sure something similar didn't happen again. That is to try and teach the public, how do these things happen? How can we prevent the targeting of vulnerable communities and similar civil rights violations? We've continued to speak through the years and, in addition, get involved in cases and issues that are important in light of the Japanese-American experience during World War II.
One of the most dangerous aspects of Korematsu that continues to resonate today is the danger that courts, like they did during World War II, will step aside, will basically defer to the government when the government says, "Well, this we did in the name of national security." The courts say, "Oh, well, if it's about national security, the courts really don't have a role." This is what happened during World War II. In Gordon Hirabayashi's case, the court expressed extreme deference to decisions made by the courts in the interest of national security.
The court said, and I quote, "Where, as they did here, the conditions call for the exercise of judgment and discretion by the war-making branches of government, it is not for any court to sit in review of the wisdom of their action or substitute its judgment for theirs." That's a really frightening proposition, that there are some issues in which the courts have no role. We all go back to elementary school and high school civics classes, where we learned about the three branches of government and the system of checks and balances and how the courts act as a check on its coordinate branches of government. But here we've got the court during World War II saying that when Congress and the president are acting in national security matters, the courts have no role.
Fast-forward to June 26th, 2018, when the Supreme Court, in Trump v. Hawaiʻi, upheld President Trump's travel ban against several Muslim majority countries. Again, although noting the amount of anti-Muslim hostility prior to the ban, the court again said it had to defer to the government on matters of national security. The court, in Trump v. Hawaiʻi, said, "We cannot substitute our own assessment for the executives' predictive judgments on national security matters, all of which are delicate, complex, and involve large elements of prophecy." Justice Sotomayor dissented and identified several ways in which the travel ban was like Korematsu. For example, during World War II, the removal was based on fear that Japanese Americans as a group were prone to espionage and sabotage. With the travel ban, the exclusion was based on the fear that Muslims and persons of certain nationalities were potential terrorists.
In response to Justice Sotomayor, Justice Roberts said, "Korematsu has nothing to do with this case." Although Justice Roberts said that Korematsu had nothing to do with this case, he still took the opportunity to purportedly repudiate Korematsu. He said, "Korematsu was gravely wrong the day it was decided and has been overruled in the court of history, and to be clear, has no place in the law under the Constitution." You would think we'd all be jumping up and down thinking that Korematsu has been overruled. But it rang very, very hollow when the court was saying this in the context of upholding a ban on the entry of people from Muslim-majority countries based on the view of them as potential terrorists.
From the opinion, it's also, number one, unclear what aspect of Korematsu Justice Roberts was purportedly repudiating. We don't know what it means that it was repudiated in a court of history. We don't know what the court of history is. But it is clear from the opinion itself that it did not overrule one of the most dangerous aspects of Korematsu, this idea that courts should step aside when the government says that it's acting in the name of national security. Again, my own view is that it's a dangerous proposition that courts need to step aside in certain areas. It's important, I think, that courts always decide in the end whether Congress and the president have acted within their constitutional limits. Especially, this is true during times of crisis, when emotion and fear can compel some to sacrifice the rights of vulnerable communities, believing that it will make them safe.
In this vein, let me mention a teaching module that law librarian Stephanie Wilson, at Seattle University School of Law, and I prepared using Korematsu and Trump v. Hawaiʻi to teach students not to over-rely on Westlaw and Lexis. You know how people look at the flags and the treatment of cases, and then they're like, "Oh, well, then it's a red flag so I can't cite it," or "It's a yellow flag, so it must be fine," or something like that? I taught legal writing for many, many years. When I taught legal writing, I tell my students that they can't look at the flags to decide whether a case is still good law or not. They have to actually do their own research. But I never had a good concrete example of how to teach that. They would look at me glazed and wonder, "Well, what do you mean by that?"
So Stephanie and I have put together a teaching module, a class in a box, that has students read Korematsu, and then, when they read Korematsu, the World War II decision, they'll see that there's a red flag on it. They've got to figure out why that red flag is there. They'll see that Westlaw says that Korematsu was abrogated by Trump v. Hawaiʻi. Then the module asked them to read Trump v. Hawaiʻi and figure out, "Well, did Trump v. Hawaiʻi actually abrogate Korematsu, and on what point of law?" They will find out, as I just said, it didn't actually overrule Korematsu. In fact, it gave Korematsu new life. So maybe that red flag is absolutely misleading, and they can't rely on the red flag without doing their own research.
I point that to you because it may be helpful for those of you who teach law students or teach people what these red flags mean, and that, actually, Westlaw and Lexis and these other search engines are just put together by editors and by people, and that you can't rely ... That red flag wasn't issued by the court. It's some editor at Westlaw or at Lexis who puts that interpretation in, and in fact, we've been in touch with Westlaw and Lexis on changing those flags.
Thank you, Lori, and thank you for sharing that teaching module. I mean, that's just a specific example using the law, but anything that you find online, even if it's peer reviewed, you should still do your own research. That's part of what we're teaching in libraries. There are certain ways to research information and to have a better idea. It's never perfectly straightforward, just like the law. There's five or six different possible answers, but you can get a better idea of whether you feel like that information is the correct information for whatever you're looking for. So thank you for that example. Now we have a module we can go check out.
Jon, I have another question for you. It's only been four years since your film debuted and Trump v. Hawaiʻi was decided. Even though it feels like so much time in history has passed since then, as a filmmaker and a storyteller, how do you ensure your research is both complete yet relevant for a fast-paced world? In events that you've done for your films, how have you collaborated with local educational institutions or public services like libraries?
One of the questions that I'm asked most often during and after my screenings is whether or not there were any protests about what was happening to Japanese Americans in 1942. Although, there's some differing opinions about what was taking place that time, I always share with people that, essentially, any institution or organization that was in a position to speak out on behalf of Japanese Americans, and I'm talking about institutions like the ACLU, the NAACP, these types of organizations were across the board silent about what was happening to and the ways in which Japanese Americans were being targeted at that point. When Executive Order 9066 went before Congress as Public Law 503, it passed Congress unanimously. If we think about right now and the age that we're living in, the thought of anything passing unanimously is just ridiculous. That is the climate and the circumstances that Japanese Americans were faced with in 1942.
I think one of the most valuable lessons that I certainly promote and many others promote is that when there are targeted groups in this country that are being singled out, and people are blaming them for some of the challenges that we face as a society, it is so critical that others are there to speak out on their behalf. In this vein, myself, Lori, we're part of a group called Stop Repeating History. Our work is very much focused on looking at the contemporary issues that are facing society today and not only drawing parallels to the Japanese-American incarceration experience, but finding ways to amplify those issues in a way where we are speaking up for and standing by other communities that are being affected in the same way that our communities were once affected. Through the Stop Repeating History team, I've been so incredibly fortunate to be able to produce lots of different film works that have been used to have conversations about very difficult topics, things that people are not comfortable talking about.
In 2000, I worked with Stop Repeating History and a coalition of other social justice organizations to produce a film about the Black reparations movement and the intersections with the Asian community. Once again, as one of the most egregious historical wrongs that ever taken place in this country, it's something so many are not willing to talk about and take the time to understand what really took place, not just during slavery and immediate afterwards, but all the subsequent ways that the Black community has been prevented from accumulating wealth in this country. So I've been able to have many conversations across the country about that topic. Also worked with the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum to create a film called "Not Your Model Minority" to really dispel some of the myths about Asian Americans in this country, and produce six-minute documentaries focusing on some of the characters in "Alternative Facts."
I did want to mention, also, that I'm very, very pleased to share that "Alternative Facts" was also accepted and included as part of something called PBS LearningMedia, where clips of the film have been connected to specific lesson plans for the classroom. It's something that I have been actively trying to promote over the last year because although this happened over 80 years ago, I think from this conversation, we can all see that the issues that were present when Japanese Americans were incarcerated are still so relevant today. They are still continuing to happen in so many different ways and affecting so many other communities. When I produced and directed "Alternative Facts," of course, this was pre-pandemic, which brought along with it this new wave of Asian hate. So these themes and this playbook of blaming communities, of scapegoating them, of conflating them with American-born communities and communities from their ethnic origin, is still something we are really going to have to contend with as a nation. That's why the learning that comes from libraries is so critical.
I do want to just take a second and share that I was just part of a delegation of Asian-American and Jewish leaders that went to the East Coast and had dialogue. As communities that are both affected by hate, how can we work together? How can we support each other? How can we lift up each other's issues so that we can be stronger as these new waves of hate affect both of our communities? We got a private tour of the Holocaust Museum, which, of course, if anybody's been there and knows that, it's just really an overwhelming experience to go there. I was really struck by the footage, the Nazis burning books.
I can't help but think how in so many ways we are addressing these same issues of school districts trying to ban books, including books about the Japanese-American incarceration experience and how those tactics were done both in the 1930s and throughout history because history and information is power. These are very deliberate and intentional attempts by sectors of our society to keep people down and to make sure they don't have this knowledge and this power to be able to resist. I just think that the work that we're doing through Stop Repeating History, that is happening in law libraries and libraries across the country, is just more critical than it's ever been.
Thank you so much for bringing the delegation and the PBS learning all out in your answer as well. Some of that will definitely strike home for a lot of people that maybe were interested in finding out some more, but now will definitely be interested. Thank you so much for sharing that.
Next question is for Jenny. I want to ask you a similar question to the last one. In your view, how do libraries democratize history and make it interesting, accessible, and relevant? What are some of your success stories of engaging the public using creative means or multimedia?
Ooh, I love this question so much. Thank you, Brittany. It's something that I think that public law libraries can relate to, and also public libraries. I think about my role in working with our chapter of ALA, our Hawaiʻi Library Association, down here in the islands, and working with librarians from all different ranges of libraries. Listening to Jon, it really accentuates the importance of access to information and how it can relate to access to justice. Something that I've been tossing around down here, it's about our world is such an increasing monetized space. It's capitalism, great, but even digital spaces are becoming monetized. You are doing some online research, and you hit a paywall, and you can't access anymore. Just thinking about how public libraries are one of the last bastions of democracies, in a way, where you can walk in, and you can access these amazing resources, you can support one another in finding knowledge of just about anything that you're humanly interested in, and not be asked to buy something.
Because of this, I think that libraries, we've got to think about where we are in our communities. We're uniquely situated in our communities. What are the stories around us that are invisible and need to become visible? What are the stories that are unseen and need to be seen? Just like Jon's documentary, the truth about the suppression of evidence, overturning Fred Korematsu's conviction, if you think about it, back during World War II, it was just normal. "Oh, yeah. Japanese Americans, just put them in a camp." Why would you even think that is something that's okay? So there's so much opportunities for public programming and education. As mentioned, I talked about my Judiciary History Center here. But there's amazing law libraries and public libraries in our state and our nation doing amazing things.
I have to do a shout-out to Harris County Law Library in Houston, Texas, and also King County Law Library in Seattle, Washington, who did do some public programming around Jon's documentary, and even provided continuing legal education to the bar community, the attorney community there. There's also traveling exhibits. I know that Lori mentioned Seattle University School of Law and our wonderful librarian and colleague there, Stephanie Wilson. She has two traveling exhibits that are free. You do have to pay for the shipping, I think. But one is focused on Fred Korematsu, and the other is on Gordon Hirabayashi. It's an amazing resource guide for libraries.
Coming out of the pandemic, I mean, everything went online that could, pretty much. I know that some people might have Zoom fatigue, like, "Oh, no. Not another Zoom meeting." But there's so much opportunity there to connect as well. I mentioned the Japanese Cultural Center here. There's online curricula, online tours. Through our National Archives and the National Park Service, you can actually tour internment camps. There's online exhibits for Hawaiʻi, California, and Washington. There's just such a robust resource of online camp directories available for folks who want to do research on their families or do genealogical research in that type of thing.
Again, I think it really goes back to where are we located uniquely in our communities? I think about last year. I had such a pleasure of meeting and working with a library worker in Molokaʻi. She has a center. She had boxes and boxes of Native Hawaiian fiction and nonfiction resources. She just wanted to get them out of the box so that the kids that came to the center could have access to materials that were in their native language. What is it that we have? What are the opportunities that we have to connect folks to the information that they need and really have equal access to it? I just think I can't say or accentuate even more how important it is to do it either virtually, to do it within partnerships.
I have one more story I want to share because I talked to you in my first question about how the effects of World War II and the Japanese and American internment really affected us. It's something that we know about because we live here where Pearl Harbor happened, and we have such a large Asian-American population here. But one of my colleagues at the University of Hawaiʻi at West Oʻahu was working with the US Holocaust Museum in DC. She brought over last year the traveling exhibit "Americans in the Holocaust." There was a teeny tiny bit part about the Japanese internment, but really, it was focusing on the Holocaust. One of the reasons why she brought it to our community is because it's really difficult for people in Hawaiʻi to make it all the way to DC. It's very expensive to travel that far. But it was important to bring this particular story to us because the focus on it was we have the facts of what happened in the Holocaust, but it was really about what did the Americans know?
It was based on 15,000 primary sources to say that Americans actually did know what was going on. Many things have turned a blind eye. After the terrible tragedy of Kristallnacht that happened in 1938, Americans were polled. 94% said that they were appalled at the treatment of Jewish people overseas. Then, a week later, they were polled. 74% of Americans said, "No, we don't want Jewish refugees in our country." So I think it's really important for us to have these conversations in our public spaces and our public libraries based on primary sources, based on information that's available to us to have these hard conversations, to shed light on them. I coined it keep the lights on because we need to look at what's happening, and we need to be able to encourage dialogue. Like Jon was mentioning with his delegation, it's so important that people can come together and connect around these stories that have huge impacts. It's based on access to information. Woohoo. Okay. I'm excited about talking. I could talk libraries all day. I better stop.
I totally understand. Thank you, Jenny. I think many of our listeners will feel the same about that. Thank you for sharing the piece about the primary sources. We have access to those polls, but we have a tendency to not think about doing our own primary resource digging. I think that it's just awesome that we have that ability. I would never want it to go away. For people listening that don't know how to find those resources, you can go to your library. We're here to help you.
Yes, we are. This question is for everyone. I'd like the three of you to help us close with some call to action anecdotes that started on a small, individualized level. Can you share an example of how you've seen research or access to specialized knowledge, and has that had a major impact on the person or larger communities?
So many different ways, obviously. I'll mention just a couple of them. One, I'll talk about my own work as a researcher and writer. I have written articles and books and certainly researched in preparation for cases and briefs and talks. I am just always constantly amazed at the work of librarians. In my work, reference librarians have helped me come up with just some of the most esoteric things in the world. I need a newspaper article from 1941 in a major newspaper of record that says X. The librarians have helped me find immigration files, court records, all kinds of different things. The archival research I've been able to do, helped by incredible archivists, have been so powerful.
Taking a look at, for example, the immigration files from Fred's parents and seeing what they look like just before they got married, a letter from Fred Korematsu's fiance to his World War II lawyer, written on pretty powder blue paper, asking about how Fred's doing. I went to the San Leandro Library and saw the San Leandro Jail book, this gigantic, gigantic book, probably a foot and a half or two feet high, maybe a foot and a half wide, with Fred's signature signing into the San Leandro Jail the night that he was arrested. So yes, holding these things, they're just really powerful experiences. Of course, so many of us have had the experience of looking at our own family camp records as well. We talk about lawyers holding the keys to the courthouse. Librarians hold the keys to information. It's a powerful and amazing thing.
I suppose the most, another thing I will talk about is the impact on students. When we have talked to law students about the Japanese-American incarceration, we use it to talk to them about several things, the role of the law, what is the law, what happens when the law goes awry, the role of lawyers, lawyers who did horrible, horrible things, and seeing themselves as hired guns. The role of lawyers who sought to do justice really helps new law students think about who they will be as lawyers. Will they be a hired gun? Will they be an instrument of justice?
The Korematsu story, the story of the Japanese-American incarceration, and all of the research that's been done to bring that information to fore, really, I've seen have a powerful effect on law students, as well as younger students. There's this thing called National History Day. I think probably librarians know a lot about it because you see lots of probably high school students come in, where there's a question that is posed, and students have to answer, like, "Who's an influential person," or "Who would you consider your hero," or something. Every year, people on Fred Korematsu's legal team get phone calls from high school students across the country asking about Fred Korematsu. It's so incredible to hear these students' questions. They've clearly been to the library. They've checked out every book about the Japanese American incarceration and Fred Korematsu to prepare for these interviews and their reports. So I think having this information about the incarceration available in our libraries, having displays like the ones that Jenny talked about, all of those things, connecting people to get their camp records, all of those things, that access to information is so powerful.
Jon Osaki: I will go next so that Jenny can be our cleanup and bring it home to the librarian community. I would say that there's been real, immediate outcomes from some of my film work, some of the organizing that I've done. "Alternative Facts" was done from start to finish in two years, which for a feature documentary is incredibly fast. Other filmmakers I know have taken five, six years to complete that. But we really wanted to have the film done as quickly as possible because we are losing incarcerees every single day. I wanted as many of them who are still with us to be able to see that because people outside of our community may not know, but the vast majority of even the Japanese-American community do not know the gory details behind what led to the incarceration during World War II.
When I've had the pleasure of sharing "Alternative Facts" with former incarcerees, many are just in tears. They're overwhelmed. They've heard bits and pieces about what took place, but to see it all put together, to understand it in a way where they can really see how this was based upon fabrications and false information and flat-out lies really hits home. I've been very gratified to be able to share and make sure, because I've had people at our screenings tell us, "Oh, my God, now I know that Japanese Americans really didn't do anything wrong." For many of them, they had this lingering doubt in them even all these years later.
I also do want to share that I'm convinced that those who continue to promote systemic racism in this country really do benefit by our communities working in silos and not working together and only being about our communities and what's best for our communities and how to advocate for ourselves. I think through my film work, I've really tried to promote the power of solidarity, the power of communities working together. When I've been able to share my film about the Black reparations movement, members of the Black community have come forward and said, "I didn't realize that there were members of another community who cared about my issues, who cared about making sure that this country acknowledges and helps repair some of those wounds that are still very present today."
I've already mentioned the trip with Jewish leaders, which, as we are going through that experience, all we could think about is, "Why haven't we done this before? Why haven't we worked together when we're both facing such hateful rhetoric in this country? We're both facing violence. Why haven't we worked more together?" I think what I would certainly promote to this audience and others is to really use the information that you can find in libraries to empower yourself with knowledge. To me, people who want to oppress us, keep us down, keep us separated, that's the last thing they want. The more we could inform ourselves, the more we could understand how much we have in common with the experiences of other communities, the more we can really push back on false narratives and people that want to really keep many of our communities in our place, not opposing their positions of power. I really think and I'm hopeful that that is the way forward for many of us in this country.
Oh, my goodness. I love your remarks so much, Jon and Lori. Now I feel a little pressure to bring it home. But I'm just so inspired. I just feel elevated learning from you today in our conversation together. I love this question that you gave us, Brittany, about our call to action anecdotes, and what can we do on an individualized level and the impact. I think this can apply to other public law libraries. They might be able to speak to this a little bit more than me in terms of law libraries. Often, when the general public comes to us, they are in crisis. I mean, especially when this is the general public because let's get real. The legal landscape is absolutely a foreign language to most of us except to Lori, because where else do you see so much Latin? I mean, who speaks Latin?
But I think this goes back to where are our libraries situated within our communities, and who's looking for the information, and what kind, and how we can have an impact. I was just really thinking about what Jon was saying about silos. How can libraries be places of connection? We can do that with elevating the different types of stories and the different kinds of conversations that maybe were buried before. Now that we can bring them to light, we can do that in partnership with other libraries. We can do it in partnership with the educational institutions that are around us. I mean, let's face it. Libraries are literally under attack in certain areas of our country. Having equal access to information is so crucial at this time.
But when you're asking about a personal individualized level, what can we do? Again, I think back of where are we? Where am I? Where was I when I came to the Hawaiʻi Supreme Court Law Library in 2008? I just dated myself, but that's okay. I embrace it. At that time, the law library was really focusing internally to our judiciary stakeholders, the legal community. That was fine because I was learning a lot about the law. But then the mortgage recession happened. I have my Supreme Court Law Library here in Honolulu, and then I have branch libraries on our neighbor islands. I have two on the Big Island, one on Maui, and one in Kauaʻi. Anyway, what I noticed, soon after the mortgage recession, we had a pretty big increase of general public accessing our spaces, our libraries, especially on the neighbor island. We saw a 75% increase, which is a big deal to us. It really got us thinking about how can we live up to our policy where we're open to anyone in need of legal resources?
We had to look for ways to partner with the public libraries, increase access to our materials, really try to provide simplified descriptions of the court process, step-by-step guides and how to be impactful. Of course, have access to technology because that's also a big deal for libraries and the general public. How can we access the resources that we have if there's this digital divide? I'm going to just be really excited now because one of the things that I was proud of doing here is that people are coming to our spaces looking for particular critical legal information, because they're trying to represent themselves in court, which is scary. So I was able to expand our Access to Justice rooms. In Oʻahu, there's a family court Access to Justice room where volunteer attorneys provide free legal advice on a limited basis to the public.
I was able to expand that and bring it to my law library. We call it Lawyer in the Law Library because it has a nice ring to it. But again, what are the resources? What can we provide? Well, we provide the lawyers, I guess. That was really awesome for us to do. That was in the fall of 2019. Then you know what happened. The pandemic happened. Everybody was in a disarray. It was literally me and my Girl Scout Zoom account knocking on the door at family court, virtually knocking because everybody was separated. I'm like, "I think we could do this virtually if we tried it on Zoom." Lo and behold, from 2020 until now, we've been able to do the Lawyer in the Library, or Kapolei Access to Justice Room is what we also call it, connecting people from the public to the legal advice that they need.
We've been able to support language interpreters with Japanese, Korean, Spanish, Swahili, which I thought was really interesting, Tagalog, even able to support ASL interpreters because it's Zoom, just really trying to figure out. That was a result of looking at the community that my library particularly serves and figuring out, what is some small impact that I can make? I think if you want to do this call to action to the librarian or the libraries, it's like where are you situated, and what is one small difference that you can make? Because in our landscape, our social and political landscape of what's going on in these contemporary times, I think that there is no action that is too small to make a difference.
You brought it home beautifully. I love that you mentioned Lawyer in the Law Library. I knew about law libraries when I started getting my master's in library and information science, but what really attracted me to law libraries was when I was in a public library and we did Lawyer in the Library there. I'm just glad that you mentioned that. Also, we're hoping to do something similar eventually at the Lane County Law Library. They already do it at the Deschutes Public Library. So we have some of that going on in Oregon, which is awesome. Thank you all for being so inspirational with your call to action. We usually provide our own calls to action at the end of every podcast episode. It's wonderful to have even more options readily available to people after they listen to this podcast.
Yes. Thank you all so much, and for giving your calls to action. It makes it so much more valid to a lot of our listeners. You guys are awesome. Thank you so much.
Thank you. We would like to ask you to reflect and act on the information gained from this podcast episode. What are your takeaways or takeaway from this interview? A big takeaway from me was when Jon spoke about the Black gentleman that approached him and said something like, "I didn't realize that there were other groups that cared about our struggles." Jon mentioned that there is power and solidarity in community, and that we have more similarities than differences, and we have to stop the false narratives so that way we can come together and do this work. What about you, LaRee?
One of my takeaways was when Jenny was talking about how many people really don't know history. She said, "We need to keep the lights on and access the information." There are so many libraries and it doesn't have to be just a public library. The public can go into other libraries and find information, do their research. I also have Indigenous peoples of mostly the Western states that are tied forever in my mind with the internment camps because they used so much Native land for these camps. They also used some reservation lands. So there was a lot of crossover. There has been a lot of research about this. There's all kinds of stuff that is being produced now. In case you weren't aware of that, it's a good thing to have for another research project.
I know that is something that I did not know and was another takeaway from me, so I'm glad that you shared that, LaRee, as well. We also have a call to action for you all. This time it actually came from Lori after we stopped recording, and a little bit from Ericka Brunson-Rochette, who was doing our engineering work on this. If you want to, you can purchase a book. It can be equity, diversity, inclusion, antiracism related, or maybe related to a specific topic like LaRee talked about, native lands being used for Japanese internment camps, or maybe on Fred Korematsu. You could buy a book and donate it to your local public library if they take donations. Double check to make sure that they take donations. That was Ericka's part. She also suggested that if they don't take donations, you could put it in a little free library.
I love that. I'm always putting books in little free libraries all over, so I like that idea a lot.
Me, too. Thank you.
Thank you to our guests, and thank you to Ericka and Brittany.
This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services through the Library Services and Technology Act, administered by the State Library for Oregon. [foreign language 01:04:00]
We would like to take time to acknowledge historical injustices. We recognize Oregon was established as a white sanctuary state with the intent to exclude African-American and Black people on ancestral lands stolen from dispossessed Indigenous peoples. We recognize and honor the members of federally recognized tribes and unrecognized tribes of Oregon. We honor Native American ancestors, past, present, and future, whose land we still occupy. This acknowledgement aims to deconstruct false histories, correct the historical record, and disrupt genocidal practices by refocusing attention to the original people of the land we inhabit, the slave trade and forced labor that built this country, and to the oppressive social systems interwoven into the fabric of our national and regional heritage. We ask that you take a moment to acknowledge and reflect as well.