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Dialogue commemorates internment
March 2, 1998

February 19 marked the 56th anniversary of President Franklin Roosevelt's Executive Order 9066, which led to the evacuation and internment of 120,000 Japanese Americans on grounds of national security.

To commemorate the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, a Day of Remem-brance and Dialogue was held in the Asian American Cultural Center.

"It is important to remember history and create awareness of this act of injustice and its consequences among the youth of this generation," said Roger Buckley, professor of history and director of the Asian American Studies Institute, who organized the session in conjunction with his course on The History of Japanese Americans and World War II. "A dialogue with people whose lives were affected by this internment ... is the best way to achieve this."

The guests at the gathering were Nobu Ann Hibino, a former internee, and Jack Koichi Hasegawa, a sensei or third generation Japanese American who was born in Poston, Ariz., when his parents were on their way home from internment.

Hibino, a founding member of the Nisei Student Relocation Commemorative Fund to help Asian students in New England, was a senior at the University of California-Berkeley when she was interned in Topaz, Utah, for one and a half year.

Hibino recalled that although the civilian Wartime Relocation Administration agreed to allow students to leave the camps to continue with their education, many colleges would not accept Japanese Americans because of the anti-American climate that existed at that time. She said UConn was an exception. "UConn was very receptive and had 10 Japanese Americans enrolled in various programs in 1943."

Hibino resumed her studies at Boston University, but formally holds a degree from Berkeley.

She expressed concern about continuing racial prejudice in American society, despite laws against it. "Indeed, there are laws against racial prejudice, but how does one reach psychological acceptance of racial equality?" she said.

Hasegawa, an educational consultant at the state Department of Education, recalled that his parents never really shared their experiences in the camps with him.

"It is important to talk about it and relate the experiences, and not be a passive participant to history," said Hasegawa, a former civil rights worker who described himself as a "child of the camps."

Usha R. Palaniswami