Tuesday, April 07, 2009

[Wisconsin] Asian American Voices: “Reclaiming Our Past: The Untold Stories of Asian America” 4/30-5/2

From the Asian American Student Union (AASU), University of Wisconsin Madison

WHAT: Asian American Voices: “Reclaiming Our Past: The Untold Stories of Asian America” with special emphasis on the life of James Wakasa

Collaboratively, Asian American Student Union (AASU), Asian American Studies Program, Association of Asian American Graduate Students (AAAGS), and Asian Pacific American Law Student Association/ South Asian Law Student Association (APALSA/SALSA) brings to the UW Campus a three day event to honor and remember James Hatsuaki Wakasa, a Japanese American with a connection to UW Madison. 

Born in Japan in 1884, Wakasa came to the United States and made his home in various places in the Midwest. He attended Hyde Park High School in Chicago and eventually completed a two year post graduate course at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1916. Working as a cook, he lived in Iowa and became an U.S. Army cooking instructor during the First World War. He eventually moved to San Francisco and in 1942, he along with other Americans of Japanese descent were rounded up, forcibly removed from their homes and sent to the Tanforan Assembly Center and then to Topaz, the War Relocation Authority camp in Utah. On the evening of April 11, 1943, he was shot to death by a Military Police sentry. 

At the time of his death, he had been in the United States for forty years, many of those spent in the American heartland. His killing became one of the more controversial incidents during the Japanese American internment. 

To remember the life of James Wakasa, commemorate his death, learn the lessons that the Internment can teach us about contemporary issues such as the deprivation of civil liberties during war, Guantanamo Bay and its constitutional implications, as well as the fraught situation of immigrants and their lives today, and the core matter of what it means to be American, we have come together for a three day event to "Reclaim Our Past" and ask the audience to ponder the many consequences of being asked "Where are from?" and "What does home mean to you?"


  • Thursday April 30, 7:30pm at Tripp Commons Go Back to Where you Came From, The Show”
    Through the visual and performing arts, the show will first highlight James Wakasa and then address the issues of internment, civil liberties, identity as well as the concepts of home and belonging as it relates to Asian Americans and other minority groups today. The show will be both entertaining and interactive, and we encourage people of all backgrounds to participate; this show aims to include all walks of life. If you want to see art pieces from students and local artists as well as thought provoking music and spoken word, this is the place to be. 

  • Friday May 1, 4:00pm-8:30pm at the Law School The Body of Evidence: Recovering the New/Forgotten”
    Come and listen to a panel discussion featuring Victor Jew, Kent Ono, Leslie Bow and Elena Tajima Creef. Topics of discussion include James Wakasa, Asian American Stories and Issues, the Japanese Internment and how it relates to the politics of today’s society among others. Following the panel discussion there will be a buffet dinner leading to the keynote talk by Sumi Cho on “The Internment Legacy for Civil Liberty Issues Today.”

  • Saturday May 2nd, 3:00pm in the Humanities Courtyard Wisconsin Reclaiming its Forgotten Asian American Heritage: Remembering James Wakasa”
    The three day event ends with a memorial service for James Wakasa. The ceremony will honor and commemorate his life as well as the lives of other Asian Americans who have made their mark in Wisconsin’s Asian American heritage.

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