Japanese-Americans in solidarity with Black community as they remember internment camps

Friday marks a dark day in American history. It will be 79 years since President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered Japanese Americans into internment camps during World War II.

Now Japanese American leaders say they want to mark the day by supporting the Black community in its fight against discrimination.

This is the 42nd year Japanese Americans in the Bay Area are commemorating what known as a day of remembrance.

Video from the U.S. government in 1943 calls what happened Japanese relocation during World War II.

It was a period when people of Japanese descent were perceived as threats and forced into concentration internment camp following an executive order signed by then President Roosevelt on February 19, 1942.

"It's definitely a day to pause and reflect and remember what happened to my own family and what happened within my own community," says Melissa Bailey Nihei with Bay Area Day of Remembrance Consortium.  

The government video shows people being taken to race tracks and fairgrounds.

Among those taken to race tracks that were turned into so-called assembly centers, included the parents of Hiroshi Shimizu.

"The worse part was the anxiety my parents felt," says Shimizu.   

His parents who lived in San Francisco, were taken to the assembly center at Tanforan race track in San Bruno.

It was the first of seven camp locations they were moved in various states.

Shimizu was born during this time and says his family was forced to stay in a camp in Texas two years after the end of the war.   

"The government so to speak didn't let their foot off my parents' neck and they wouldn't let up," says Shimizu.

Japanese Americans are now calling for an end to racist policies and discrimination against the Black community and showing support for HR-40, a bill in Congress that would consider reparations to Black people for slavery and discrimination. 

"This country has never said officially we were wrong and we're sorry," says Arnold Townsend, vice president of the NAACP San Francisco chapter, "When the government acknowledges that it was wrong, it means a lot towards people's healing."  

Shimizu says this country has to face up to the harm it has done to communities of color, "It’s going to happen. It has to happen. If America is to continue, it can't continue living a lie."

In previous years, the National Japanese American Historical Society hosts an event to commemorate the Day of Remembrance in San Francisco's Japantown.

Because of the pandemic, the gathering  this year will be virtual on Friday night.