"To see what is right and not to do it is cowardice." -- Confucius

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Tsuya Hohri Yee

Hello and welcome everyone.  My name is Tsuya Yee, and I’m one of William Hohri’s granddaughters.
I always knew he was special and brave, but I only realized the full implications of this when I went to college at UC Santa Cruz and met other yonsei.   As a native New Yorker from Chinatown, I didn’t grow
up around a lot of other Japanese American families.  In college, many of my yonsei classmates were learning about Japanese American internment for the first time in Asian American studies classes. They
confided in me the same story over and over, “no one talked about camp, it’s taboo,” and some even talked about feeling ashamed over that experience.  I listened closely, sympathetically… and would then
reply, “what??”  “what do you mean no one talked about it?  you didn’t grow up hearing terms like “sovereign immunity, mass incarceration, reparations, No-No boys, day of remembrance” around your new year’s dinner table?”  “Why are you ashamed?” I asked, “what the government did to us was wrong, it wasn’t our fault.” I later realized that my experience was really unique because I had Nisei grandparents who talked about it and a sansei parent who was a leader in the redress movement.  And while I could never completely bypass the pain that comes with the internment experience, because of my early and candid exposure to the issue throughout my childhood, I was poised at a very young age to speak out about it, and help others heal.
Another curious thing I learned in college was that “Nisei are the quiet Americans.”  I thought, I don’t know which Nisei they are talking about but all of my memories are to the contrary - my family
talks loudly, laughs loudly, lives boldly and speaks directly.  My grandpa most of all.
What I now know is that I was absorbing important lessons from him, modeled through his manner and actions – stand up for yourself, speak up, make demands on those who do you wrong, build coalitions with others for help, be curious and engaged in the world, take pleasure in many things, words are a tool – read and write constantly,

And lastly, never stop talking and sharing your ideas and thoughts – they matter.

I have many personal memories, like his pleasure at telling me that he was wearing the same shirt to Sylvia and Ed’s wedding that he wore to his own wedding; his scoffing at my excitement over
traveling to japan to find my roots – his comments were along the lines of “I don’t think you’re going to find any “roots” over there. Why not go to China?  That’s an amazing place – they invented the
printing press!” Or the many birthday and holiday cards to me from grandma and grandpa signed “Love, Grandma Yuriko” and “Peace, WMH.”
I’ll treasure my memories of you, do my best to follow your example, and honor you always by never forgetting you.

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