AUDIO DIARIES PROJECT
the Audio Diaries project, a teen examines the wartime removal of Japanese
Americans from her Boyle Heights neighborhood.
is an edited transcription of an audio program created by a high school
senior in a school near East Los Angeles. A total of 25 students from
Theodore Roosevelt Senior High School participated in the Japanese American
National Museum's Audio Diaries project, produced in conjunction with
the upcoming exhibition about Boyle Heights. Audio Diaries is generously
funded by the California Council for the Humanities and the Institute
of Museum and Library Services.
Escobedo at the debut of the National Museum's Audio Diaries programs.
My name is
Elva Escobedo. Recently I had the opportunity to meet someone who, like
me, grew up in Boyle Heights and attended Roosevelt High School. After
living in Boyle Heights all his life, Hank Yoshitake was evicted from
his home simply because his ancestry was Japanese.
7, 1941, Pearl Harbor, Hawai'i, was bombed by Japan. Hank, now a 76-year-old
World War II veteran, remembers:
morning we were in Sunday school. We went to Evergreen Baptist Church
on Second and Evergreen. My dad was picking us up; we were coming home.
We heard some rumbling at church about something that happened. My dad
was in a rush to get us home. On the way home he told us that Japan
had bombed somewhere in Hawai'i.
years after that horrifying day, I could still see the shock from this
news in his face. He did not know what was going to happen to them, but
he understood that his would never be the same. From the sound of his
voice, I was able to see that it must have not been easy for him to go
back and remember that day.
was sitting in front of the fireplace surrounded by photo albums, and
what she was doing was, she was going through photos, photo albums,
pictures of her relatives, parents, her brother and sisters. In the
fireplace she was destroying the pictures. And so I sat down with her
and she would take out a picture, look at it, and throw it in the fireplace.
She was destroying any so-called connection between our family and Japan.
Escobedo and another Roosevelt High School student, Erick Molinar,
interview Yoshitake at the National Museum. After conducting video
interviews, the students worked with producer Kathy Lo to create
their own audio diaries. Also involved in Yoshitake's interview
were Efrain Sarabia, videographer, with media teacher Susan Boyle.
Supervising teachers were Susan Anderson and Marita Forney.
I could see
through his eyes that he still feels deeply hurt, remembering his mother's
pain and family history. To think of having to burn my lifetime memories
and my family history, knowing that I would never again have them, and
at the same time feeling that I must destroy them. . . .I could see the
close relationship he had with his mother. And how miserable it must have
felt to have to burn your personal treasures for the safety of your family.
rapidly began to change. It was no longer a community where there was
no racial tension. Now the Japanese had become a threat.
a Japanese American [who resettled in the Boyle Heights area after the
war], also recalled what happened during this time.
at the market, we knew that people there were from all different ethnic
groups. They were very friendly to us, but along the way we started
getting calls; they were calling us all kinds of name like, "Japs,
what are you doing here, you should go back to your own country. Dirty
Japs." Things like that.
them the most were not the words that came from those insults, but instead
hearing their own neighbors saying to them.
Order 9066 was issued. Japanese families had only six days to report to
their assembly centers and could only take with them what they could carry.
Everything else had to be left behind.
is one of the biggest things when you go into camps, fear of what could
happen next. The door closes behind you, and that's like you can't leave
It was not
enough to have lost everything they had struggled so much to gain--their
homes, valuables, friends--but to make it worse they were locked in internment
camps where they were surrounded by not knowing what would happen next.
"Hank" Yoshitake (1925-2001) in his home in Boyle Heights
before World War II. Yoshitake, who served with the 442nd Regimental
Combat Team, later resettled in Montebello, California.
of Henry "Hank" Yoshitake and Family
When I began
my interview, it was not logical to me that they would go to war alongside
the U.S. after what had been done to them, but that was exactly what they
did. Many Japanese volunteered to fight in the war, where they became
the 442nd Regimental
Combat Team, a segregated unit formed of only Japanese American from the
internment camps and Hawai'i. These men suffered 9,000 casualties and
accumulated 18,000 individual citations for medals. And they did all of
this for the country that had turned its back on them. The only reason
for taking such a stand, according to Hank, was for their parent's safety--at
the same time they fought the prejudice that had haunted them all these
months. They proved that they could be loyal to a country that had been
disloyal to them.
interview, I repeatedly asked Hank if he would go to war again if he could
go back in time. But he kept asking me to repeat my question. And I asked
myself, couldn't he hear me? Or was he avoiding my question?
after it happened, he could still remember the awkward feeling he felt
when the same [military] that had taken him out of his home was now helping
to move back into his home. And I [wonder], were they trying to make up
for what they had done years before?
Regrettably, Henry "Hank" Yoshitake passed away on June 1, 2001,
a week before Elva's program was presented at the Japanese American National