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Incarceration Documentary Featured at Asian American Student Conference

By Floyd Mori

The recently completed 11th Annual New York City Asian American Student Conference (NYCAASC) held at New York University presented a documentary film by Brett Kodama. The short film titled One-Two-One-Seven features Brett’s grandmother, Sharon Shizuko Okazaki Kodama. She tells the story of what happened to her family after the start of World War II.

The documentary is a first-hand account of living through the Japanese American incarceration camps. Sharon was three years old when she, her sister, and their parents, Family No. 1217, were forcibly removed from their home. They were taken to Manzanar Relocation Center in 1942. She remained there until the end of the war in August 1945.

Sharon and her sister were orphaned in the camp upon the death of their parents. Although they had an aunt and uncle not living in the camps who were prepared to care for them, the two small girls were placed in the orphanage at the camp. Even with all they endured, Sharon feels that she was one of the fortunate ones because she was a small child. The incarceration was a very difficult experience for most of those who were older. The documentary is available to view on YouTube.

The poignant story told in One-Two-One-Seven is heart wrenching. It is one of thousands of stories of hardship by the American citizens and immigrants who were imprisoned in what have become known as America’s concentration camps.

Brett Kodama is an American filmmaker from Burbank, California, who now makes his home in New York. He graduated from The School of Visual Arts in 2015. He is currently working as a freelance cinematographer and editor in New York City. He grew up hearing about the experiences of the camps, but he found that most of his friends knew nothing about it.

A workshop was presented at the Conference by Brett Kodama and Floyd Mori, President/CEO of the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies (APAICS) and formerly National Executive Director/CEO and past National President of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL). They spoke about Talking Across Generations About Japanese American “Internment” and the history of that huge injustice. The book, The Japanese American Story As Told Through a Collection of Speeches and Articles, covers much of that history. The digital version was offered to participants.

The NYCAASC involves college students from New York University and surrounding universities. Some high school and junior high school students also attended the conference. This year’s co-directors of the NYCAASC are Lisa Ng and Charissa Isidro.

The keynote address was by Allan Punzalan Isaac, who is an Associate Professor of American Studies and English and Chair of American Studies at Rudgers University. Performer Kim Chinh presented her solo show, Reclaiming Vietnam. Singer-songwriter Tim Atlas from the Silicon Valley was the headliner entertainment.