The Day of Remembrance honors Japanese-Americans forced into American concentration camps during World War II, and the Stockton Japanese-American Citizens League will hold its traditional ceremonies on Saturday.
Members will light 10 candles, one for each of the camps where their friends and families, or they themselves lived during the war. They’ll light an 11th candle for Tillie Lewis, the “Tomato Queen.”
“Tillie Lewis has a special connection with the Japanese community,” said Aeko Yoshikawa, coordinator of the local Day of Remembrance event. “Before the war and after the war she hired Japanese people when a lot of people wouldn’t. She hired on merit. My cousin Craig will light that candle. My uncle Ed just passed away and he worked for Tillie Lewis for 36 years.”
The recognition of the pioneer businesswoman is appropriate.
The Day of Remembrance commemoration will take place in the Tillie Lewis Theatre at San Joaquin Delta College, because while the ceremony acknowledges the anniversary of Executive Order 9066 that ordered the round up of Japanese Americas on the West Coast, it also looks at the broader life those citizens lived with the screening of the film, “The Ito Sisters.”
The feature-length documentary begins at 1 p.m. Admission is free and doors open at 12:30 p.m. with seats on a first-come, first-served basis.
“I thought that it gave an overview of the Japanese American experience, not just internment,” Yoshikawa said.
Yoshikawa saw the film shortly after its release last year in Berkeley and suggested to the JACL board of directors that they to bring it to Stockton.
“She was so excited and said this is a film we should be showing,” said fellow board member Steve Sue. “I started researching it and agreed with her wholeheartedly. A lot of films out there are overviews. This one is a personal journey of the three sisters. It takes place before the internment came. You get some background story of how they immigrated to the U.S. and up to the time they were interred and covering when they leave. That’s the story you don’t really see or hear.”
The film began when Antonia Grace Glenn, the film’s producer and director, asked her grandmother, Lillian, and her great aunts, Nancy and Hedy, to record a birthday wish as a surprise for her mom, Evelyn Nakano Glenn.
“I kept the camera running and they started sharing stories I hadn’t heard before,” Antonia Glenn said. “Their own mother suffered from cancer for seven years before she passed away. She let them know she’d suffered for those seven years without complaining. The Issei (immigrant Japanese) were strong like that. That came out in the first session. I wanted to get more stories.”
She ultimately took the sisters back to their hometown of Courtland, on the Sacramento Delta.
“So much came back with them walking around; so many memories came up,” Antonia Glenn said. “They told stories they hadn’t told each other before. There was still sibling rivalry in their ’80s and ’90s. Nancy, the oldest, was always considered the pretty one and the others less attractive. They’re such characters. I wanted to share it with an audience outside my family.”
In addition to being an actor, producer, director and filmmaker, Antonia Glenn is a scholar like her mother, Evelyn Glenn, a professor in the graduate school and the founding director of the Center for Race and Gender at University of California, Berkeley. Antonia Glenn dug into Japanese-American history.
“I understood the depth and power of the anti-Japanese movement of the first half of the 20th century,” Antonia Glenn said. “There were laws and measures to limit the rights of Japanese immigrants and their American-born citizens from not allowing them to become citizens or own land.
“All of this struck me as very familiar in terms of the rhetoric today, that American-born children of undocumented workers should not be allowed citizenship even though it’s protected by the 14th Amendment. There are so many parallels between the anti-immigrant sentiments against the Japanese and today against Latinos and refugee populations from Muslim-majority countries.”
Antonia Grace Glenn will attend the screening and conduct a question-and-answer session.
The program is co-hosted by the Asian Pacific Islander American Staff Association of Delta College, which helped secure the Tillie Lewis Theatre and found sponsors for a post-film gathering in the Locke Lounge.
The organization, formed in 1991, brought Asian Pacific American history studies back to Delta College and began a group called Epic, reaching out to predominately Southeast Asian students, many first family members to attend college, to help guide them through their first year of college. They took the history class and will be there Saturday as volunteers.
“We were able to get funding to go to Los Angeles,” said Delta counselor Debra Louie, a friend of Yoshikawa and president of the APIASA. "We stopped at the Japanese-American National History Museum and learned more about the camps. We met this lady, a docent who is in her 80s. She talked about her camp experience, shared her story. She said, ‘I came here because this cannot happen again.’ ”
The film, Louie said, will be another reminder of that for her students. And the public.
Contact reporter Lori Gilbert at (209) 546-8284 or firstname.lastname@example.org Follow her on Twitter @lorigrecord.