by Susan Leedham
George Takei, Day of Remembrance and…
I have some exciting news! George Takei of "Star Trek" fame has graciously agreed to be on our panel for our Day of Remembrance, "Fighting for Civil Rights: The Japanese-American and LGBT Experience. The Day of Remembrance, as always, will commemorate the signing of Executive Order 9066 ordering the incarceration of 120,000 Japanese Americans living on the West Coast during World War II, and this year we will be drawing parallels with the struggles of the LGBT community. We believe Mr. Takei is the perfect bridge, so please join us on February 20th at Portland State University, Hoffmann Hall, with the new start time of 1:00 p.m.
In our last newsletter we published our Board’s position opposing the City of Portland joining the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF). Mayor Sam Adams and the Portland City Council are having town halls, asking for input from local citizens on whether the City should join the Joint Terrorism Task Force before their scheduled vote on February 24th.
I attended the town hall on January 13, along with co-president Jim Kennedy and fellow board members Connie Masuoka and John Kodachi. As you may have read or heard in the news coverage, the consensus was that Portland should not join the JTTF.
It was interesting listening to all of the concerns of the Muslim, Somali and legal communities, as well as concerned citizens, citing concerns about lack of oversight, civil rights violations, violation of Oregon law, and a distrust of the FBI. We heard Muslims express fears of the federal government but appreciating a good relationship with the Portland Police.
Brandon Mayfield, a past panelist on our Day of Remembrance, spoke about his horrific experience back in 2004 when he was mistakenly identified as being a part of the Madrid train bombing. It served as an important reminder of why oversight is a good thing.
But a few did speak in favor, like the representative from PGE who was concerned about possible sabotage of our infrastructure. Others thought it wise to share information with other agencies.
After a general town-hall-style meeting, we broke out into groups of about ten people with a professional facilitator to keep us on task, write down our comments and to make sure everyone had a chance to talk. My group included Salma Ahmad, a Muslim woman who was on the FBI’s Multicultural Council which worked to build a good relationship between the different ethnic and religious communities and the FBI. She worked hard to build a relationship built on trust. Needless to say, that relationship was destroyed with the arrest of Mohamed Osman Mohamud when he tried to detonate at fake bomb at the Pioneer Square Christmas tree lighting ceremony.
Ms. Ahmad knew Mr. Mohamud, whom she described as a young man very disturbed by the breakup of his parents’ marriage. Mr. Mohamud’s own parents turned their son in to the FBI when he asked to go to Yemen. Ms. Ahmad wants to know why the FBI didn’t get help for this obviously troubled young man instead of giving him a bomb, real or not. She was concerned about entrapment, and many in our group also voiced their concern about entrapment.
The Mayor and the City Councilors were walking around listening to the comments, and at the end all of the facilitators gave a short summary of the group discussions, and all of their notes were turned over to the City Council. The consensus was to keep Portland "weird" and be the only one of the 56 FBI field offices to not join the JTFF.
And congratulations to our 1996-1997 Portland JACL co-president Lynn Nakamoto on her appointment by Governor Ted Kulongoski to the Oregon Court of Appeals. Ms. Nakamoto will be the first Asian American from Oregon to serve as a judge on any state or appellate court within Oregon.
Quoting the Governor’s press release, "She has been a long-time advocate for equality, serving on the Oregon State Bar’s Affirmative Action Committee and performing pro bono work for the Senior Law Project and the ACLU of Oregon, including preparing an amicus brief on the groundbreaking Tanner v. OHSU decision that helped secure equal benefits for same-sex domestic partners and their families in Oregon."
Lastly, I’m sure you all either listened to or heard excerpts from President Obama’s eloquent and moving speech at the memorial in Tucson. He paid tribute to those who are no longer with us and those who were heroes that day.
Especially moving was his tribute to nine-year-old Christina Green. You could see him struggle, undoubtedly thinking of his younger daughter Sasha who is about the same age. President Obama spoke of wanting to live up to Christina’s expectations that democracy and America are as good as she imagined it, and to urge all of us to tone down the rhetoric and listen to each other to try to find common ground. Those are words we all need to heed as we go forward.