When I was a child,

I was just a little too Japanese.

My L’s and R’s

Came out as

Reft and Light

As in whenever I left my Japanese at home.

It would make me feel alright.


When I was in Math Class

I sat between two kids: a white boy and a yonsei; we looked alike

Like a line between the divide signs

He couldn’t discern the difference between the dots

The yonsei and I.

We looked alike.

But I didn’t sound like the others.


When I was bullied,

My teacher said that my sentences sounded funny.

Like how my English would flow together like brush strokes of Japanese calligraphy

I woulda left the room but it wasn’t right.

I was a model minority student.


You see I was good at math

Because that was the only homework that my mother could help me with.

The numbers just didn’t add up.

The Yonsei kid was laughing at me.

If I subtracted the accent we were the same underneath.


My father told me that I am more than the sum of my parts.

But at that point I felt more like a divide line between two points, two nations and my heart


The Yonsei told me that I was fresh off a boat.

So I resisted the urge to speak.

Because in school I was suppose to raise the American

and submerge the Japanese.


We’ve heard this story before.


Divided between Loyalty and Resistance

Too many Stories

Too Late

Stories that were never told

Questions that should not have been asked

At last we can take a moment

To look back at our collective pasts


Japanese American history is riddled with Land Mines

So make sure you mind lands.

On the point of our pens.

The point is that

Marking Yes or No

On two questions

Shouldn’t have been a mark of loyalty.

Shouldn’t have been the narrative of American.

Shouldn’t have divided our families.


Generations later we still try to do the math.

So we subtracted the parts of that made us other.

Memories fading faster

Cultural genocide disaster

My language

My kotoba

Baa-chan I wish I asked her

Jii-chan I wish he told me

Know history

To know me

No History

There’s no me


The Tule Lake resistance is still relevant

We defended the civil liberties of the immigrants

It’s time to dig up some skeletons

Here’s my Shin-Nikkei Testament.


Resistors we are charged with the following:

Marching while being Black

Traveling while being Latino

Praying while being Muslim

Living while being Native

Resisting while being a citizen, Japanese and American.


Resisters, the senate silenced our voices.

We had appeared to oppose an unfair rule

We were warned

We weren’t given an explanation

Nevertheless, we persisted

Nevertheless, we resisted


First they came for the courageous

Then they came for the loyal.

Then they came for the people who were bound to no native soil.

A New Hope

Tule Lake

Where we set up the resistance.


We need

To Resist

It lives on the senate floor

Elizabeth Warren fighting for the rights of all


We need

To Resist

It lived 70 years before

50 Native American Fighters versus 1000 U.S. troops or more


We need

To Resist

It lived in WWII Germany through a white rose

That arose to face fascist tyranny

We need

To resist


Civil Rights isn’t history

Civil Rights is a verb


Reparations didn’t finish our story

There’s still redress to be served.


Our generations

Yonsei and Shin-Nikkei

The new hope – The force has awakened

The pains of discrimination – we inherited

The hate of a nation – we inherited

Detention, relocation, unconvicted convicts – we inherited


Redress and reparations

Red Cards for Green cards

These “Aliens,” my students – I inherited

My Great-Grandfather’s name – Enemy Alien – I inherited


I inherit things from a family of collectors

My great-grandfather collected tuna can tops while we was incarcerated Tuna Canyon, California

My grandfather collected years waiting for his father at Crystal City, Texas.
Tule Lake

We collected your stories today.

We are the 442nd and the Resisters of today.


Because yesterday

My grandfather would have had his 82th birthday.

His father promised him the biggest gift that he could buy.

He never came home.

His father was the line of the divide sign.

Walking the rope between two nations.

It’s a shame that he was born on February 19th.

On his birthday we received an executive order in place of his father.

Kurt Ikeda is a Hawaii-born, Gardena-raised Shin-Nisei who is an educator by profession, a poet by passion. He serves the McArthur Park community as a high school English teacher but got his start as a teaching assistant for kindergarten at the Gardena Valley Japanese Cultural Institute’s Japanese Language School. He preaches social justice to his poetry students and puts it into practice as board secretary of the JACL Pacific Southwest District and co-president of the Greater Los Angeles Chapter. This spoken-word piece was performed during this year’s Day of Remembrance program at the GVJCI.

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