We asked Connie Kadota, sansei, third generation Japanese Canadian, filmmaker, retired educator to share her family story for the 80th anniversary of Incarceration and 75th anniversary of the founding of the NAJC.
Thinking about these two important anniversaries, I am reminded of my Kadota grandfather Kantaro, my father Charles and my Uncle Gordon. They were such models for me, as community leaders, believers in social justice, and wonderful storytellers. I would not have known my family and community’s histories, without their stories and their examples.
The war and incarceration meant that my Kadota family was split up for more than a decade, with half the family caught on a visit in Japan when the war started, and my grandfather, father and Uncle George incarcerated in road camp. I did not know these stories until I became an adult, but then became immersed in them when I was in university and for years after. I pored through my grandfather’s photo albums and began to hear some stories, then went to Japan to learn the language that I had not understood when I first heard those stories as a child. My father told me about being expelled from the University of BC while attending in 1942, and his anger about being stripped of his ROTC uniform. He later became one of the leaders in the Vancouver Redress movement and the JCCA. My Uncle Gordon, a long-time activist in the Japanese Canadian community, an early president of the NAJC, and a supporter of so many JC projects and events, like the Powell Street Festival and the Remembrance Day ceremonies, taught me early on, the importance of knowing our history and involvement in community. He brought his wonderful storytelling to three generations at four family reunions.
So I have immense gratitude for all of them, and the many Issei, Nisei and Sansei, who have helped me understand and work in community throughout my life. I hope that the work of preserving history and community can continue for generations to come.
Photos courtesy of Connie Kadota.