Pulling together in times of crisis are the life moments when we country folks most often shine. We know how to reach out to one another, provide emotional support, and share those actual products, food, shelter and clothing for the most vulnerable so we can all weather the storm. Whether a pandemic, hurricane, fire or economic collapse, our actions during these difficult times defines our very humanity. How do we treat one another? What are we willing to give up for the good of others? It is a question we are all too often faced with in recent times. One that we must answer in real time.
 
We look to heroes who have risen to those difficult occasions, our soldiers in time of war, our first responders, firemen, doctors and educators in times of disaster. I believe we can all be heroes in our day-to-day lives, in normal times, which lets us practice heroic actions comfortably, almost habitually, making it an automatic reaction when we are faced with a disaster, tragedy or catastrophic event.
 
We were scheduling an event to honor one of our own local heroes on March 28, Oregon’s Minoru Yasui Day. Min Yasui was born and raised in Hood River, graduated from Hood River High School and a few years later from University of Oregon law school.  He began his law career at a Japanese Embassy in Chicago immediately before the United States was pulled into World War II with the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
 
At this very early moment in his life, he was prepared to sacrifice his freedom for the freedom of his Japanese American peers. He willingly sought to challenge the United States government over the illegal imprisonment of 125,000 Japanese living on the west coast. This was personal, as his father was illegally imprisoned as a traitor, and his siblings, friends and neighbors imprisoned for the color of their skin, for being of Japanese ancestry. He believed in the Constitution of the United States and the protections it provided to all, not just a few. Minoru dedicated his entire life, in times of war and times of peace, ensuring that people of all ages, faith, gender, ethnicity, race, socio-economic status, and ability were given their Constitutional protections.
 
Given the rapidly-changing health advisements, we are going to cancel Min Yasui Day events but hope that you will honor his heroism in a manner that protects the most vulnerable from the pandemic in which we are immersed. If we take our personal every-day health precautions of greeting one another with elbow or fist bumps or, better yet, keeping three feet between us, will help protect our elderly or health impaired friends and relatives by not exposing them to risk. Seek an alternative to face to face engagement, perhaps recording an event, taking pictures, but still allowing for interaction and participation for those in self-imposed isolation. Outdoor settings provide some protection from transmission of the COVID-19 virus as long as we practice those personal heroic deeds, secluding ourselves if we are not feeling well, covering any cough or sneeze, keeping from touching our face, especially eyes, nose and mouth, washing our hands repeatedly for at least 20 seconds, maintaining a three-foot space between one another whenever possible and disinfect surfaces repeatedly.  
 
Perhaps one of our songwriting talents could scribe a catchy tune reminding us of these important health practices, hopefully not as dire as the childhood nursery rhyme we sang, “Ring Around the Rosey, pocketful of posey, ashes, ashes we all fall down.” Whether true or false, the urban legend that this nursery rhyme was teaching about the symptoms of the plague, the way to ward off the disease (carrying posies) or the consequence of dying from the plague and being turned into ashes has been indelibly etched in our brains. 
 
We will move forward with the installation of a QR Code embedded in the Minoru Yasui Legacy Stone that, when accessed with a cell phone bar code app will display the three-minute description of Minoru Yasui’s life-long dedication in search of justice for all, by President Barack Obama. It is an inspirational speech by our president when awarding the Presidential Medal of Freedom posthumously to the Min Yasui family. Visitors to the small park located on the north library lawn above Fifth and Oak streets can scan the code with their cell phones and better understand the life work of Minoru Yasui at any time. I will add a photo of the stainless-steel code along with this column so everyone who downloads a free bar code app to their cell phone can access the video in the safety of their own home (see photo above).
 
We had also planned to highlight Hood River student activists work on social justice issues by placing a stone in the legacy garden engraved with the year, students name, and a word that represents the issue which they have been addressing. A $250 award will also be given to this year’s student activist on awards night and will be an annual reward to promote activism in the future. A list of those winners will be featured with photos in the next edition of the newspaper after announcements are made at Hood River Valley High School.
The special engraved stones will be kept in the trophy case at Hood River Valley High School until after graduation and then permanently placed in the Min Yasui Legacy Garden.   
 
An event was planned for Min Yasui Day at the Riverside Community Church to participate in a Tsuru for Solidarity “Fold In” with national activist and psychologist Dr. Satsuki Ina. That in-person event has been canceled but we encourage interested participants to watch a description of the Tsuru for Solidarity event at tsuruforsolidarity.org and hold their own “Fold In” in the safety of their homes.                        
 
Dr. Ina, who was born in the Tule Lake prison camp, was to speak about the parallels between the Japanese American incarceration during World War II and the detention of immigrant children on the U.S.-Mexico Border. Ina has used her incarceration experience to help thousands of individuals cope with the challenges of mental health trauma. She has published books, produced documentaries that speak to the unjust and forced imprisonment of 125,000 Japanese Americans during World War II. 
 
Dr. Ina is a leader of the group Tsuru for Solidarity, which cites the Japanese American incarceration as one of the main reasons to stop the current border detention policies, which have been shown to cause severe trauma for detained children. At a presentation of cranes at one of the border camps in 2019, Dr. Ina stated, “Americans turned their backs on us as we disappeared. Nobody marched for us, nobody protested, but today we bring our voices, our drums, our tsuru spirit to speak out against unjust mass incarceration.”
 
We encourage you to pick up origami paper at the Riverside Community Church office, The Next Door, Inc. reception desk and the Hood River News office.  Origami paper is being provided by the Odell Hispanic Health Promotion and Drug Prevention Coalition in support of healthy practices and inspiring hope among those oppressed. Videos on the Tsuru for Solidarity website demonstrate how to fold the cranes and securely string them together. You are encouraged to mail them to the Tsuru for Solidarity headquarters, National Japanese American Historical Society, 1684 Post Street San Francisco, CA 94115, or display them in your homes or businesses as a sign of hope. The cranes folded on Minoru Yasui Day and in the coming months through May 30 will be used to inspire hope and solidarity with all children, families and communities who are being unjustly detained or imprisoned, are under attack or not being treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.
 
We are disappointed that we have had to adapt these events because they serve as the inspiration for activists young and old.  But in the spirit of Min Yasui and recognition of our health experts’ recommendations we absolutely will err on the side of health and safety.  You can participate individually, as a family or in a small group. Click on the QR code and learn more about Minoru Yasui and why we honor his life work in social justice. Take care of one another, protect the most vulnerable and learn more at the website tsuruforsolidarity.org.

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