We are happy to announce that on July 28, 2015, the Urgent Action Fund (UAF) in San Francisco approved a rapid response grant in the amount of $5,000 for JMRF to convene a planning process to galvanize wide community support, particularly among grassroots Asian-Pacific Islander community organizations and their allies dedicated to social justice and equity, for the successful passage of Resolution 150764, which urges San Francisco to erect a memorial statue for "comfort women." This Resolution, authored by Supervisor Eric Mar, and co-sponsored by a majority of Supervisors, urges the City and County of San Francisco to establish a memorial for "Comfort Women." This term "euphemistically refers to an estimated 200,000 women and young girls who were kidnapped and forced into sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese Army during its colonial and wartime occupation of Asia and the Pacific Islands from the 1930s through the duration of World War II."
The Resolution states that on this 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, "the Board of Supervisors of the City and County of San Francisco "expresses its strong support of creating a memorial in memory of those girls and women who suffered immeasurable pain and humiliation as sex slaves and as a sacred place for remembrance, reflection, remorsefulness, and atonement for generations to come."
The Resolution was introduced at the Board of Supervisors meeting on July 14, 2015 and was met with vocal opposition, similar to what various cities in the United States had experienced, when they erected memorial statues. Many of the opponents are known affiliates of the extreme right-wing, ultra-nationalist organizations. With active support and consultation provided by Japanese consular officials, those far-right organizations insist that "mere prostitutes," and that creating a memorial for aforementioned purpose constitutes "Japan-bashing."
Back in 2011, Supervisor Eric Mar worked with others including Supervisor Jane Kim partnered up with JMRF to host a Fukushima fundraiser event shortly after the disaster occurred, raising more than $15,000 for JMRF to regrant to marginalized communities in the affected region. Supervisor Mar is a lead sponsor of the Resolution, and has enthusiastically welcomed JMRF's proposal to provide unique analysis and insights on the issue. Since the initial hearing at the Board of Supervisors meeting on July 21, 2015, the Resolution has been moved to the Public Safety and Neighborhoods Services Committee chaired by Supervisor Mar. It will come to a vote again in later September 2015.
JMRF is proud to be a member of a growing coalition of immigrant communities, women's organizations, and human rights groups in the Bay Area who have "organized to establish a memorial for "comfort women" and the millions of victims of the Japanese military in San Francisco to ensure that the plight and suffering of these girls and women will never be forgotten or erased from history."
Please contact us with any questions, or to learn how you can get involved!
San Francisco is well-known around the world for its unabashed display of its city-wide commitment to universal values of human rights and dignity. Memorials such as the AIDS Memorial Grove, Holocaust Memorial and Pink Triangle Park & Memorial are just a few of the examples that continue to serve as a reminder of our support for the countless victims and make San Francisco "a sacred place for remembrance, reflection, remorsefulness, and atonement for generations to come."
The tragedy of "Comfort Women," systematized sexual slavery and trafficking under the Japanese Imperial Army, continues in our modern society today, though taking on different forms and led by different actors. As stated in the Resolution:
San Francisco is not immune to the problem, and has been considered a destination for human trafficking due to its ports, airports, industry, and rising immigrant populations.
In addition, the central government of Japan under Prime Minister Abe has been widely criticized for what experts claim as "whitewashing" of its history. [See, for example, the article on The Washington Post on world historians denunciation of historical denialism here: http://wapo.st/1OOHwdb.] San Francisco Bay Area is home to a diverse Asian Pacific Islander community wherein people of all backgrounds have worked hard to build trust and respect as a fundamental basis for peaceful interdependence. JMRF believes that historical denialism does not serve the interests of those of us who want to leave a legacy of peace for all of our future generations.
JMRF is co-founded by Eclipse Rising, a grassroots community organization and network of Zainichi Koreans dedicated to social justice and peace for all minority communities in Japan in solidarity with a broader social movement for justice in the United States and other Asia Pacific communities. JMRF's founding mission has been to make the communities at the margins of mainstream "Japanese" society visible, and shine a light on their plight and struggles and garner support and solidarity as they advocate for change. We have launched the first-ever US-based relief grant making and technical assistance project, which led to a multicultural community center and soup kitchen in the heart of the Fukushima disaster, as well as a multilingual crisis hotline for women-identified non-Japanese nationals, both of which are still in operation to date.
JMRF is co-led with the very diaspora that are borne out of Japan's wartime history much in the same historical context that "Comfort Women" tragedy and human suffering was created. We are stakeholders in the very issue that has the potential to determine whether or not the very history that created us, the Zainichi and Comfort Women alike, can be validated. This is about whether or not the world that we live in today is one that recognizes truly who we are, a birthright of any person with a proud cultural and national identity.
We believe that directly supporting the people on the front lines of the issues they live and face every day—many of whom are our very own original families and communities as Zainichi Koreans—are poised to articulate and implement genuine, lasting solutions. A part of JMRF's work, in line with our mission, then, is to not only to secure and distribute resources, financial and otherwise, in a way that enables them to advance their work, but also, to stand up and speak out in solidarity with them—if and when they experience assault, through hate speech/crimes, policies and practices that normalize or even exacerbate unjust conditions, motivated by xenophobia, racism, and nationalism seeking to enshrine the impunity of the atrocities committed by Japan.
As Zainichi and progressive Japanese civil and human rights advocates in the United States, we offer a unique perspective and insights into the larger context in which this Pacific theater is emerging as battleground for right-wing denialist movement: as Japan's preeminent ultraconservative journalist, Yoshiko Sakurai has said, "Our real enemy is China. Our battleground is the United States." We are in a unique position to access critical information on the ground and translate for our colleagues here to formulate informed, historically contexualized analysis and thus, craft effective tactics and strategies to accomplish our goal. We will work with our community partners, many of whom we have supported through JMRF's grantmaking as well as through our individual activism.
San Francisco is a proud Sister City of Osaka, Japan, home to the largest Zainichi Korean population in all of Japan. Furthermore, Osaka is home to Japan's first general museum dedicated to Japan's human rights museum, Liberty Osaka. Historically, Osaka served as a hub and launchpad for human rights movement led by the Buraku-min (the long-discriminated-against "untouchable caste" people of Japan) as well as a thriving Okinawan diasporic community center. In stark contrast to Osaka's cultural diversity, however, its mayor Tohru Hashimoto is known for his right-wing nationalist views with a concerning track record on issues of human rights. For example, he has drawn international criticism over several remarks on Japan's historical record, including the sexual enslavement of hundreds of thousands of women during WWII. For soldiers in midst of life-or-death battles, he has said, "comfort women" were "necessary." In 2013, he has also commented that Japan needed a "dictatorship." Most recently, Osaka City adopted the controversial history textbooks promoted by historical revisionists, along with Yokohama City and a handful of other cities in Japan. However, neither educational policy debates nor electoral politics do not reflect opinions of ethnic minorities such as the Zainichi who are denied Japanese citizenship (and thus the right to vote), despite their birth and domicile in Japan, and thus barred participation in those systems.
Nevertheless, communities in Osaka as a Sister City of San Francisco have the opportunity to lend strong support to "Comfort Women" and other victims of sexual trafficking and slavery worldwide. JMRF will engage our community partners and colleagues to elevate their voices as an important stakeholders of the Osaka-San Francisco Sister City relationship.
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