Gary Yamashita (L) and Judge Johnny Gogo (R)
Photo by Daisuke Igarashi
After the successful flag signing event earlier in Denver, Judge Johnny Gogo returned in early November to visit Amache located a mile and a half west of Granada, Colorado. Accompanying him on the trip were Gary Yamashita, Executive Director of Sakura Foundation and journalist Daisuke Igarashi, San Francisco Bureau Chief for The Asahi Shimbum. The four-hour drive each way from Denver to Amache allowed for insightful conversations about the ambitious effort Judge Gogo has been undertaking in collecting the signatures of camp prisoners. To date, he has gathered over 800 signatures on four United States 48-star flags. In addition, he feels a responsibility to pay tribute to those who were unjustly imprisoned in the camps by visiting all 10 concentration sites throughout the United States by January 2022. Amache was the fifth camp he would visit. He was scheduled to travel to Arkansas the following weekend to see the Rohwer and Jerome sites. Upon arriving in Granada, the group met with John Hopper, social studies teacher and principal of Amache High School and founder of the Amache Preservation Society. The Society consists of volunteer students from the high school who, with the support of other organizations, maintain the physical site of Amache and have established the Amache Museum and research center dedicated to preserving Amache’s history. Mr. Hopper shared many stories about the hard work and commitment of his students in keeping the Amache story alive. A tour of the Amache site exposed a dichotomy: the rural beauty of the area versus the hardship and suffering of the internees who struggled to survive in such barren and desolate conditions. One of the high points of the trip was flying the four flags with the signatures of the internees on the Amache flag posts. The gentle breeze unfurled the flags in their glory, and the sun shone brightly to reveal the signatures of the camp survivors. For Judge Gogo, the overarching power of the Constitution of the United States is to protect the rights and civil liberties of all citizens. The trip to Amache was confirmation to all of us that the incarceration story must be shared widely so that it is never allowed to happen again.