Thursday, July 12, 2007

AN OPEN LETTER TO MIKE HONDA


July 10, 2007

Dear Congressman Mike Honda,

I thought you’d like an update on my research. I’m back in Quezon City, Philippines continuing to document the stories of surviving Filipina “Comfort Women” of World War II.

Back in 1999, when I first met the women of LILA Pilipina, there were about forty survivors in an active campaign to regain their dignity from the crimes committed against them by the Japanese Imperial Army during WW2.

Organizers of LILA Pilipina – some of whom you have met – would gather with women in Quezon City, Novotas and Antipolo and together they would strategize and plan their campaign. I remember first walking into the houses of surviving lolas – so many of them sitting in chairs around the sala, waiting for the meeting to begin. As they waited they chatted with one another, or they sang songs to one another or they’d put on a cassette tape and dance with each other as they waited for everyone to arrive. Sometimes there were twenty to thirty lolas at those meetings and so loud were they, that if you did not know any better, you might think you were walking in on a fiesta of old women.

But soon, the meetings would begin and the lolas would grow serious, and these same women would soon be on the streets, rallying and protesting in front of the Japanese embassy or lined up along the roads waving banners and flags at the current visiting Japanese Prime Minister. These same women would fly to Japan to share their testimonies with many Japanese citizens eager to hear their stories.

Eight years later, and the women are half the number they were before. Most of them are in their mid to late eighties and very fragile. In this first week back, I have met with about twenty surviving “Comfort Women.” I have traveled with Rechilda Extremadura, LILA Pilipina’s director back to Quezon City, to Navotas and to Antipolo where Ms. Extremadura has been sharing your work and success with House Resolution 121 with them. The lolas know you very well. I have played the news clips and other short documentaries that 121 Coalition has produced on my laptop. We have translated the resolution for the women and they are eager for the bill to come to the House floor for a full vote.

It saddens me to know so many of these fighting lolas have passed on without seeing the great effects of their fight, that some may still die without hearing a formal apology from Japan. In speaking with them, some have shared their responses to Shinzo Abe’s current remarks. They want to know why he thinks telling the President of the United States he feels sorry for the women is the same thing as speaking directly to them and telling them he is sorry his government condoned the systematic rape and enslavement of their lives? Shouldn’t he be directing his conversation to them?

Speaking their stories has allowed them to unburden their hearts, fighting for what’s right has relieved them of the shame they have felt for so many years, but their hearts are still broken over the brutal abuse they have suffered then as military sex slaves, and now as human beings asking to be recognized and treated with respect and dignity. So many I speak with are concerned that to ignore this opportunity to address the past is to condone the behavior and to make room for it to happen again.

The lolas of LILA Pilipina are well aware of the many supporters and friends they have gained in the United States through the life of House Resolution 121. They understand that many of our “Kongristas” have co-sponsored the bill and their hearts are full knowing that no matter what happens their stories will remain alive in the work you and so many others are doing.

I write to applaud your campaign and the work of your colleagues. It is my hope that House Resolution 121 passes without hesitation for the need to reconcile, heal and forgive, the need to learn from the mistakes of war and to transcend the past can only be attained when we are willing to review our history and take responsibility for our actions.

Sincerely,

M. Evelina Galang
Assistant Professor, English
University of Miami

AN OPEN LETTER TO MIKE HONDA


July 10, 2007

Dear Congressman Mike Honda,

I thought you’d like an update on my research. I’m back in Quezon City, Philippines continuing to document the stories of surviving Filipina “Comfort Women” of World War II.

Back in 1999, when I first met the women of LILA Pilipina, there were about forty survivors in an active campaign to regain their dignity from the crimes committed against them by the Japanese Imperial Army during WW2.

Organizers of LILA Pilipina – some of whom you have met – would gather with women in Quezon City, Novotas and Antipolo and together they would strategize and plan their campaign. I remember first walking into the houses of surviving lolas – so many of them sitting in chairs around the sala, waiting for the meeting to begin. As they waited they chatted with one another, or they sang songs to one another or they’d put on a cassette tape and dance with each other as they waited for everyone to arrive. Sometimes there were twenty to thirty lolas at those meetings and so loud were they, that if you did not know any better, you might think you were walking in on a fiesta of old women.

But soon, the meetings would begin and the lolas would grow serious, and these same women would soon be on the streets, rallying and protesting in front of the Japanese embassy or lined up along the roads waving banners and flags at the current visiting Japanese Prime Minister. These same women would fly to Japan to share their testimonies with many Japanese citizens eager to hear their stories.

Eight years later, and the women are half the number they were before. Most of them are in their mid to late eighties and very fragile. In this first week back, I have met with about twenty surviving “Comfort Women.” I have traveled with Rechilda Extremadura, LILA Pilipina’s director back to Quezon City, to Navotas and to Antipolo where Ms. Extremadura has been sharing your work and success with House Resolution 121 with them. The lolas know you very well. I have played the news clips and other short documentaries that 121 Coalition has produced on my laptop. We have translated the resolution for the women and they are eager for the bill to come to the House floor for a full vote.

It saddens me to know so many of these fighting lolas have passed on without seeing the great effects of their fight, that some may still die without hearing a formal apology from Japan. In speaking with them, some have shared their responses to Shinzo Abe’s current remarks. They want to know why he thinks telling the President of the United States he feels sorry for the women is the same thing as speaking directly to them and telling them he is sorry his government condoned the systematic rape and enslavement of their lives? Shouldn’t he be directing his conversation to them?

Speaking their stories has allowed them to unburden their hearts, fighting for what’s right has relieved them of the shame they have felt for so many years, but their hearts are still broken over the brutal abuse they have suffered then as military sex slaves, and now as human beings asking to be recognized and treated with respect and dignity. So many I speak with are concerned that to ignore this opportunity to address the past is to condone the behavior and to make room for it to happen again.

The lolas of LILA Pilipina are well aware of the many supporters and friends they have gained in the United States through the life of House Resolution 121. They understand that many of our “Kongristas” have co-sponsored the bill and their hearts are full knowing that no matter what happens their stories will remain alive in the work you and so many others are doing.

I write to applaud your campaign and the work of your colleagues. It is my hope that House Resolution 121 passes without hesitation for the need to reconcile, heal and forgive, the need to learn from the mistakes of war and to transcend the past can only be attained when we are willing to review our history and take responsibility for our actions.

Sincerely,

M. Evelina Galang
Assistant Professor, English
University of Miami

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

HOUSE RESOLUTION 121! LABAN NA!


Greetings from Manila -- The Filipina "Comfort Women" are in this fight to the finish. They've been fighting this battle publicly since 1992 and are so pleased that Mike Honda has authored House Res. 121.

When they read the notes many people sent them in the green book as well as letters to Congress and petitions, they told me "Na kakatuwa kami." Their hearts are full knowing that so many Americans understand the need to right this wrong and to fight for Human Rights by recogninzing the past.

Below is a letter from Annabel Park of 121 Coalition. Please join the campaign to really make sure House Res 121 passes in the next few weeks.

Continue to fight the good fight and remember the lolas and all the other 200,000 women and girls who were taken. Let Congress really know that this is not just a Korean American issue. It's an atrocity that affected many. While the Hill has mainly Korean Americans lobbying (and we're grateful to them too) the public is foolish and they assume that the faces on the Hill only represent their own nationality. In fact the many hard working lobbyists fight for every single woman and girl taken during World War II and every war that's ever been and every war that ever will be. I thank our 121 Coalition colleagues on the Hill and I ask you to join them in any way you can. It is so important to let Congress and the general public know how widespread the "Comfort Stations" were.

Read Annabel's note and man your fax machines! You know if I was in the U.S. right now, I'd be the first to fax everyone (several times).

One last note: When I first began my research in 1999, I had met over 40 women in Manila, this visit there are only 20 left. They are old and fragile and dying. It's likely that Japan is waiting for them all to pass away. Well, old and fragile, yes, but spirited too. Malakas pa ang loob nila! They tell me they won't stop fighting ever. Even after they pass away, their children have vowed to carry on the good fight They know there is war today and that there is still the danger of rape and aggression on innocent girls, that is why their fight is strong -- no matter how old, how skinny or how forgetful they have grown -- they are still grandmothers looking out for the granddaughters of this earth. Help them secure justice in the name of Human Rights.

With great respect,
Evelina

M. Evelina Galang
www.mevelinagalang.com

________________________________

From: parkinstein@gmail.com on behalf of Annabel Park
Sent: Mon 7/9/2007 8:48 PM
To: annabelpark@mac.com
Subject: 121 Coalition Call to Action


Hi everyone,

This is indeed an exciting time. There is tremendous momentum on the Hill in support of H.Res.121. As you all know, on June 26th, after a very exciting and fruitful discussion, H.Res.121 passed the House Committee on Foreign Affairs 39-2. Rep. Tancredo and Rep. Paul were the only two members who opposed the resolution.

The discussion during the markup was substantive and there were many impassioned speeches made on behalf of the resolution from Chairman Lantos, Rep. Ackerman, Rep. Crowley, Rep. Jackson-Lee, Rep. Watson, Rep. Scott among others. Many referred to the importance of an apology from the standpoint of having personal experience of injustice as a Jewish American, Irish American, African American and just a caring American. It was a moving experience seeing our democratic process in action and working as it should in favor of what is right. We posted some of the speeches on YouTube on our website: support121.org

Within two hours of the vote, Speaker Nancy Pelosi released a statement commending the resolution and concluding: I look forward to the House of Representatives passing this resolution and sending a strong message that we will not forget the horrors endured by the comfort women. They have waited far too long, but it is not too late to recognize their courage.

This is all very encouraging, but the struggle is not over yet. The House vote has not been scheduled and H.Res.121 must compete with many resolutions and bills for the attention of House leaders. It is still possible that the vote may not take place in July and we will have to wait until after the August recess. To wait until September or October would be a terrible blow for the resolution.

We need to keep working hard until the resolution has passed the House. We cannot assume anything right now except than many people on the Hill express support of the resolution. Until the resolution passes, we cannot stop our efforts.

It is now time to step up our efforts to make sure that we stand up for the victims of Japanese military "comfort stations" and people all over the world counting on US citizens to stand up against war crimes, government-sanctioned trafficking, rape, torture and brutality.

We must muster up our energy and resources for the last stage of the campaign. Here is the 121 national action plan.

1. Organize or participate in a Fax Campaign calling on the House leadership to schedule the vote:
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (CA-8)
Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (MD-5)
Minority Leader John Boehner (OH-8)

2. A Fax campaign to thanking and then requesting cosponsorship of the resolution from member of the Foreign Affairs committee who voted "Yes" during the markup but are not yet cosponsors. If you are in their district or even state, please fax them a letter. If you know anyone who is in their state or district, please contact them. If you get a definitive answer one or another, please let me know so that we don't waste our and their time and resources. Let's make this a coordinated event.
Rep Russ Carnahan (D-MO)
Rep Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ)
Rep Ron Klein (D-FL)
Rep Brad Miller (D-NC)
Rep Robert Wexler (D-FL)
Rep J. Gresham Barrett (R-SC)
Rep Gus Bilirakis (R-FL)
Rep John Boozman (R-AR)
Rep Steve Chabot (R-OH)
Rep Jeff Flake (R-AZ)
Rep Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE)
Rep Luis Fortuno (R-PR)
Rep Elton Gallegly (R-CA)
Rep Robert Inglis (R-SC)
Rep Donald Manzullo (R-IL)
Rep Ted Poe (R-TX)
Rep Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA)
Rep Joe Wilson (R-SC)

3. A Fax Campaign to increase support from Republicans. Right now, we have 25 Republican cosponsors. Let's do better. Let's start with the above list from (2) and then expand. We will post a target list of Republicans on our website by tomorrow.

For their contact information, go to: Congress.org. We will also post all the details of this action plan including contact information and sample letters by tomorrow morning. Please keep checking the website for updates. It's going through some updates and changes in the next couple of days.

4. New York and DC teams will hold a lobby day on Thursday, July 12th. Please try to join us. We will meet around 10am at the Rayburn building. This is not open to the press. Please email or call me for more information: annnabelpark@mac.com/703-944-9661

5. DC team will be lobbying nearly everyday. Our ongoing target list includes Reps from FL, NC and CO where there have been substantial letter-writing and petitions from local chapters. Let us know if we should focus on any other states and districts.

6. News:
-- Rep. Edwin Perlumutter (D-CO) is our 152nd cosponsor. Thank you everyone who wrote to him in Colorado. Special thanks to Daniel Oh and John Sie of Colorado.
-- Lee Young Soo, survivor who testified in Congress in February and who participated in Dignity March in April, returned to the United States today. She is in Los Angeles this week until Sunday for events and interviews and then in DC next week. (It was after I heard her tell her testify in February that I decided that I must get involved in the campaign for H.Res.121. She changed my life.)

Thank you so much for your hard work and passionate enthusiasm! Please contact me anytime to discuss this action plan.

Regards,
Annabel
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