[Editor’s Note: Erin is the 2019 recipient of the NVC/WAC Scholarship. She is the daughter of Shelley and Eugene Kato. Erin is the granddaughter of NVC member Akira (Poison) Kato.]
My grandfather, Akira (Poison) Kato, was a Nisei Veteran who served in the Military Intelligence Service. Whether serving in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the M.I.S., or any other military service, all of these nisei demonstrated their loyalty to the United States and as a result, helped to change the country’s attitude toward Japanese Americans. All our ancestors, not only the veterans, have set an example for us through their hard work, sacrifice, and perseverance that we must never forget and always be thankful for. Through the foundation they have built, they have enabled us yonsei and gosei to have opportunities they would never have dreamed of. While the status of Japanese Americans has improved as a result of our ancestors, there are still a number of hurdles to be crossed.
My hope is to ensure that the toils of our ancestors will never be forgotten and at the same time help to cross those hurdles which still remain in our path. I am trying to do so by helping lead Bellevue School District’s Inter-High School Asian and Pacific Islander team. We help host students from Mercer Island, Bellevue, Sammamish, Newport, and Interlake to come together and talk about diversity and its positive and negative effects on us as individuals. We are currently working on a curriculum for high school students to present to middle school students on the effects of microaggressions and macroaggressions. Race, culture, religion, gender, and ethnicity are commonly avoided topics. Our team’s goal is to help start a conversation at a young age so that everyone can learn to be accepting of both themselves and others.
In the future, we should aim to remember the Nisei Veterans’ legacy and the positive history that they created, as well as contribute to making our own history for Japanese Americans in a constructive manner.