By Peggy Nagae
My deep gratitude to Holly for suggesting we start the Min Yasui Legacy Project and focus on two initial projects: the Presidential Medal of Freedom and a documentary video. I am grateful for our innumerable in-depth and energetic conversations!
Special Thanks to Maija Yasui, Lynn Fuchigami Parks, and Chris Ling for our work and partnership this year. And to Jillian Toda-Currie, Cynthia Basye, Logan Pinard, and Veda Yama for evolving the Min Yasui Student Contest.
Also, my deep appreciation to past MYLP stalwarts: June Schumann, Kimberly McCullough, Jessica Asai, Gerhard Letzing, Mark Takiguchi, Jennifer Fang, Kyler Wang, Fiona Larsen-Tesky, and Alan Zhou.
Min and Holly Yasui fought hard and sacrificed much for justice and equity. To them, patriotism meant speaking out against the plethora of laws that exclude, shut down, or further restrict our rights. In recent years, examples abound:
400 anti-trans bills have been introduced in 44 states.
24 states banned abortions in the first six months after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
32 states have introduced at least 150 restrictive voting bills.
In 2022, 44 states introduced bills or took steps that restricted teaching critical race theory — which they don’t even teach — or limited how teachers discuss racism and sexism. That trend is continuing in 2023.
This week, Florida’s Governor banned an approved Advanced Placement course on African American studies.
Why are these restrictions so prolific?
Some say that since the 1960s White fear and resentment toward African Americans has been fanned and — over time — broadened to target Latinx/Hispanics, Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islanders, and other BIPOC folks. The goal? Ensuring a normative hierarchy with Whiteness at the top. This goal has become increasingly open, visible, and explicit.
Even with these dismal statistics, the rising tide of anti-democratic sentiment, fears of an oligarchy taking over, we can learn from Min’s example and act from our own:
Deeply rooted integrity, principles, and values: believing in the Constitution, taking the responsibility of citizenship seriously; and committing to leave the world a better place.
Our willingness to transform racial violence and injustice by nonviolent and decisive action externally, and doing our own spiritual work internally.
In short, to do what is right regardless of the personal cost.
Ultimately — and when our work draws to an end — we will not be judged by the results we attained but by the quality of the struggle we maintained.
Here’s to all of us and to maintaining our high-quality, deeply- rooted, spirit-driven, and life-affirming struggle!