“As we stepped inside, the sight of horse manure laying on the floor and horse hairs stuck to the rough, whitewashed walls stunned us.”
Tsuyako Kitashima, nicknamed “Sox” to make pronunciation of her name easier, was interned with her sister at Topaz during the war. She was very close to her family, especially after her father’s death, and decided to stay with her sister in Topaz while her mother and other siblings were transported to and interned at Tule Lake. In her biography, Sox speaks vividly about the pain, embarrassment, and degradation she felt, especially during her first meal at the mess halls in-camp.
After leaving the camps and attempting to settle back into her normal life, Sox became involved with NCRR, or the National Coalition for Redress and Reparations in 1980 once the campaign for redress had begun. With time her involvement in the campaign increased significantly, as she volunteered extensively and worked with both NCRR and the Japanese American Citizens’ League, or JACL, to put forth various legislative and campaigning efforts to push through Redress. Overcoming different types of opposition, ranging from skeptical JAs to political opponents, Sox worked tirelessly on the campaign. She participated in letter writing, spoke about her personal experiences during the Landmark Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (CWRIC) hearings in 1981, and lobbied Congress numerous times with the NCRR to push for the Redress bill.
In 1988 when President Reagan signed into law the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, it became clear that the Redress and Reparations campaign had achieved an unprecedented victory for the Japanese American community, and for the greater cause of justice. Sox’s efforts as a woman who persisted in times of hardship, and showed endless dedication to her community and the causes she believed in played a large part in the victory of the campaign. Even long after Redress was completed, Sox continued her mission by venturing on to educate youth and other communities about the injustices JA’s all over the nation suffered, and how the community was able to hold the government directly accountable to their inexcusable violations of civil liberties. Sox’s work in the campaign can be called “behind the scenes,” as many JA women were, but it is without a doubt that kind of seemingly invisible work that made such an accomplishment possible. The times and feats these Japanese American women experienced and achieved must be told and disseminated so that more people will become aware of the extremely key role they played in Redress, despite restrictions of gender or culture in their life contexts.