WESTFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Westfield State University held an online talk Monday as part of the University’s Asian American and Pacific Islanders Heritage Month. The guest speaker was the college’s Interim President Roy H. Saigo, Ph.D., a Japanese American internment camp survivor from World War II.
Saigo was a young child living in California when his family, along with some 120,000 people of Japanese descent, was forced to give up their home and jobs. He shared his and other Japanese American’s experiences during the War. The internment camps were nothing more than barracks and horse stalls with primitive living conditions. His family lived at the Gila River camp in Arizona.
Thousands of Japanese American men volunteered to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces during WWII, many in highly decorated units. After the war and their release from the camps, many had nowhere to go, as they lost their property, businesses and jobs. They endured racism then, and up to today, considered the “enemy” despite their efforts to assimilate.
Saigo says that because of his internment experience and the racism he and other Asian Americans face, he has made it a life long effort to share this experience and work toward providing opportunities for under-represented students of color and other marginalized people.
The Westfield State University Education Department Anti-Racism Education Project hosted the event.