OTA Camp Is People

OTA Camp Is People

Editor’s note: This story by Gail Miyasaki was published during Hawaii Hochi’s first effort to launch a Japanese American community publication. The editor was James Brown, who later became the Hawaii Hochi’s English editor; Gail was the only staff writer. The effort in the early 1970s was short-lived, however, lasting only a few years due to a shortage of newsprint paper on the continental U.S. Despite that short run, we wanted to include Gail Miyasaki in this celebration of The Hawai‘i Herald’s 35th anniversary.

Writer’s Introduction (July 2015)

People may wonder why a story about a Filipino community facing eviction was once featured in a local Japanese American journal. It was also translated into Japanese and published in the Hawaii Hochi by staff editor/writer Reizo Watanabe.

In the early 1970s, Ota Camp in Waipahu was not the first, nor was it the last, local community whose residents protested being evicted and dispossessed of their homes statewide by developers during the phenomenal boom years of economic and population growth following statehood. Tenant displacements on Oahu focused on prime urban land occupied by older, largely ethnic communities, such as Chinatown (1972) and Old Vineyard (1973), or on rural, farming areas, such as Kalama Valley (1970) and Waiahole-Waikane (1973), envisioned for housing, resort, golf and other developments. Ota Camp sat on land sold by former property owner and namesake Tatsuichi Ota to a developer of apartments for the military.

What struck me in 1973 was that Ota Camp had endured as the state’s longest running community struggle. Amid the angry protests and heated confrontations caught by the media of other community struggles, this small community of just 31 Filipino families calmly resisted eviction and articulated a deeply felt importance of the close bonds and shared values that supported the welfare and sustained the human dignity of its people, young and old alike. These are familiar values also shared with Japanese and other local ethnic communities.

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