Commemorating the atomic bombings on Japan in 1945 and joining in the call for a world without nuclear weapons were, on Wednesday in Haines Hall, a local grandmother who survived the Hiroshima attack, a Japanese-born artist, a UCLA anthropologist and, by Internet link, local officials from Hiroshima and Manchester, UK, who lead international anti-nuclear organizations.
Kazu Sueishi has never been able to block out her memory of what happened on Aug. 6, 1945.
Years after surviving the devastation of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, where she grew up, she would wake her husband up at night to tell him to hide. But in the morning, she wouldn't remember having said anything.
In front of photos of thermal radiation burn victims of the atomic bombings, Professor of Anthropology Mariko Tamanoi discusses the issue of radiation exposure.
Today, Sueishi, now a resident of Los Angeles, cannot forget. Those memories have fired in her a passion to speak out for peace and helped make her a symbolic figure in L.A.'s own efforts to rid the world of nuclear weapons.
She was 18 when Hiroshima and, three days later on Aug. 9, Nagasaki were destroyed. She lost close family members and suffered a broken back, not to mention radiation exposure and the horrors she witnessed — she saw a group of 25 schoolchildren dead in one location. Her message is clear: "Never, never again."
On Aug. 4, Sueishi came to UCLA’s Haines Hall to share some of her personal story during an Internet symposium cosponsored by the US-Japan Live Forum and the UCLA Terasaki Center for Japanese Studies. The event linked anti-nuclear movement leaders in three countries. Moderating the UCLA segment from Haines Hall was Mariko Tamanoi, a UCLA professor of anthropology. She interpreted for Japan-born painter and writer Fumiko Kometani and spoke with Sean Morris in Manchester, England, secretary of the Nuclear Free Local Authorities in the United Kingdom and Ireland.
The mayor of Hiroshima, Tadatoshi Akiba, contributed a 10-minute video message for the event. Akiba leads a global coalition of more than 4,000 city mayors dedicated to the elimination of nuclear weapons by 2020.
Given the pressures on the central governments of major powers, including the United States, Japan, and the United Kingdom, to protect the nuclear status quo, such organizing efforts by local leaders are crucial, participants said.
"This is not only a question among nations, but a question of the relationships among us," said Professor Tamanoi.
Morris reminded the audience of the role of cities such as Manchester in the nuclear freeze movement of the 1980s, and Akiba said that there is once more an opening to push a disarmament agenda. He cited the planned visit by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon to Hiroshima and Nagasaki and both Ban's and U.S. President Barack Obama's calls for a world without nuclear weapons. This year for the first time, a U.S. representative attended the annual ceremony in Hiroshima that honors victims of the bombings.
"The time has come to press hard for a nuclear weapons convention," Akiba said in the recorded video. "Eliminating nuclear weapons will be one of humanity's greatest achievements."
Update 9 Aug 2010: This article has been updated to match the revised version posted at UCLA Today.